Average attendances for the A-League this season are now "higher than for the top division in the world's most famous football nation," according to Sebastian Hassett of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. After four rounds, the A-League has average crowds of 15,460, "well above the average" of matches in the Brasileiro last season, which equated to 14,693. Should the A-League maintain its early-season speed, it "remains on track" to beat attendances in Turkey, Scotland, Russia, Belgium, South Korea and Portugal. Just 12 months ago, the league was "lagging in 24th place." The early-season increase in numbers has been "attributed to the inclusion of three world-famous marquee players." Outgoing FFA CEO Ben Buckley said, "There's no doubt the marquee players Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono have ignited massive interest in the A-League. I congratulate the clubs involved for making the investment in these star players'' (SMH, 10/31).
AC Milan Owner Silvio Berlusconi is ready to sell the Serie A club to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir of Qatar, according to Gaia Brunelli of GOAL.com. The team is being "plagued by financial problems" and was forced to cash in on star players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in the summer transfer window. The team continue to struggle, and Berlusconi is unsure if he is "the right man to help the San Siro side back on track, as his priorities currently lie elsewhere." The former Italian PM was recently sentenced to 12 months in prison for his part in a tax fraud scandal. He now appears "ready to sell the club if a good offer comes in." Sheikh Al Thani is "sitting in pole position" to purchase the club, for a fee in the region of €500M ($649M) (GOAL.com, 10/30).
EPL referee Mark Clattenburg will formally deny allegations he used "inappropriate language" toward Chelsea players Mikel John Obi and Juan Mata, with the Metropolitan police "now having launched its own investigation," according to the PA. Clattenburg "has been shocked and angered" at being accused by Chelsea of using comments that have been interpreted as racist during its defeat by ManU on Sunday. The Metropolitan police confirmed they had acted on what they described as a "complaint" made by the Society of Black Lawyers. A statement from the force read: "An investigation has been launched into alleged comments made during a football match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC at Stamford Bridge on 28 October 2012" (PA, 10/30). The PA's Ben Rumsby reported that the police probe came less than 24 hours after the FA launched its own investigation, which "it must now decide whether to continue or postpone until after potential criminal proceedings are concluded." The referee, his assistants and the fourth official are "understood to have been stunned by the claims," and deny "hearing anything of that nature" via the officials' microphone link-up (PA, 10/30).
A fans’ ticket exchange closed down at the request of Man City is "back open for business," according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. Mcfcticketx, a non-profit network, allowed supporters of the team without tickets to "connect with those selling them on Twitter." However, the site was removed by Twitter at the request of the club, which "cited trademark violations." Now the Twitter account, with a few changes, is back up and running, leaving 20-year-old Founder Adam Keyworth "to claim a moral victory." Keyworth said, "Twitter got in touch with me and said that if I made a few amendments then I could reopen the account. I got rid of ‘mcfc’ from the title and called it ‘Cityticketx’. I also made it clear that it was unofficial and in no way endorsed by the club, and it was back up and running." Manchester City declined to comment (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 10/30).
A top Hong Kong government official said that the city's multimillion-dollar football blueprint "to rise from the ashes has been damaged" by the departure of national coach Ernie Merrick, according to Alvin Sallay of SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Jonathan McKinley said that the government-backed Project Phoenix implemented last year to revive the local game "would not be helped by the departure of a national coach just nine months into his job." McKinley said, "To lose a coach of the proven calibre of Ernie Merrick at such an early stage clearly impacts on the implementation of Project Phoenix." Merrick is the "latest casualty in holding down what seems to be a tough job" -- he is the 10th national coach since '00 (SCMP, 10/30).
Although South Africa Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has warned of a "constrained fiscal environment," the Treasury will allocate close to half a billion rand for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, according to the SOWETAN LIVE. The '12 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement revealed a total of about R460M ($53.3M) in "unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure" has been set aside to host the football event. This includes a R213M ($24.7M) allocation to the sports and recreation department, "most of which will be distributed to host cities." The SA Police Service will receive an additional R165M ($19.1M) to provide security. The department of arts and culture will get R18.5M ($2.1M) for "creative programmes in respect of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 final draw and opening and closing ceremonies." Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is set to spend R18M ($2M) on "providing services for heads of state who attend the tournament." Deputy Finance Minister Nhanhla Nene said that he "did not believe the amount spent on the event was extravagant." Nene said, "I do not regard the hosting of the [tournament]... as a vanity project" (SOWETAN LIVE, 10/25).