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Volume 10 No. 25

International Football

Serbia PM Ivica Dacic " is ordering a police investigation" into racist chanting directed at England’s players during the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championships playoff match Tuesday night in Krusevac, Serbia, according to Sam Munnery of the LONDON TIMES. Dacic, who is also Serbia’s police chief, said that those who took part in the scuffles that broke out on the pitch after the final whistle must be identified and “brought to justice.” Dacic added that "it was too soon to call it a racist incident." UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings on Wednesday over the “improper conduct” of both teams and the racist chanting by Serbian fans, which was caught on video, hours after the Serbian FA had "issued a blanket denial" that its fans were involved in “any forms” of racism (LONDON TIMES, 10/18). In London, Jack Pitt-Brooke reported that the FA has "questioned whether it will send teams to Serbia again" after Tuesday's violence. The FA spoke out after a dispute in which Serbian counterparts took "the astonishing step" of attempting to blame a victim of racism, England player Danny Rose, and "denied claims of abuse" (INDEPENDENT, 10/18).

IS BANNING TEAMS THE ANSWER?: In London, Matthew Syed opined, "The credibility of UEFA, for so long a governing body in search of a mission, is on the line." The racist chants at England players in Krusevac "demand a swift and punitive response." The failure of the Serbian authorities to control the problem of racism is "matched only by the impotence and general hand-wringing of UEFA." Banning Serbia's Under-21 side from the next competition "is a bare minimum." The "most powerful way to send a signal to the rest of football and the wider world would be to ban the Serbia national team" (LONDON TIMES, 10/18). The London INDEPENDENT wrote an editorial under the headline: "Banning teams is the way to tackle football racism." The newspaper wrote, "The European sport's governing body has a feeble record on tackling racial abuse. Now is UEFA's chance to send an unequivocal message that there is no place for racism in football. A fine is not enough. Serbian teams must be banned from playing in Europe" (INDEPENDENT, 10/18). REUTERS' Zoran Milosavljevic wrote, "Even a ban from int'l soccer may not prove enough to rid Serbia of its perennial problems with racism and hooliganism, such is the deep-rooted intolerance among fans." UEFA said that it "was waiting for the referee's report before deciding what action would be taken" (REUTERS, 10/18).

This year's Brasileiro "has lost almost half a million fans" compared to the '11 edition, according to Lucas Reis of FOLHA DE S. PAULO. Through 30 weeks of the championship, 3.7 million fans have paid to attend games. At this time in the '11 edition, 4.2 million had purchased tickets to games. This means that for every game of this season's Brasileiro, "attendance has been down 1,500." The average attendance through 30 weeks has dropped from 14,191 to 12,649. The main reason for this has been all the construction taking place in stadiums as the country prepares for the 2014 World Cup. But the drop in attendance has not "meant a decrease in ticket revenue." Through 30 weeks of the '11 Brasileiro, R$85.5M was generated through ticket sales. During this year's edition, ticket sales revenue is up to R$90.5M ($44.6M). The explanation is a "readjustment in the average value of tickets." On average, a fan has paid R$23.9 ($11.8) for a ticket this year compared to R$20.1 in '11. The numbers show an increase of 18.9%. According to Brazil's Consumer Price Index (IPCA), inflation in the 12 months that separated the start of the '11 and '12 Brasileiro was 4.99%. Corinthians FC and Gremio FC are the only two clubs with an average attendance of more than 20,000 this season (FOLHA DE S. PAULO, 10/18).

In Spain, these are bad times for everybody, and "football is no exception," according to Gemma Herrero of MARCA. Fans cannot afford as much as they use too, and all the clubs, including FC Barcelona, are seeing this. Barça President Sandro Rosell said, "So far 20,000 members are late on their first payment for this season." Rosell added that the club is conscious of the situation and "is understanding of the members that have not been able to pay on time." In '11, the club had a record 176,158 members, but this season the number has dropped to 169,318. It is the first time in the modern history of the club "that the number of members has decreased." Attendance at the Camp Nou stadium has also seen a decrease from last season. After five games, the average attendance is 73,581 compared to 80,168 for last season. Furthermore, Barça has played Real Madrid this season, and 98,000 were in attendance for the game, so the overall numbers would actually be much worse if it were not for the Clasico (MARCA, 10/18).

Former Chelsea player Didier Drogba "was set to return from int'l duty" Thursday, heading straight "into a row" at his Shanghai Shenhua club that has seen its players refuse to practice over unpaid wages, according to the AFP. However, club and league officials said that the team "will play its next game on Saturday" against Changchun Yatai as scheduled. Training "had returned to normal" after the one-day protest (AFP, 10/18). In Beijing, Yan Weijue reported Shenhua's "complicated row over the control" of the club will "soon be settled" with Owner Zhu Jun, "the club's major investor, to officially take command." Zhu "sent an ultimatum to the other five club owners," all from state-owned enterprises last week, "demanding the large stake transfer promised long ago, otherwise he would stop paying wages and bonuses." Shareholders of the five state-owned enterprises "agreed to complete the transfer by the end of '12," which will push Zhu's stake share, currently at 28.5%, to 75% (CHINA DAILY, 10/18).

Scotland's search for a sixth permanent int'l manager in a decade is "expected to begin within a fortnight," with national team Manager Craig Levein "set to pay the price for the country's disastrous start" to its World Cup qualifying campaign, according to Ewan Murray of the London GUARDIAN. Public opinion, which has "never appeared fully behind Levein, is now vehemently in favour of the Scottish Football Association disposing" of its manager. It is "anticipated" that Levein will be sacked before Scotland's friendly with Luxembourg next month. Informal SFA board talks "will take place within days, and again formally next week," amid a private acknowledgement within the association that "the manager's tenure must come to an end" (GUARDIAN, 10/17). The SCOTSMAN reported that the SFA would have to pay £700,000 ($1.1M) to sack Levein. The SFA could have terminated Levein's contract after Scotland failed to qualify for Euro 2012 "for nothing" (SCOTSMAN, 10/18).

Accounting and business advice company PKF revealed the results of its annual football survey "Leagues Apart," according to Nick Hanlon of the Scottish DAILY RECORD. The results showed that two-thirds of Scottish Premier League clubs do not "expect to make a profit" for the '12-13 season. Only 17% said their financial situation was "healthy," the lowest of any of the leagues questioned. Two-thirds of SPL clubs "depend on their principal shareholder to cover losses." PKF said that the results could lead to a "widening gap" between wages in Scotland and those in England. That in turn could "threaten the future development of the game" as clubs in Scotland will struggle to attract top players. A total of 62 teams took part in the survey, including clubs from the SPL, EPL, League Championship and Leagues One and Two (DAILY RECORD, 10/18).