Football Supporters Federation Chair Malcolm Clarke has "urged the game's authorities to wake up to the growing resentment at massively inflated ticket prices or risk huge numbers of fans turning their backs on the game," according to Simon Stone of the PA. Man City sent back more than 900 tickets for Sunday's game at Arsenal after supporters "elected not to pay" £62 ($99) to attend. Man City's "increased status within the English game" means they have joined ManU, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham as clubs who "routinely get charged the highest prices for tickets." Clarke believes there is "no justification for such pricing structures," especially since clubs are "set to pocket their share of the spoils" from mega TV deals that have topped the £4B ($6B) barrier (PA, 1/9). In London, Andy James reported Arsenal fans have had to pay up to £126 ($201) for Sunday's match against Man City. By contrast, Barcelona is charging just £7.30 ($11.70) for Thursday's cup tie against Primera B side Córdoba. Arsenal is "not the only club to have been criticised for exorbitantly-priced tickets," but it was rated as "English football's most-expensive day out by a BBC survey in October" (DAILY MAIL, 1/9).
GOOD FOR THE GAME? In London, Giuseppe Muro reported the game, to be televised live on Sky Sports, is classed as Category A by the club and therefore "carries the highest price for Arsenal’s Premier League games." Man City has "returned enough for Arsenal to put a whole block of the Clock End back on sale to home supporters," but the club expected the game to sell out. An Arsenal Supporters' Trust spokesperson said: "I can understand why Manchester City fans have stayed away this weekend. It is a reflection of the way the game is going. Clubs need to think carefully about their pricing structure for away fans because I don’t think it is good for the game when there are less away fans because the atmosphere will suffer" (EVENING STANDARD, 1/9).
FANS LOSE OUT: In London, Paul Wilson wrote on the GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog,"One thing is clear: clubs are concerned only about selling tickets. They don't really mind who buys them and, given the extra stewarding costs and segregation issues that come with away supporters, it would not be an enormous surprise to see clubs pitching the price of away seats sky high to keep the numbers of travelling fans as low as possible. Some would argue they are already doing that." He added, "The point of all this is not only to show that away fans often get a raw deal but that clubs can pretty much treat them how they wish. There are no hard and fast rules and perhaps there should be" (GUARDIAN, 1/9).
David Beckham will "make a decision on his future next week" after receiving 12 formal offers from around the world, according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. However, the former England captain is "not expected to return" to the Premier League. Beckham has been made offers from Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East. Beckham is expected to "sit down with his advisors next week and go through the offers in detail." Beckham is "viewing his next move as potentially his last as a player." Those close to Beckham said that "he is attracted by the prospect of playing at a high level or in an environment where his presence would have a similar impact" as when he first moved from Real Madrid to the Major League Soccer L.A. Galaxy (PA, 1/9). The BBC reported Beckham will "base his family in London wherever he ends up." French Ligue 2 side Monaco is "understood to have ended" its interest in Beckham after "holding talks" (BBC, 1/9).
QATAR INTEREST: In London, Rob Beasley reported Beckham has been "offered a bumper two-year deal to join the Qatar Stars League." A Qatar source said, "When it comes to money offers, Qatar is the biggest by far. Senior figures in the Q League feel Beckham has the total package, and they need to up the interest in the game there around the world." A "lucrative, long-term PR role as an ambassador for the Qatar 2022 World Cup could also follow" (SUN, 1/9).
SORTING THE OFFERS: In London, Sami Mokbel reported Beckham's representatives are "compiling a dossier" from Beckham's offers in recent weeks. The option of retiring from football is "not being considered at the moment, though that could be explored if none of the options excite his interest." Queens Park Rangers and West Ham are "both keen on Beckham," but it is "highly unlikely that he will join a London club" (DAILY MAIL, 1/9).
Scottish Third Division Rangers CEO Charles Green "has claimed the club should investigate the prospect of leaving Scottish football," according to Ewan Murray of the London GUARDIAN. Plans "are afoot to implement two divisions of 12 and a bottom tier of 18, possibly as early as next season, in the Scottish game." Rangers "object to that and have been irked by the fact they were not invited to talks relating to that issue at Hampden Park on Tuesday." Even if Rangers win this season's Third Division, as is almost certain, they "would remain in the lowest league if reconstruction plans are immediately passed." Green, who previously prompted an instant rebuttal from ManU after claiming the Old Trafford club was "not hostile" to Rangers joining the EPL, "has maintained the theme." There "has never been any genuine spectre of Rangers moving to an alternative playing environment." Green told RangersTV: "If this [reconstruction] does happen what is the point of us finishing the season? Why should we send players out to get broken noses -- like Ross Perry last week -- or have players getting surgery when no one can get promoted and no one can get relegated? We might as well have a winter break now until next August" (GUARDIAN, 1/9). The London EVENING STANDARD wrote the Scottish Premier League "needs an 11-1 majority among its clubs, but the idea has already been informally approved by all 12." The Scottish Football League "needs 22 of its clubs to back the plans, with a 16-10-16 plan previously being agreed unanimously by the 30 clubs" (EVENING STANDARD, 1/9). In London, Mark Giles reported an article written by Rangers Communications Dir James Traynor and posted on the Rangers official website "also accused those running Scottish football of 'sheer hypocrisy' by apparently taking fans' views into account" when the newco application of Green "was rejected by SPL clubs, while ignoring calls for a larger top division." Traynor wrote: "If they were listening to fans, they wouldn’t be sticking with a top division of 12, and if there was any integrity there would be no rush to bring in changes for the start of next season." Despite Rangers’ strongly worded reservations, SFL CEO David Longmuir "expressed confidence that the merger would be accepted by clubs in his organisation" (LONDON TIMES, 1/9). In Glasgow, Gary Ralston wrote "nine representatives from the SFL and six from the SPL were at the talks, but Rangers were not asked to contribute." An Ibrox spokesperson said: "It seems odd to us that, as the biggest club in Scotland, we were not invited to the meeting. Like many people, we believe that change should not be rushed through for the sake of it" (DAILY RECORD, 1/9). Also in Glasgow, Stewart Fisher reported Scottish football's administrators "hailed a landmark tripartite deal on league reconstruction as a 'new dawn' for the national game." Although similar models in both Austria and Switzerland "proved short-lived, and plenty of confusion remains over the fine print, the future structure is envisaged as two leagues of 12, which split into three leagues of eight after 22 games, with the top eight in the top division playing for the title." Scottish FA CEO Stewart Regan said, "It is a new dawn, I think you would say, for Scottish football. What's encouraged me most is that both sides have actually made concessions." SPL CEO Neil Doncaster said, "What today represents, among other things, is a huge redistribution of wealth down the leagues. The bigger clubs are giving up a lot of money to fund, particularly the gap between the top 12 and the second 12 that exists at the moment and effectively insuring a trickle down of wealth for the whole game" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 1/9).
Transfermarkt.de has taken a look at the market values of int'l football players and compiled a list of the biggest market value losers of '12, according to SPORT BILD. On top of the list sits Italian Giuseppe Rossi, whose market value "dropped an unbelievable" €20M ($26M) (SPORT BILD, 1/8).
The Hungarian FA (MLSZ) will appeal FIFA's decision to ban fans from attending the country's World Cup qualifying game against Romania in March "because of a racist incident last year," according to Marton Dunai of REUTERS. The punishment followed anti-Semitic chanting by fans in an August friendly against Israel, for which the Hungarian FA expressed regret, but it was "unhappy with the ruling" to play the 2014 World Cup Group D qualifier behind closed doors. In a statement the MLSZ said, "That the Hungarian national team must serve its punishment at a vital game in the most prestigious international tournament for an incident at a friendly game seems overly harsh and unfair even before receiving the precise reasoning." The MLSZ added that it wrote a letter after the August friendly to the Israeli ambassador in Hungary and the Israeli FA and FIFA to apologize, in which it "condemned the actions of a minority of fans at the game" (REUTERS, 1/9).
FIFA confirmed the extension of sanctions on 41 players from South Korea related to a domestic match-fixing investigation dating back to the summer of '11. All 41 players have been sanctioned with a lifetime ban from all football activity by the K League and the Korea FA’s disciplinary committees. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has extended the sanctions to have worldwide effect. However, 21 players who turned themselves in during the voluntary reporting period, expressing their grave regret about their involvement in match-fixing, have been offered the possibility of returning to football after a probation period of between two and five years. This includes carrying out periods of community service ranging from 200 to 500 hours. The probation is voluntary, which means that the respective player has to inform the K League that he wishes to return to football. At this point, the player then has to commit himself to one of a variety of community services related to football (FIFA).
A survey by Sigma Dos revealed Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho "has started losing the respect of a good number of club members," according to García-Ochoa of MARCA. Members gave the Portuguese's performance as coach since he took over in '10 an average score of 6.68 out of 10, down from the 8.82 he received in a similar survey conducted in March '11. The club currently sits second in La Liga, 16 points behind leaders Barcelona. Furthermore, 54.4% of members opined that Mourinho should stay on as coach past this season, while 41.8% said he should leave. Almost two-thirds (61.6%) of members also believe Mourinho's attitude and words have damaged the image of Real Madrid (MARCA, 1/9). REUTERS noted the survey questioned 704 members before Sunday's home game against Real Sociedad. The results "make painful reading" for President Florentino Pérez, who is up for re-election this year and has given Mourinho "unprecedented powers in the hope he can lead the club to regular silverware" (REUTERS, 1/9).
ODD TIMING: XINHUA noted Mourinho was named as the best coach of '12 on Wednesday by the Federation of Football History and Statistics. It is the fourth time that the Portuguese coach has received the award (XINHUA, 1/9).
The battle to stage the final and semifinals of football’s multi-venue Euro 2020 is "already looking like a shootout between London and Istanbul," according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The FA has made it clear how keen it is to host the "climax of the tournament earmarked for 12 cities across Europe." Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson and FA Chair David Bernstein traveled to Switzerland before Christmas to put their case to UEFA President Michel Platini. There is a belief around Europe that Istanbul is the favorite. Platini is "considered to owe Turkey" after it missed out to France by one vote over staging Euro 2016 and was in pole position for 2020, until Platini opted for a 12-location tournament. However, if Istanbul is to win the race to host the 2020 Olympics, to be decided in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September, then the host city agreement with the IOC "would forbid such a rival sporting distraction in the Turkish capital so close to the Games" (DAILY MAIL, 1/8).