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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

Hundreds of England football fans who returned home from Poland after Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifying fixture was postponed due to rain "will be refunded the cost of their match tickets," according to Rory Smith of the LONDON TIMES. Anyone not able to attend the rescheduled match will be "able to submit their unused ticket to the FA," which will then pass it on to its Polish colleagues to ratify. The FA also had staff members on the turnstiles at the National Stadium in Warsaw Wednesday afternoon to "register those fans in attendance in a bid to accelerate the process of establishing which fans have been forced to return home." An FA statement Wednesday said, “The Polish FA have today confirmed that they will set up a refund process for unused match tickets. Therefore, fans who are unable to attend the rescheduled match today will be able to claim a refund for the cost of their match ticket." The FA has also confirmed that any fans still in Warsaw and able to attend the game but with tickets rendered illegible by rain "will be assisted by the association’s staff and members of the Football Embassy established in the city by the Football Supporters’ Federation." It is unclear whether fans will be reimbursed for the cost of travel to the Polish capital, though it is "thought to be unlikely" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17). Also in London, Smith wrote that estimates on how much the trip has cost fans varied from around £350 ($566) for those who flew elsewhere and traveled overland to Warsaw, to £500 ($808) for those on organized trips with chartered flights. Few "were optimistic that they would see any refund on that money" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17).

FAN FARE: Former England Manager Graham Taylor described the organization of the match as "like Monty Python" and added, "If I were a fan, I'd be booing too" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/17). The London GUARDIAN reported that England's players will help fund a £50,000 ($80,800) money-back scheme for fans affected by Tuesday night's World Cup postponement in Warsaw. The FA has confirmed that "those who do stay will also be assisted, helped by the England Footballers Foundation." England captain Steven Gerrard said, "We know that fans have spent money and taken time off work to travel to Poland, and we don't take it for granted. The supporters have the complete respect of the whole squad" (GUARDIAN, 10/17). In London, Dominic Fifield reported that Warsaw's National Stadium had closed the covering above the pitch by about midnight as ground staff "started work in earnest on the sodden turf." It was opened again for a period on Wednesday morning to allow air into the arena and sunshine on to the surface, which was only relaid last week at a cost of £115,000 ($186,000). The roof was closed by the time the game kicked off at 5pm local time.The forecast had been for showers in Warsaw Wednesday, though the weather was sunny. The match ended in a 1-1 draw (GUARDIAN, 10/17).

POLAND A 'LAUGHING STOCK': REUTERS' Chris Borowski reported that the Polish FA was "facing an immediate backlash" after the decision to leave the retractable roof open despite the city "suffering from a sustained storm." Retired Poland footballer Tomasz Iwan said, "We were made into a laughing stock."  Polish FA spokesperson Agnieszka Olejkowska said that neither the clubs or FIFA "wanted to make the decision to close the roof." Olejkowska: "None of the sides wanted such a solution. We knew there would be heavy rain, but we could not 100% predict the downpour" (REUTERS, 10/17). In Warsaw, Andrew Kureth reported that both teams, fans and commentators "voiced their frustration, but there was little that could be done." The pitch "resembled a swamp." Local Polish newspapers Wednesday morning dubbed the National Stadium the “National Swimming Pool.” A spokesperson for the National Sports Center, the stadium's owner, said, “We’re not able to make the decision to close the roof without the presence of the FIFA match delegate. He did not arrive until 7pm, by which time it was raining” (WARSAW BUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/17).

The Chinese-language 21st Century Business Herald reported property developer Dalian Shide Group is "reportedly negotiating the sale" of its Chinese Super League football club, with Red Bull and Dalian Haichang Group "touted as potential buyers," according to Rumors of the owner selling Dalian Shide FC "have been circulating since May." Red Bull is reportedly "the club's preferred buyer, though the local government is adamant that the club should remain in the city and are concerned that Red Bull would move the team elsewhere." One insider said, "Shide soccer club is like a mascot for Dalian, they do not want the club to leave and are actively looking for buyers for it." The sale comes as a result of the company's "financial difficulties" after the disappearance of its Chair Xu Ming half a year ago in connection with the expelled Communist Party leader Bo Xilai scandal. It is believed that Xu gave bribes to Chongqing Police Chief Wang Lijun, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison for abusing his position. The city government of Dalian has intervened in Dalian Shide's financial crises since Xu disappeared and has reportedly "helped to collect money for the group as it was unable to pay its employees" (, 10/17). 

England is "hoping to prepare" for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by playing the host country at Rio de Janiero's Maracanã stadium on next summer’s tour, according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The Maracanã, "which rivals Wembley as the most-famous football ground in the world," is currently undergoing renovations ahead of the World Cup and the 2016 Games. The stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies. It is expected that construction work will "finally be completed" in time for England to perform there next June in a key friendly that will take the World Cup build-up to another level. The FA is also at the front of the queue for '14, "even ahead of the Germans for once," on its choice of Brazilian training locations, with a Rio base the first option (DAILY MAIL, 10/16).