Troubled Romanian club Rapid Bucharest plans to offload every foreign player on its books and build a squad made up entirely of locals in an attempt to ease its wage bill, according to REUTERS. Rapid Manager Danut Perja said, "We renounce all foreigners. All of them will receive the documents under which their contracts are terminated unilaterally by email." Rapid, one of the most-popular clubs in the Balkan country, "filed for insolvency this month after running up huge debts." The move could mean the end of professional football for the three-time league champions as Romanian football regulations "do not allow an insolvent club to have a first-division licence" (REUTERS, 12/19).
A fresh criminal investigation into the Hillsborough football disaster was announced by the Home Secretary as the High Court "quashed the original accidental death inquest verdicts into the 96 Liverpool fans," according to Richard Ford of the LONDON TIMES. The new police inquiry will look at the role of the FA, which authorized the staging of the match in April '89 "despite the Hillsborough ground not having a valid safety certificate." The inquiry will also look at the part played by Sheffield City Council in licensing the ground (LONDON TIMES, 12/19).
Man City striker Mario Balotelli has accepted a two-week fine for misconduct, "leading to the postponement of Wednesday's planned Premier League tribunal on the issue," according to Chris Bascombe of the London TELEGRAPH. The club had handed its striker with a £340,000 ($553,000) fine for a "series of disciplinary breaches" before the Italian had appealed. A tribunal was set after the punishment was challenged, with the Professional Footballers' Association intervening on Balotelli's behalf to "argue such measures are not supported by Premier League guidelines" (TELEGRAPH, 12/19). In a statement, Man City said, "After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for [Man City head coach] Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two-week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal" (BLOOMBERG, 12/19). In London, Jamie Jackson reported Mancini "did not drive City's action" and remains adamant that, despite the dispute, Balotelli has a future at the club beyond the January transfer window, with the Italian "resolute that he will not be leaving" (GUARDIAN, 12/19).
Ligue 2 Monaco Coach Claudio Ranieri has "confirmed his desire" to bring David Beckham to the club. Ranieri, who is backed by Russian billionaire Owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, also wants Chelsea's Frank Lampard and believes Beckham can play a "pivotal role in the development of Monaco's emerging squad" (London DAILY MAIL, 12/18). ... Arsenal has confirmed its Boxing Day clash against West Ham has been called off due to the threat of a Tube strike. The club has also confirmed that the match will be played on either Jan. 23 at 7:45pm or Jan. 26 at 3pm (London INDEPENDENT, 12/19). ... Scottish First Division club Livingston FC "has reduced its admission price" to just £5 ($8.13) per ticket at its home match with Hamilton Academical on Dec. 29 (SCOTSMAN, 12/17).