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Volume 10 No. 22

Leagues and Governing Bodies

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone revealed that "controversial environmentally-friendly new engines," which are due to be introduced to the sport in '14, are likely to be scrapped, according to Christian Sylt of the HINDUSTAN TIMES. Ecclestone said that the the move will "save the teams as much as 30% of their projected budgets," helping them stay in business during the economic downturn. The new engine regulations are thought to be at the heart of  British driver Lewis Hamilton's decision to move next year from McLaren to Mercedes. The change in engine regulations "was expected to give Mercedes an opportunity to improve performance, as it would be a fresh start for the teams." Ecclestone said, "I listened to the noise of the engines in (Ferrari's headquarters at) Maranello the other day, the new engine and the old engine, and even (Ferrari chairman) Luca di Montezemolo said it sounded terrible and didn't like it." Ecclestone believes Int'l Automobile Federation (FIA) President Jean Todt "will get rid of it. I think Luca is also saying we should suspend it for two or three years." Ecclestone also revealed that Todt asked him and the teams for an increase in the fees paid to the FIA so that "it can use the money to move into a more prestigious headquarters" and give it a stature comparable to FIFA and the IOC. The FIA's annual budget is around $60M and Ecclestone said, "They are getting about $35M from Formula 1...I think they would be happy if they could get $50M" (HINDUSTIAN TIMES, 9/29).

Russia Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that the country "plans to spend almost $20B on hosting the 2018 World Cup," according to Gennady Fyodorov of REUTERS. The projected cost is "nearly twice bigger than the original sum" originally given by then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when Russia was awarded the tournament in '10. Mutko said, "These are not the final numbers. You can call these figures a rough estimate." Mutko added that half of that money "would come from the federal government." Asked when the stadiums would be ready, Mutko said, "We have five arenas (in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi and Saransk) that are under construction. Next week, I think, we'll start designing four more" (REUTERS, 9/30).

THE CITIES: Eleven host cities and 12 stadiums were selected to host the 64 matches of the 2018 World Cup Saturday during a broadcast on Russia's Channel 1 station. The cities are divided into four geographic clusters: Moscow (Central), St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad (Northern), Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara and Volgograd (Volga), Rostov-on-Don, Sochiand and Yekaterinburg (Southern). The two stadiums in Moscow to host matches are Luzhniki and Spartak (FIFA).

SETTING A PRECEDENT: In Moscow, Anatoly Medetsky reported that the decision means that the chosen cities will have to provide top-quality stadiums, hotels and transportation services, which will "drive billions of dollars of investment." FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, "It's the first time the World Cup is to take place in Eastern Europe." FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said that "the size of the city was not a criterion for selection, but that the legacy the tournament would leave was considered important." Russia President Vladimir Putin said that the championship "would be a good reason for the country's youth to take an interest in sports" and would help pull some of them away from alcohol and cigarettes. He also said that the preparations "would give a powerful impetus to the economy and create new jobs" (MOSCOW TIMES, 9/29).

TOUGH DECISIONS: REUTERS reported that Moscow's 90,000-seat Luzhniki stadium will stage the final, and a 45,000-seat arena being built by the Spartak club will also host matches. Saransk, smallest of the contenders and with little football tradition, was "considered an outsider" along with Yaroslavl, but made the list "at the expense of the southern city of Krasnodar." Krasnodar, which boasts two clubs, FK Krasnodar and Kuban, in Russia’s top flight, was "shocked by the decision." FK Owner Sergei Galitsky wrote on his Twitter account, “This is unbelievable. They kicked out Krasnodar -- the most passionate football city in Russia.” Kuban General Dir Suren Mkrtychan added: “There must be a logic in that decision, but I just don’t understand it. I’m in shock!” (REUTERS, 9/30). Mutko said, "The final selection of the 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities is an important milestone en route to hosting the tournament in 2018. This decision launches the full-scale preparation for the FIFA World Cup in the 11 host cities across the country" (PA, 9/29).

TIME TO CELEBRATE: The AFP's Stuart Williams noted that Putin "played up the long-term benefits of hosting the World Cup" in an interview with state TV at his residence recorded hours before the ceremony. Putin: “It will be a huge construction project. But even at a time of global economic turbulence it will be a very good stimulus for the economy. There will be new jobs, new technology and new infrastructure -- and not just in sport.” Russian TV showed "wild celebrations" breaking out in the provincial cities given the chance to host games, even in those that have "yet to lay a single brick to begin construction of stadiums." Kaliningrad Governor Nikolai Tsukanov told state TV amid a mob of cheering locals, “We do not yet have a stadium, but we will build one" (AFP, 9/29).

Pakistan Cricket Board Chair Zaka Ashraf, "starved of bilateral series against India," said that the PCB is ready to bear the logistical cost of playing against the arch-rivals as well as other countries, according to the PTI. Ashraf said that the PCB was "more than willing to bear the cost" of organizing more series of the sort. Ashraf said, "I have always maintained that revival of bilateral series is a step forward in the right direction. My relationship with BCCI President N Srinivasan has been very cordial. I have told him that we are ready to play India anywhere in the world even in neutral venues." He added, "We can even pay the rent for using the facilities and have more matches against India and other nations. An India versus Pakistan series has a lot of economic relevance" (PTI, 9/30).

UEFA has publicly questioned the need for "an army of assistants on int'l duty," according to Simon Hart of the London INDEPENDENT. UEFA's technical report on Euro 2012, which was published this week, looks into whether the time has come to "limit the number of backroom staff involved in elite matches." The reports' talking points include "Overcrowding in the back room?," and "citing the surfeit of physios, fitness coaches, performance analysts and nutritionists, it asks: 'Is the management of playing staff and backroom becoming too much of a burden for the head coach? Is it appropriate that the team-behind-the-team can be more numerous than the footballers?'" The report was put together by a technical team that included Russia Coach Fabio Capello and Salzburg Global Sports Dir Gérard Houllier, as well as newly departed UEFA Technical Dir Andy Roxburgh. The report also adds that there were concerns as far back as Euro 2004 about "the proliferation of individual fitness coaches, physios and even agents in training camps" (INDEPENDENT, 9/30).