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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

David Beckham "could cost as much as A$200,000 ($208,000) a game, but his price tag has not deterred three A-League clubs from ramping up their bids to sign the superstar on a 10-match guest stint," according to Dominic Bossi of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Perth Glory, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Heart "are on standby and are only awaiting his decision to select Australia as a potential destination before entering advanced negotiations with his management." The Glory will be offering Beckham the most lucrative deal "across any football code in Australia." Glory CEO Paul Kelly said, "We've made an offer in the region of $2M. [Glory owner] Tony Sage [will fund the deal], there's no investment from anyone else." Melbourne Heart "became the first club to enter preliminary negotiations with Beckham's U.S. management team after holding a teleconference" Monday night. It is "understood that the club offered a deal worth about A$1.5M." The Heart will contribute around A$600,000, and the remaining sum "is likely to be topped-up by a third party" (SMH, 12/4).

Scottish Premier League clubs have "unanimously" backed the league's plans for a reform, according to the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The SPL proposal "suggests two top-flight divisions of 12 teams, effectively an SPL 1 and SPL 2." That plan "was backed by all 12 SPL sides" at a meeting at Hampden Park Monday afternoon. Afterward SPL CEO Neil Doncaster revealed that "they will now proceed with their '24-18 model' -- with the 18 referring to the remaining Scottish Football League clubs not included in the top divisions." Contrary to early reports, "no official vote was taken at the meeting -- although a show of hands allowed the SPL board to proceed" with its plan. The next step "will be to win the support of the SFL and Scottish FA" (DAILY RECORD, 12/3). STV noted SFL clubs "must give two full seasons worth of notice to quit their league." That rule can be bypassed if 66% of clubs "vote to do so at a general meeting." The SFL has opposing plans, which involve SPL clubs "returning to the body it broke away from in '98 to form the independent top flight." Under its proposal, the top flight "would accommodate 16 teams, with the second tier including 10 sides." The bottom tier, as with the SPL idea, "would also have 16 clubs" (STV, 12/3).

RANGERS BOSS SPEAKS UP: The BBC reported Rangers CEO Charles Green "has called for all-inclusive talks on reconstruction." The SPL and SFL "have drawn up significantly different plans to change the league format." While the SFL has proposed leagues of 16, 10 and 16, the SPL is considering two top leagues of 12. Green said, "There are merits in both, but it needs all the clubs to sit down." However, Green warned the SPL "not to assume that SFL clubs would want to join" its ranks should it pursue a second division of its own. Green added, "I'm not sure SFL clubs will rush to join the SPL. There is a big sense of injustice about how they were being told what to do over where Rangers should go, and we all saw the outcome of that" (BBC, 12/3).

Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has "launched a passionate defence of German football principles and attacked English clubs' ownership by rich men from overseas," according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. Watzke described German football as "romantic" for retaining its "50% plus one" rule, which requires Bundesliga clubs to be owned by their members. He "questioned the ethos and sustainability" of Premier League clubs' ownership, including Man City being owned and funded by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi. Of Man City Watzke said: "I am a little bit romantic, and that is not romantic. In England people seem not to be interested in this -- at Liverpool they are fine for the club to belong to an American. But the German is romantic: when there is a club, he wants to have the feeling it is my club, not the club of Qatar or Abu Dhabi." Watzke was a "prominent supporter" of the 50% plus one rule when it was challenged last year by Bundesliga Hannover President Martin Kind. Watzke: "Germans want to have that sense of belonging. When you give [the supporters] the feeling that they are your customers, you have lost. In Germany, we want everybody to feel it is their club, and that is really important" (GUARDIAN, 12/2).

In London, Graeme Yorke reported Dortmund has had its "financial ups-and-downs," but now arguably "boast one of the most successful models in Europe" -- producing exciting young players like Mario Götze and Nuri Sahin and having the opportunity to sell them for great profit. Added to cheap ticket prices, which consistently produce crowds of up to 80,000 fans, they are "the envy of many clubs across the continent." Watzke: "We would make €5M ($6.5M) more a season if we had seats, but there was no question to do it, because it is our culture. In England it is a lot more expensive. Football is more than a business" (DAILY MAIL, 12/2).

THE GERMAN MODEL: In London, Conn wrote on the GUARDIAN's Inside Sport blog "admiration for the German way, posing a challenge to Premier League assumptions, is stretching beyond the Mannschaft's performance, to the nation's clubs and the way it organises football." Even before this week's final round of Champions League group matches, the three Bundesliga clubs have qualified for the knockout stage. Bayern Munich, which earned £290M in '10-11 according to financial adviser Deloitte, is "always expected to qualify." European football has been struck this season by Bundesliga club Schalke, which defeated Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last month, and, in particular, by Borussia Dortmund, who sits atop its "devilishly difficult group" after beating Real Madrid. While growing stronger on the field, German clubs have "purposefully retained traditions and atmospheres off the field too." Fans can still "pay cheaply in their thousands" to stand and watch their teams -- 25,000 supporters in Borussia Dortmund's famed south stand Die gelbe Wand (Yellow Wall) pay a mere €11 ($14) a match to watch the German champions (GUARDIAN, 12/1).

Real Madrid coach José Mourinho "will not continue on the Real Madrid bench next season even if the club wins the Champions League," according to Miguel Serrano of MARCA. Relations between Mourinho and Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez "have broken down completely and are now practically inexistent." The Portuguese manager will negotiate his departure from the club in June. In private, Florentino said last weekend "Mourinho is cutting his own throat," and has often been heard criticizing the manager "as well as his difficult character" -- and Mourinho is "well aware of this." Both the club and manager "will try to reach the end of the season as amicably as they can," and they will negotiate Mourinho's departure in June, "above all bearing in mind that there are presidential elections, but the decision has already been taken." The "turning point" in the decision has been losing out on the league after only three months, and playing "much worse than last year" (MARCA, 12/3).

GUARDIOLA TO PSG: L'EQUIPE reported that Paris St. Germain owner Qatar Sports Investments is not satisfied with the team's progress this season and "a revolution is in progress." The team currently sits fourth in the Ligue 1 and coach Carlo Ancelotti as well as Sporting Dir Leonardo are on the hot seat. Sources close to the Qatari investor confirmed that "discussions with Pep Guardiola have taken place for his arrival in the summer." These same sources revealed that Guardiola "is opposed to the idea of joining PSG mid-season" (L'EQUIPE, 12/3).