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Volume 10 No. 22

Leagues and Governing Bodies

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has spoken for the first time about how his reign "could be threatened if he is charged in a bribery case" in Germany surrounding the $1.6B sale of the motor racing series to private equity firm CVC in '06, according to Christian Sylt of the London TELEGRAPH. Ecclestone said CVC "will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me." He said, "It’s pretty obvious, if I’m locked up." Although he is "still being investigated by the Germans, he has not been charged." Ecclestone has admitted paying Gribkowsky, "but denies it was a bribe." Instead, Ecclestone said that the banker had threatened that if he were not paid, he would give U.K. tax authority HMRC "alleged details" of Ecclestone’s tax affairs. Ecclestone’s comments "follow a stinging attack last week" by Ferrari Chair Luca di Montezemolo, who said: "The era of the one-man show cannot continue. We are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things." As part of the plans for the stalled $10B flotation of F1, CVC had contacted head-hunting agency Egon Zehnder to "draft a short-list of potential replacements." Ecclestone, 82, insists that this "doesn’t indicate that CVC has any intention of getting rid of him." Ecclestone: "They said they had hired a head-hunter to find somebody in the event that I was not going to be there -- if I was going to die or something. It is the normal thing they do to keep people happy" (TELEGRAPH, 12/29).

Salaries for New Zealand All Blacks Sevens players "are set to double within the next year in a bid to lighten workloads and create specialist pathways in the build up to the next Olympic Games" in Rio de Janeiro, according to STUFF. High Performance Sport New Zealand last week gave the New Zealand Rugby Union NZ$6.4M ($5.2M) over the next four years -- NZ$4.8M ($3.9M) to the men's and NZ$1.6M ($1.3M) to the women's sevens programs -- "to enhance the push for dual gold medals in '16." It is understood that "some of that funding will be specifically used to boost player wages." Up to 10 full-time men's sevens players "could be contracted by the end of '13 as part of a gradual progression toward having 20 specialists for coach Gordon Tietjens to select from" in preparation for the next Olympics. All sevens players are currently aligned to a provincial union "and play a large part of the National Provincial Championship to top up their earnings." It is understood that from next year those who secure full-time sevens contracts "will not be required to play the NPC or Super Rugby." Wages will rise to between NZ$70,000 ($57,000) to NZ$120,000 ($98,000) per year, and by the end of '16, high end sevens salaries could reach NZ$150,000 ($123,000) (STUFF, 12/27).

Organizers of a “revolutionary series that will race cars powered only by electricity have approached London Mayor Boris Johnson to make the capital the venue for the first ‘green’ grand prix," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The series is sanctioned by the FIA and organizers are calling the project “Formula E.” Spanish investor and former EPL club Queens Park Rangers Chair Alejandro Agag is “behind the series.” He has “already signed up Rome and Rio de Janeiro and is negotiating with cities from Beijing to Los Angeles for races.” Africa also is “on the list, with Marrakesh, in Morocco, and Cape Town both showing interest.” But Agag wants London to be the "first host of Formula E.” Agag said, “This is the future and proof that you can have motor racing and still be environmentally aware.” He added, “We have approached the authorities in London and they are very excited by the idea. There is [a] long way to go, but we hope that they join our schedule like so many cities that are signing with us. I would really like to start the series in London. It would mean so much.” Eason noted there is a “bonus for Boris -- no fee.” Unlike F1, which “charges up to £30M ($48.4M) for the rights to stage a grand prix, Agag will provide the race for free, with the city co-operating in traffic management and set-up.” From a base in Central London, Agag is “directing operations for an initial schedule of ten races in '14” (LONDON TIMES, 12/28).

Baseball "has enjoyed strong development in China, as well as the rest of Asia, over the past decade," according to the CHINA DAILY. The MLB "has made great efforts to popularize the game in the region while also helping Asian teams get stronger on the int'l stage." Over the past five years, MLB Dir of Baseball Development in Asia Rick Dell and his colleagues "have been promoting the sport and have made significant progress." The league has opened two development centers in Jiangsu province. Dell said, "The ultimate goal is to cultivate a local baseball superstar to attract millions of fans and further create business opportunities in China." Inspired by Harvard graduate and NBA player Jeremy Lin and his "Linsanity" phenomenon, Dell has launched a program called "Chinsanity," which is "designed to encourage the development center players to find a balance between the baseball diamond and the classroom." Another program called "Independent Packets" has also been organized "to help local clubs in China by providing equipment and coaching" (CHINA DAILY, 12/29).