The FA is looking "to build on the legacy" made in women’s football at the London Games and "overtake cricket as the second-most popular participation sport in the country," according to Peter Lansley of the LONDON TIMES. The governing body said that it "will be expanding the Women’s Super League, launched last summer, to two divisions in '14." It is part of a five-year plan "aimed at attracting a quarter of a million women to the sport by '18." Women’s football is the fourth-most popular sport in terms of participation behind men’s football, cricket and rugby (LONDON TIMES, 10/24). BLOOMBERG's Danielle Rossingh reported that the FA said it will create an “Elite Performance Unit” and appoint a head of elite development. For the first time in its 149-year history, the FA will develop a commercial program for women’s football "to make it financially sustainable." It will "sell the commercial rights for women’s matches separately from rights for the men’s game." The governing body said that it will also "try to secure more television coverage and strike sponsorship deals to boost the profile of the women’s game" (BLOOMBERG, 10/24).
ROOM FOR GROWTH: The BBC's Sam Sheringham wrote that FA Chair David Bernstein said: "Women's football is the area with the most potential for growth in the nation's favourite game." The FA is "determined to build on the success" enjoyed by women's football at the London Games, when 70,584 turned out at Wembley to watch Team GB defeat Brazil in a group match. The FA will invest £3.5M ($5.6M) into the women's game over the next four years. England coach Hope Powell said that she hoped the plan "could help the national team move up from its current world ranking of eighth to challenge the likes of Germany, France and the U.S." Powell also reiterated her desire for Team GB "to be represented" at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic (BBC, 10/24). In London, Owen Gibson noted that FA General Secretary Alex Horne said that the evolution of a professional league would depend "on the commitment of top clubs." He praised Arsenal for seeing its women's club "as an extension" of its community and commercial strategy and "called on others to do the same." Even though more than 70,000 turned out for an Olympic match, and England matches have drawn "respectable audiences" on the BBC, the average crowd at a Women's Super League match in the U.K. is "about 500." FA Head of National Game Kelly Simmons said, "One of the key things is the new commercial approach. We need to build on what we've got today with ESPN and the BBC" (GUARDIAN, 10/24). FA and women's football leaders have called on England's top men's clubs to invest more money in their female teams as the game took another step toward a professional structure (Professional Footballers' Association).
The Professional Footballers' Association has announced a six-point plan to tackle race discrimination that includes tougher penalties and instant sackings for racist abuse and the introduction of the "Rooney rule" to boost the numbers of black coaches. The plan was announced by PFA CEO Gordon Taylor, and comes in response to players who expressed frustration over their union, which included talk of a breakaway organization for black players. Most of the points on the PFA action plan would have to be agreed by the FA and the leagues, which say they will study the proposals. Taylor outlined the PFA's action plan in a statement to the PA. The FA is due to issue a response to the government before the end of the year following a summit on tackling racism in football in May, on behalf of all of the game. The PFA's action plan will feed into that response, although there is no guarantee all the points will be supported by the FA. The Premier League said it would discuss the PFA plan with its 20 member clubs (PFA).
The BBC reported that the six points in the PFA's plan are:
Speeding up the process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents.
Consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse and to include an equality awareness program for culprits and clubs involved.
An English form of the "Rooney rule" -- introduced by the NFL in '03 -- to make sure qualified ethnic minority coaches are on interview lists for job vacancies.
The proportion of black coaches and managers to be monitored and any inequality or progress highlighted.
Racial abuse to be considered gross misconduct in player and coach contracts (and therefore potentially a sackable offence).
Not losing sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Asians in football (BBC, 10/24).
In London, Owen Gibson reported that the move came after Championship Reading striker Jason Roberts "made it clear" that his refusal to wear a Kick It Out anti-racism T-shirt in last weekend's warm-up "was not intended as a slight on that organisation but as a call to arms to the PFA and football authorities." Roberts said, "The last generation suffered from monkey chants, and we have to move it forward from simply being happy that we no longer get that. I'm not just happy to be here where we are. We should have the same opportunities as other people to get into management and coaching." Both Roberts and ManU player Rio Ferdinand, who also refused to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt, have "distanced themselves from suggestions of a new breakaway union for black players." Roberts also reaffirmed his support for Kick It Out (GUARDIAN, 10/24).
Gambling companies will pay around £73M ($116M) to fund British horse racing next year after "agreeing to maintain the terms of an annual levy now seen as outdated and needing reform," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. The levy was established more than 50 years ago and was "designed to ensure that bookmakers helped to support the sport and reward horse owners with adequate prize money." The terms of the deal for '13-14 stipulate that bookmakers will hand over 10.75% of their profits from British racing. Britain's three largest high street bookmakers -- William Hill, Ladbrokes and Gala Coral -- "have agreed to contribute at least £45M ($72M) to the total levy." Also included in the sum is an estimated £7M ($11M) from betting exchange operator Betfair plus contributions from smaller betting firms. The racing and gambling industries are looking to move to a "more conventional commercial model whereby bookmakers agree to provide multi-year funding in return for a guaranteed number of races to be staged and agreed numbers of runners." Horse racing is Britain's second-most popular spectator sport behind football (REUTERS, 10/24).
There is still “plenty of skepticism out there over the NFL's ability to put a franchise in London anytime in the foreseeable future,” but the first 10 months of ‘12 “have shown that the league is serious about trying,” according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. The NFL announced earlier this year that two games will be played in London in '13 and adding an extra game would be “an indicator to see if, someday, fans could be counted on to show up eight times every fall.” NFL VP/Int'l Chris Parsons said, "We look at it and say, 'Would the U.K. be able to sustain a team?' For now, it's, 'Let's build the fan base, so we can put ourselves in the top five in this country, so we'll be able to have that conversation.' For us, it's building that fan base, getting it to that size and scale, so if there's a future opportunity, we're ready for it. We're not looking at that as a short-term goal, though." Parsons was able to “cite plenty of progress over the first six years of the Wembley incarnation of the International Series.” The league over that period has “gone from having two sponsor partners across the pond to 12, while regular-season ratings in the U.K are up over 150%.” Also on the rise is “traffic to NFL.com, ‘NFL Game Pass’ (Europe's ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ equivalent) subscriptions and ‘Madden NFL’ sales.” That growth is why the league has “focused so intently on London and the U.K., rather than branching out to places like Germany.” Parsons: "There's no point in being 15th in 20 different countries. ... We want to get it right here before we go elsewhere" (NFL.com, 10/23).
The FA has unveiled a new crest and a special calendar of events ahead of its 150th anniversary celebrations in '13. Additionally, a UEFA Congress and the Champions League final will serve as focal points of the activities. Most of the signature events will occur in May.The Women's Champions League final will be held on May 23 at a London venue to be confirmed. On May 24, the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress is scheduled to take place in London. The event is an annual gathering of UEFA's national associations that gather to hear and vote on European football issues and proposals. The Champions League final takes place at Wembley Stadium on May 25 (UEFA).
The Beko Basketball Bundesliga "opened its new headquarters in downtown Cologne, Germany." About "100 invited guests were able to take a look at the league's new facilities" after its move from the Cologne-Deutz to the heart of downtown (SID, 10/24). ... German Football League (DFL) President Reinhard Rauball said that the Bundesliga "should rethink its ban on artificial turf." Rauball said, "The quality of modern artificial turf is by now so good that it is worth addressing this issue. The clubs already practice on artificial turf, especially during the winter." Artificial turf is playable regardless of the weather and more cost-effective in comparison to natural grass, which sometimes has to be replaced several times during a year (SID, 10/24). ... Handball Bundesliga's independent licensing commission "sentenced second-division club SV Post Schwerin to a fine of €20,000 ($26,000), which is the highest-possible sanction the commission can hand out." The club already withdrew from second-division play on Monday due to inability to pay (HANDBALL MAGAZIN, 10/24). ... The WTA has made a donation of $25,000 to the USANA True Health Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to provide the most critical human necessities to those in need (WTA). ... Sri Lanka Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that the government "will soon be framing anti-corruption laws to eradicate the possibility of match fixing in cricket" (PTI, 10/24).