Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 10 No. 22

International Football

Professional Footballers' Association CEO Gordon Taylor believes that "it is time to consider the introduction of crowd control netting into football stadiums" after ManU player Rio Ferdinand was left bleeding from a head wound while celebrating his side's win over Man City Sunday, according to Shergold, Wheeler & Cass of the London DAILY MAIL. Ferdinand was struck by a coin thrown from the crowd at the Etihad Stadium. Teammate Wayne Rooney was also "pelted with missiles thrown from the stands" while waiting to take corner kicks. Taylor told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think you've got to give consideration to possibly, as has been suggested, some netting in vulnerable areas, be it behind the goals and round the corner flags." Only the "swift intervention" of Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart "prevented a much uglier flashpoint" as he stopped a fan confronting Ferdinand on the pitch in the wake of Van Persie's goal in the 92nd minute to clinch the match. FA Chair David Bernstein told Sky Sports News the crowd incidents at the Manchester derby were "deplorable'' and must be ''dealt with severely." Taylor does not support the reintroduction of the perimeter fencing, which was removed from English football grounds in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. Taylor is, however, "in favour of considering the installation of high nets behind goals," which are a common feature of football stadiums on the continent (DAILY MAIL, 12/9).

CASTING A WIDE NET: In London, Gratton & Ducker reported many clubs in Europe are removing netting around pitches "due to the improved behaviour of their fans, who have complained that the netting impedes their view." Football Supporters' Federation Chair Malcolm Clarke said that arrests at grounds have "dropped by almost a quarter over the last year." Clarke: "Netting is not something we feel is necessary to have. No one condones the throwing of missiles, but arrests last season were 24% down on previous seasons and not many social phenomenon alter that much. It is undoubtedly improving and I think before we start making knee-jerk reactions to particular incidents we ought to bear that in mind." Greater Manchester Police said that they are "working to track down the person responsible for throwing the coin" (LONDON TIMES, 12/10). The BBC reported stadium designer Paul Fletcher feels that the idea is "unworkable as finding a mesh netting small enough to stop coins could prove impossible." Fletcher worked on the design of Wembley Stadium, as well as stadiums at Bolton, Coventry and Huddersfield and was formerly CEO of League Championship Burnley FC. Fletcher: "To stop a £1 coin going onto the pitch is going to take some fine mesh netting, and I have never seen that" (BBC, 12/10).

HOW IT WORKS: In London, Simon Cass noted behind-the-goal netting is "commonplace in the German Bundesliga." Cass interviewed crowd-control firm Funtec Owner Ralf Esser about how the system works. Funtec supplies crowd-control measures to grounds such as Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena and Stuttgart's Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Q: So how does the system work?
Esser: It is a flame-resistant mesh, which you can see through very easily. We produce a steel rope which is built into the roof of the stadium from which the net is suspended and there are no poles to obscure the view.

Q: So what do the fans think about the nets?
Esser: Sometimes they notice them if they are very, very close to the net. But we often have a very funny reaction from the fans. They write letters to the clubs complaining that it is not fair that only the home supporters, and not the away fans, have nets in front of them. That’s because they cannot see them on the other side.

Q: What about safety implications about having nets?
Esser: It is possible to break the net down very quickly. It can be winched away if you only wish to use it for high-risk games. There are provisions in place for spectators to run through the net or to go underneath it. There are exits which are protected with Velcro which can be opened by the stewards.

Q: Have you had any contact from a Premier League club and how long would it take to install?
Esser: We have had no discussions as yet, but it would take just one week to install. If you don't have any protection systems it is also cheap (DAILY MAIL, 12/10).

LIFETIME BANS AND APOLOGIES: REUTERS' Mark Pangallo reported Bernstein said fans who "hijack" matches with bad behavior should be handed life bans. Berstein: "I think it's disturbing that we are seeing a recurrence of these sorts of incidents. We've had some racial abuse issues... we've had things being thrown at players. They are unacceptable and they have to be dealt with severely." He added, "In my mind it's for the FA, it's for the whole game of football and for the authorities to work together to deal with this in the most severe manner" (REUTERS, 12/10). The PA reported the Man City fan who invaded the pitch and tried to confront Ferdinand "has apologised." The fan was charged with "pitch encroachment." Speaking through his solicitors, he "confessed his guilt and said sorry" to Ferdinand (PA, 12/10).

CRERAND'S RADIO OUTBURST: The PA also reported former ManU midfielder Paddy Crerand was "involved in an astonishing outburst on national radio" Monday morning as he "reacted angrily" to the suggestion that Ferdinand could have provoked Man City fans with his celebration of ManU's game-winning goal. Crerand's comments came during an interview on BBC Radio Five Live where listeners had called and texted the show to suggest that "players should tone down their celebrations in front of opposition fans." Crerand said, "Who said that? That is ridiculous. What planet do they live on? That is absolute garbage. How many people have phoned you up? One, two, three? How many? Why make a statement like that if you haven't got (the number of listeners) to hand ... if you haven't got the evidence?" At one point Crerand asked interviewer Chris Warburton: "Is this a publicity stunt? Ask me a sensible question and don't talk stupid, asking me daft questions about whether fans should celebrate or not" (PA, 12/10).

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: In London, Matt Dickinson wrote two days after the fan troubles "does not seem the ideal time to be stepping up the campaign for supporters to be allowed to stand at the country’s biggest football stadiums," but Tuesday, MPs at Westminster "will be asked to believe that supporters can be trusted to stand and behave themselves. Sounds a tough sell." The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) will lobby the MPs to change legislation, "at least to allow a pilot scheme for standing in the top two divisions" — banned since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. Safety is part of the debate, but the return of standing hangs on other tests, like "whether you will make it worth a club’s while." It comes down to finance. The Scottish Premier League (SPL) allowed clubs to reintroduce standing exactly a year ago. So far, "not a single club has followed through." An SPL spokesman said its members had found it “cost prohibitive” (LONDON TIMES, 12/11).

ManU has confirmed that it "will travel to Sydney next summer to play the Australian A-League All Stars," 14 years after its last trip Down Under, according to Emily Benammar of the London TELEGRAPH. The last time ManU traveled to Australia, Manager Alex Ferguson "left the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville in the U.K., but organisers have suggested that the Scot will bring his full squad" for the July 20 match meaning Australian football fans "will have the opportunity to see Wayne Rooney, Nani and Robin van Persie in action." ManU CEO David Gill said, "The game and training camp that will take place in Sydney will be an important part of the team’s preparation for the 2013-14 season." Football Federation Australia "confirmed that the A-League All Stars would be selected by fans and, much to the excitement of United veteran Ryan Giggs, it could feature Sydney FC's Italian star Alessandro Del Piero." The squad "could also feature former Premier League striker Emile Heksey who joined the Newcastle Jets on a one-year deal in September" (TELEGRAPH, 12/10). In Sydney, Michael Chammas reported FFA CEO David Gallop "fired his first shot at the game he once ran, announcing football's major coup just an hour after State of Origin tickets went on sale." The ManU players "will demand the headlines when they touch down in Sydney on the eve of rugby league's showcase event for a game against the fan-voted A-League All Stars, a concept Gallop introduced during his time in the National Rugby League." Coincidence? Maybe. However, the "wry smile on Gallop's face when Fairfax Media commented on the timing of the announcement suggested it may have been more tactical than coincidental." Gallop said, "I think it's massive to have the most-famous football club in the world coming out here. It's an opportunity for us to launch the All Stars concept, and part of that will be giving fans a say in selection." The New South Wales government "has splashed out A$3M ($3.2M) to lure Ferguson's side to Sydney and said it expected to recoup that outlay fivefold, suggesting the match will generate some A$15M in revenue." ANZ Stadium "invested A$3M on grow lights from the Netherlands last season to help the surface cope with the rigours of winter." Ensuring the surface is at its best for the most-famous club in the world "will be a priority, and stadium officials are confident it will be in pristine condition" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/11).

UNITED HAS THE UPPER HAND: In Sydney, Michael Chammas also reported when former ManU striker Dwight Yorke was asked "how the best of the A-League would fare against the Red Devils," which last played in Australia in '99, Yorke "was brutally honest in his assessment of how the match would pan out." Yorke said, "A full-strength Man United … I've got to be honest, it's not going to be easy for the A-League guys. They are going to find it extremely difficult, but I'm sure it's a great experience for some of these guys who may not have the opportunity to play against these world-class players like Wayne Rooney and Van Persie. People like Giggsy and Scholesy are still there'' (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/11). Also in Sydney, Ray Gatt reported Yorke "laughed off suggestions the trip would be a holiday for the 19-time English champion club." Yorke said, "Not at all. It's a serious part of the preseason for them. They'll have five or six days in camp in Sydney. It will be very intense." Yorke said that "he would not knock back the chance to coach the All Stars if asked, although it would seem Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou and Central Coast Mariners boss Graham Arnold would be the frontrunners" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/11).

Indonesia "is facing a possible suspension from world football after two rival associations failed to reunite in time for a Monday deadline" set by FIFA, according to the AFP. Indonesian FA (PSSI) Chair Djohar Arifin Husin said that a congress meeting held by his group affirmed that they "could not reconcile their differences" with the rebel Indonesian Football Rescue Committee (KPSI). The PSSI "decided to annul a Memorandum of Understanding they both signed in June where they agreed to run a single league." Husin said, "We have opened our doors, but KPSI refused to merge with us to run only one league. In fact, they went ahead to form their own football teams." KPSI chief La Nyalla Mahmud Mattalitti said that on Monday it held a separate meeting "demanding sole control over Indonesian football." He added the organization was "very happy" over the decision to annul the MoU. He said, "FIFA should ban PSSI. FIFA should know that nobody trusts in Djohar [Arifin Husin] anymore" (AFP, 12/10). The JAKARTA GLOBE reported acting Sports Minister Agung Laksono invited PSSI and KPSI representatives to a meeting on Saturday "where they agreed to hold only one congress" on Monday in Jakarta. The event was to be organized by PSSI and the attendee list created by a joint committee of both organizations. But the joint meeting in Jakarta was canceled when it emerged that the PSSI "had taken the relevant documents to Palangkaraya and was preparing to hold its own congress in the central Kalimantan capital" (JAKARTA GLOBE, 12/10).

Global sports marketing research company Repucom has been appointed by the Scottish FA to conduct the first National Football Survey, a study that will give fans a say on the major issues affecting Scotland’s national game. The survey, a collaborative effort by the Scottish FA, Scottish Premier League, Scottish Football League and Supporters Direct Scotland, seeks to engage feedback from supporters around the country. Issues such as league reconstruction, national team performance, rules and regulations and the match-day experience are all covered in the most-comprehensive fan study ever carried out in Scottish football. The online survey, independently administrated and analyzed by Repucom, aims to facilitate a significant step forward in improving Scottish football. It addresses fans at all levels; from the avid supporter of the national team and/or a particular club to the armchair spectator (Repucom).