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Volume 10 No. 26

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Although there may not be any NFL games planned in China, "American football is taking off," according to Andrew Chin of SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. In the past 18 months, 10 teams have been formed, the first of their kind in the country. The players are amateurs and pay for their own equipment, but the teams "have created a scene reminiscent of the early days of the game in the U.S." In April, the Hong Kong American Football League was established with plans of organizing a flag football league. However, "competing agendas among teams led to HKAFL President Alex Berriman changing course." Berriman said, "Geared football wasn't expected to arrive for at least two to three years, but we thought starting the Hong Kong Cobras was the best way to bring all the football players together with a common ground." The Cobras' first practice was in December, "with many of the players using their HK$6,000 ($774) tax rebate" to purchase their gear. The team now has more than 80 players signed up. Berriman said, "We found that locals are really into the sport. They love to watch it and talk about their favorite players. New players are showing up all the time and a second team, the Hong Kong Warhawks, are starting to form." The Cobras' story "has been a common one this year." About a year ago, China's only two adult American football teams, the Beijing Guardians and Shanghai Nighthawks, played each other for the first time. Since then, they have been joined by eight others, including two teams from Guangzhou: the Guangzhou Southern Tigers and Guangzhou Goats, which "overwhelmingly compromise local players." The three teams based on southern China "are gearing up to play" at the NFL Experience event in Guangzhou on Sunday. While NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders "will be the star of the show, these events have served as important showcases for the local teams." NFL China Managing Dir Richard Young said, "We always want to have an exhibition game at these events and give teams a venue where they get to play" (SCMP, 11/25).

The relationships between FIFA and the FA has now improved to the extent that football's governing body has awarded £314,000 ($503,373) in Goal project funding to St. George's Park, according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The relationship between the two parties had "reached an all-time low after the 2018 World Cup vote debacle." The money will be spent on "further developing the state-of-the-art sports science and medical facilities at the National Football Centre outside Burton," which FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited. Blatter, who was greeted at the entrance by FA Chair David Bernstein, said, "FIFA is committed to the development of football across the world and the Goal projects are crucial in achieving this mission." The rebuilt partnership between Zurich and Wembley was "further strengthened" through a Memorandum of Understanding signed jointly by Blatter and Bernstein. This will see the FA share its expertise in different football disciplines, "including sports medicine, stadium safety, and women’s football with developing nations" (DAILY MAIL, 11/21).

Local media in China reported that Chinese basketball teams are "set for a major cash injection after the league secured marketing tie-ups with more than 20 sponsors, including a five-year deal worth RMB 1.7B ($273M)," according to Alastair Himmer of REUTERS. A Beijing News report revealed that the windfall has made the Chinese Basketball Association "one of the richest professional leagues in China." Clubs can "expect to see a boost to their coffers of around $1.6M, almost 10 times more than their previous pay-offs from the CBA." As a trade-off, the CBA has told clubs "to improve facilities, including air-conditioning and lighting, at its venues." CBA Competition Department chief Bai Xilin said, "The league won't make money. The entire funds will go to clubs' infrastructure building and salary expenses" (REUTERS, 11/23). In Beijing, Sun Xiaochen wrote it "remains a long shot for all the gyms to reach the NBA-standards of Beijing's MasterCard Center and Guangzhou's Int'l Sports Arena." In a gym reportedly only "five degrees above zero" in Binzhou, former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady "refused to play" with his Qingdao Eagles after being on the court for only 98 seconds. Qingdao GM Sheng Xishun said, "The fans' support was warm, but the gym was too cold. Letting him play might get him hurt. We were worried." Despite the financial boost, "some managers remain concerned about balancing their books with their share." Guangdong Southern Tigers GM Liu Hongjiang said, "Even if we get more money from the league this year, it's still a drop in the bucket. It's impossible to make both ends meet with just this amount of funding" (CHINA DAILY, 11/23).

In Beijing, Sun added it was expected fans would "spend double or triple the face value for a scalped ticket" to the CBA's kick-off game on Saturday. Former NBAers Stephon Marbury of the Beijing Ducks and Gilbert Arenas of the Shanghai Sharks squared off against each other in the season opener. Reports revealed that 1,000 tickets had been released to online vendors for public purchase, "while 5,000 were held for private sale to Shougang Group (which holds its stadium's naming rights) employees, execs and whoever else the company deemed worthy." Online ticket sales for Saturday's game were launched on Tuesday, and "all 1,000 were purchased within six minutes despite the prices being raised by at least 40%" (CHINA DAILY, 11/24).

The Indian Olympic Association "has strongly objected to the Sports Ministry's letter to the IOC that sought a meeting with the world body and requested the Dec. 5 IOA elections be put off," according to the Delhi MAIL TODAY. Sports Ministry Secretary PK Deb had written to IOC President Jacques Rogge "to sort out differences over the contentious sports code that puts a cap on age and tenure of office bearers of National Sports Federations." The sports code has been "the bone of contention between the government and the IOA," which has maintained the guidelines are an "infringement on autonomy." IOA acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra said, "The double speak of the Government of India is clear as on one hand it says that it has no 'intentions whatsoever to interfere in the functioning of the IOA' and on the other it is insisting that National Sports Federations should accept its so called Sports Code" (MAIL TODAY, 11/23). Malhotra said he was "surprised at the audacity of the Sports Ministry to misrepresent the IOA at the highest international forum." He added: "To start with, the very fact that Mr. Deb has directly written to you (Rogge) and the IOC bypassing the Indian Olympic Association, shows the government's intentions, interests and interference in the affairs of the IOA" (PTI, 11/22). In Chennai, India, K.P. Mohan wrote "in the severest threat held out so far in over two years of  'autonomy debate,'" the IOC on Friday warned the IOA that it faced suspension if it went ahead with its elections not adhering to its constitution and the Olympic Charter. The IOA has been given until Nov. 30 to explain its position that it was "ready to hold the Dec. 5 elections as per the directives of the IOC." The IOC said that if it fails to do so, the suspension of its NOC will be presented to the IOC Exec Board at its next meeting on Dec. 4-5. This is the first time Rogge has directly entered the debate about autonomy, violation of the Olympic Charter and suspension threats "that had been hanging over the Olympic Movement in the country for more than two years since the Union Government brought in a set of revised tenure guidelines" (THE HINDU, 11/23).

PULLING OUT OF THE RACE: The PTI wrote the "controversy-marred IOA elections took a dramatic twist" on Sunday with Randhir Singh withdrawing his nomination for the post of president, clearing the decks for Abhay Singh Chautala to take charge of the high-profile post. Randhir's withdrawal from the contest "on a day of dramatic development put an end to the bitter and acrimonious campaign between the rival factions in the run-up to the elections." Randhir said that "he was doing so in the light of the IOC's warning to India to disaffiliate if the elections are held under government's Sports Code and that it would not recognise such a poll" (PTI, 11/25).

ATTACKING THE IOC: The TNN's Biswajyoti Brahma noted former Sports Minister MS Gill, the man behind the Sports Code which has led to the IOC threatening the IOA with a ban, called the int'l body a "paper tiger" on Friday and "criticized it for trying to block good practices which it itself follows." Gill said, "What is a good practice for the IOC is being sought to be blocked in India." He added, "Soon after I became the sports minister, I faced serious questions from the Delhi high court. I looked into the matter and decided that the reforms had to be done immediately for the good of Indian sportspersons. I framed a detailed order (on May 2, 2010) in which I limited everyone to finally retire from sports management at age 70. I limited the president's tenure to 12 years and executive members' tenure, to 8 years. These, in fact, I copied from the IOC's own regulations (charter)" (TNN, 11/25). The PTI noted Gill rejected the IOC's stand, calling it smacks of "sports imperialism." Gill "attacked the IOC for trying to intimidate India." He said, "They (the IOC) do not like to annoy their voters in any manner. I also see that there is clear sports imperialism of the west in all games. The control over each game, is essentially with the western world. Political imperialism has gone but not sports imperialism" (PTI, 11/25).

Australian Jockeys' Association CEO Paul Innes has declared that "the gloves are off" in a dispute over superannuation on riding fees that could cost the racing industry more than A$40 ($41.8M), according to Chris Roots of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Fairfax Media Ltd. revealed on Melbourne Cup day that jockeys were chasing the superannuation guarantee, which could be backdated to '92, but Innes said Sunday that the AJA had "received a curt response from the Australian Racing Board about the issue." Innes said, "We got one line, basically, from [board CEO] Peter McGauran that said they would be defending the claim vigorously. It looks like they want a fight. We are very confident about our advice from the tax office and a Melbourne senior counsel, which was included in what we sent to the ARB. But they just dismissed it in one line.'' McGauran let Fairfax know that the board's legal opinion "differed dramatically from that given to the AJA." McGauran said, ''Racing authorities do not believe they have any case to answer for jockeys' riding fees under the super guarantee. We have considered legal opinion, which is to the effect the AJA claim is misdirected" (SMH, 11/26). 

South Korean baseball officials "were up in arms Friday against Seoul's plan" to relocate its professional club to a new domed stadium next year, according to YONHAP. Officials accused the city "of reaching the decision unilaterally without prior consultation with the baseball community." The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Thursday "laid out a plan" to move one of three Seoul-based Korea Baseball Organization clubs in '13 to a dome currently under construction in Gocheok-dong, a neighborhood in southwest Seoul. The Doosan Bears and the LG Twins play their home games at Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul with 26,000 seats, while the Nexen Heroes are based at the 14,000-seat Mokdong Stadium with no outfield seats in western Seoul. Both stadiums are properties of the city, and the teams pay the government annual fees for their use. KBO Secretary General Yang Hae-Young said, "The city never came to us to talk about this. These Seoul teams pay to play at Jamsil and Mokdong, and the city seems to think it can do whatever it wants to do with the three clubs" (YONHAP, 11/23).