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Volume 10 No. 25

Leagues and Governing Bodies

ManU defender Rio Ferdinand is "planning to revolutionize English football with the launch of a breakaway union to protect the interests of black footballers," according to Neil Ashton of the London DAILY MAIL. Ferdinand "already joined other high-profile black players in overseeing the first draft of a constitution." Ferdinand and his colleagues "want to tackle discrimination in all forms and will hold a series of meetings in London over the next few weeks." The union currently has a working name of The Federation of Black Players. It will be "open to players from all ethnic backgrounds who share a desire to combat racism in English football." The union will also be "self-funded by professionals at every level." The idea, conceived by Ferdinand, is "already gathering momentum among black players and has received widespread support." It will be "the first of its kind" in the U.K. (DAILY MAIL, 10/22). Meanwhile, the London GUARDIAN reported that Ferdinand "quickly moved to downplay reports" of the new footballers' union. On Tuesday, Ferdinand tweeted, "Don't believe all u read" (GUARDIAN, 10/23).

OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST UNION: The London TELEGRAPH reported that Professional Footballers' Association CEO Gordon Taylor said that Ferdinand's plans to form a breakaway union are "divisive and damaging." Taylor said that the protests "risk creating serious faultlines within the game." Taylor has called on several black footballers to "work with him and unite a sport struggling to tackle racism collectively." Taylor said, "I feel we are imploding. The longer it goes on, the more divisive it is becoming. If they want their own particular select group who they fell they can influence everybody more than the whole PFA as a union together, I would say they are seriously mistaken (TELEGRAPH, 10/23). Also in London, Mark Cue reported that FA Chair David Bernstein called on "disenchanted players not to form a union." Bernstein: “Do I hope players will stay within Kick It Out? Yes I do. Fragmentation would be a shame, but at the same time we have to understand on moral issues people have to be able to make their own choices." Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger "warned against opening up a schism." Wenger: "I think any split is bad. If you want to fight against racism, you should not create any federation on a difference that you want to fight against. I personally can’t see the logic in that” (LONDON TIMES, 10/23).

A report commissioned by one of the Australian Football League's key stakeholders reveals that the league's "boast of vast increases in participation numbers in western Sydney is misleading," according to Roy Masters of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. This month's report was prepared by a Melbourne University academic at the request of AFL New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory. It supports "what many rugby league administrators have been saying for some time -- the AFL is using registrations in its modified game of Auskick to bolster actual playing numbers." It appears that the research questions a claim made last month by AFL NSW senior official Dean Connors "that participation numbers in the western Sydney region have grown" by 27%, or 10,000 players, in one year. Under the heading, "Western Sydney -- The Reality versus Perception Gap," the report's author, David Lawson, noted: ''The reality is that junior club maturity and participation numbers appear to have stalled." Administrators are confident the full impact of the region's new AFL club, GWS Giants, "is yet to be felt" (SMH, 10/24).

Japanese baseball officials are "concerned about a potential exodus of premier talent" to the MLB after high school pitching prospect Shohei Otani revealed his decision Sunday to forgo a career at home in favor of playing in the U.S., according to KYODO. Nippon Professional Baseball Yomiuri Giants President Tsunekazu Momoi said, "There is a clear and present danger of talent being hollowed out of our game." Otani's decision came as "something of a shock" to NPB teams, which were "planning to select him in the first round of Thursday's amateur draft." Otani will be the first potential No. 1 pick to go straight from a Japanese high school to the U.S. Otani has met with representatives from the MLB Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and L.A. Dodgers. Several other MLB teams are "also interested." Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Head of Development Shigeru Ishiwata said, "We've got to head back to the drawing board" (KYODO, 10/23).

MONEY TALKS: The DAILY YOMIURI wrote that "a major reason for Japanese baseball talent opting for an MLB career is money." In '09, the Washington Nationals gave pitcher Stephen Strasburg an MLB record four-year contract worth $15.1M. In contrast, NPB in '07 set the cap on a rookie's contract at 100M yen ($1.3M), with incentives up to 50% of the total contract. Some observers have argued that if an MLB team offers a contract of more than 100M yen to a player, Japanese teams "should offer, in exceptional cases, contracts exceeding this" (DAILY YOMIURI, 10/23).

Maria Sharapova "is not convinced it is a good idea" to give first-round losers at next year's Australian Open a huge pay increase as part of a A$4M ($4.1M) rise in overall prize money, according to Martyn Herman of REUTERS. It was announced earlier this month that the total prize money pool at the opening Grand Slam of '13 "had risen to A$30M." Exactly how the money will be divvied up has not yet been announced, however, "it is expected that the biggest increase will be weighted toward the early rounds." Sharapova said, "I don't know if I agree with a raise for a first-round loss. I think the compensation as you win more rounds is right, but I'm not sure about the first rounds." While not enthused by the prospect of first-round losers enjoying a financial boost, Sharapova said that she was happy the Australian Open had taken the lead. Sharapova: "If you compare the percentage of what we (the players) are making compared to the other Grand Slams, certainly the Australian Open is doing a much better job of compensating us based on their revenue" (REUTERS, 10/23). In London, Neil Harman noted there has been "underlying controversy at the heart of the continuing hike in Grand-Slam prize money because several male players are indignant that the WTA Tour has ridden on the coat-tails of the ATP Tour in the debate for a greater share." Sharapova, when asked if she would have taken a call from ATP Player Council President Roger Federer to discuss a combined strategy, said, "If he wanted to, I would absolutely. Why not? At the end of the day we’re all tennis players, we all have the same agenda, and we all want to be compensated for what we do" (LONDON TIMES, 10/23).

Chip Le Grand noted Lance Armstrong's estimated personal fortune of $125M "is under siege from cycling authorities, event owners and sponsors from his drug-assisted career," according to Chip Le Grand of THE AUSTRALIAN. The South Australian government "may have grounds to sue Armstrong" if more evidence emerges that his doping extended to any of his three appearances in the Tour Down Under between '09 and '11. The SA government has received Crown-Solicitor advice "that it currently has no grounds to recoup money paid to him" because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's case "concentrated on Armstrong's career up until his first retirement in '06." However, the USADA report contains "circumstantial evidence that he was still using drugs when he returned to the sport." Armstrong is already facing a $7.5M claim by a Texas insurer "to recover legal costs and bonuses he was paid for winning the 2004 Tour de France" and a potential lawsuit by the UCI (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/24). THE NATIONAL reported Armstrong has been asked "to repay a disputed $5M bonus" he won after winning a legal battle with SCA Promotions, which will "request the return of monies paid." SCA lawyer Jeff Tillotson said, "Our contract with Mr. Armstrong required us to make payments to him if he was the official winner of a certain number of Tour de France races: his fourth win, his fifth win and his sixth win." He added: "Now that he has been stripped of those titles - he is no longer the official winner of any Tour de France race - it is inappropriate and improper for him to keep those bonus amounts, and we will be demanding them back and pursuing appropriate legal action if he does not return them" (THE NATIONAL, 10/23).

CHANGING THE PAST: In Sydney, Rupert Guinness wrote former Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) VP Ray Godkin said that "in hindsight the Int'l Cycling Union could have pursued suspicions over Lance Armstrong earlier." Godkin backed UCI President Pat McQuaid's explanation that the UCI did not have ''the tools then that we have now'' to catch doping cheats. Godkin said, "'U.S. Cycling -- they could have been more vigorous because they had been talking about it for a long time -- USADA, but also [World Anti-Doping Agency]. They are all involved, including the UCI, if you like" (SMH, 10/24). In Sydney, Guinness also noted former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency Legal Dir Catherine Ordway believes that Cycling Australia "should have asked" former rider Matt White directly if he had doped during his racing career before signing him up as a professional coordinator and national men's team coach. White has recently stepped down from those positions. Ordway said that cycling officials "should have had heard enough suspicion about the state of drug use in cycling" while White rode for the U.S. Postal Service team of Armstrong '01-03 "to ask him outright if he had used drugs" (SMH, 10/24). Also in Sydney, Joe Kelly reported that the Labor Party "has opted to cut its funding to counter illicit drugs in sport," despite the recent revelations of endemic drug use in the cycling world. The government "hopes to claw back A$3.6M ($3.7M) over three years" from '13-14 by ending its contributions to the Illicit Drugs in Sport program (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/23).

TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL: In London, Nick Hoult noted McQuaid has described the whistleblowers who exposed Armstrong's doping as "scumbags." McQuaid, who said that his resignation was not an option, "then attacked two former teammates of Armstrong -- Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis." British cyclist and former drug user David Millar, who now campaigns for a clean sport, asked the UCI to apologize. McQuaid responded: "I don't think the UCI should apologise. They didn't hold Millar's hand when he stuck a needle in his backside." McQuaid added, "Another thing that annoys me is that Landis and Hamilton are being made out to be heroes. They are as far from heroes as night and day. They are not heroes. They are scumbags" (TELEGRAPH, 10/23). REUTERS noted Hamilton, whose testimony helped bring down Armstrong, "has hit out" at McQuaid saying the UCI boss has "no place" in the sport. Hamilton wrote in a statement: "Instead of seizing an opportunity to instil hope for the next generation of cyclists, he continues to point fingers, shift blame and attack those who speak out, tactics that are no longer effective. Pat McQuaid has no place in cycling" (REUTERS, 10/23).

The German Touring Car Championship (DTM) "unveiled its schedule for the '13 season." The DTM "will for the first time host a race in Russia when the series makes a stop just outside of Moscow on Aug. 4." In addition, the racing series canceled its show event at the Munich Olympic Stadium. The provisional DTM race calendar for '13 consists of 11 races (, 10/23). ... Myanmar launched Monday the first "FIFA 11 for Health" program in Asia. Teachers and coaches from 18 pilot schools gathered in the city of Yangon until Friday for training sessions supervised by FIFA's Chief Medical Officer Jiri Dvorak (FIFA). ... The Int'l Skating Union recently concluded that South Korea "will not be assured of an automatic figure skating qualification spot" at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The ISU said that it will "keep the current automatic qualification for the host country" for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games (KOREA TIMES, 10/23).