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Volume 10 No. 25

International Football

Four of the leading top-flight English clubs "have put into writing their demand" for UEFA's full Financial Fair Play rules to be brought in to the Premier League, according to the PA. A letter from Arsenal, Tottenham, ManU and Liverpool to the league CEO Richard Scudamore "calls for full spending controls -- where clubs must break even -- without wealthy owners being allowed to cover clubs' losses." Man City and Chelsea "are opposing any spending controls being brought in but it is likely the 20 clubs will agree on a compromise at their meeting in February, which will allow a fixed amount of losses to be covered by owners" (PA, 1/14). In London, Owen Gibson wrote 20 clubs, "all with different agendas and different business models, have 20 self-interested views on how the rules should be brought in -- if at all." But in light of the bumper TV deal brought in by the Premier League's execs, "likely to top" £5.5B ($8.8B) once overseas rights are taken into account, and given the top clubs will have to comply with UEFA's rules anyway, "a broad majority view has emerged that a domestic version of FFP is desirable" (GUARDIAN, 1/14).

While several European leagues are "continuing to lurch towards disaster, with shrinking attendances and growing ticket prices and debts, the German Bundesliga continues to provide the model for the future," according to the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The league "is reaping the benefits of a youth training system put into place after one of the country's most embarrassing moments -- when the national team failed to win a game at the 2000 European Championship." Germany, "once notorious for its efficient but dour style of play, now thrills crowds across the world with its brand of exciting, attacking play borne by its young stars." Few German clubs "seem willing to pay exorbitant transfer fees and stratospheric salaries now that they have a steady supply of talented home players that fans can easily identify with." The German Football League, which runs the Bundesliga, "has a licensing system that makes sure all clubs follow sound financial policies." Income "is distributed more or less fairly and there is no foreign ownership." German rules allow no single owner to hold more than 49% of a stake in a club, "with the rest in the hands of club members." The league "has secured an increase in income" of more than 50% for TV rights in a four-season deal starting next season. The deal will bring in about €628M ($840M) per year on average, compared with €412M ($551) per year at the moment. Last season's "average attendance jumped to about 45,000 and totaled 13.8 million" -- second only to the NFL in the U.S. Attendance "is high and tickets are cheap" -- some standing-room tickets cost around €15 ($20). The price of public transport "is included in the price." The clubs "limit the number of season tickets, so that other fans can also attend some matches." Karl-Heinz Koerbel, director of Frankfurt's football school, who played a record 602 Bundesliga games, said, "The successes in Europe reflect the state of the Bundesliga, which has become a lot more even. Now we have very good coaches, great players and an excellent youth program -- all this is attracting international attention" (DAILY RECORD, 1/14).

Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo "has confirmed he will play out his contract" with the club, according to Rubén Rodríguez of EL CONFIDENCIAL. However, the Portuguese would not reveal if he will continue at the Santiago Bernabéu past '15, the year his contract expires. In an interview with FIFA, Ronaldo said, "I want to see out my contract at Real Madrid: I’m very clear about that. After that, well, I don’t know what’ll happen in the future." Ronaldo also spoke about the Real Madrid fans' expectations for the club including a 10th Champions League crown. Ronaldo said, "Every Madridista wants that 10th European Cup -- we’re more than aware of that. Last season we fell just short, which was very frustrating. Fortunately we’ve got the opportunity to set the record straight this year, though the fact we face Manchester United next makes it more difficult. It’s not going to be easy, and I reckon the odds are about 50-50, but I’m still very confident" (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 1/14). MUNDO DEPORTIVO noted Ronaldo also spoke of the criticism faced by head coach José Mourinho. Ronaldo said, "People do protest and you have to respect that, though I think they should be a bit patient with him. To me it’s very clear that Mourinho always wants what’s best for the club and will fight to the death to defend it" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 1/14). Ronaldo's full interview with FIFA (FIFA).

A Man City fan "who took a banner protesting at the high-price of a ticket" to its match with Arsenal was threatened with arrest, according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. Blue Rick Taylor, 25, "unfurled the homemade sign at the Emirates stadium before kick-off at Sunday's clash in London" for which away fans were charged £62 ($99). The sign read: "£62! Where will it stop?" Moments later Taylor "was surrounded by stewards and police officers who demanded he hand it over or face a night in the cells." Taylor obliged, but is now hitting out at Arsenal's actions, calling them "crazy." Taylor's protest came after Man City failed to sell 912 tickets out of its allotted 3,000 (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 1/14). In London, Paul Kelso reported police stepped in "after attempts by stewards to have the banner removed ended in a stand-off with fans." Police said that they "only intervened to prevent a potential breach of the peace." Arsenal said that it "only acted because of the size of the banner," which was impeding the view of spectators behind it. Police added that their actions "were not prompted by the message, and that the monitoring of banners was a matter for clubs" (TELEGRAPH, 1/14). Also in London, James Andrew wrote the dispute over the ticket prices "has taken a bizarre twist" after a linesman told Man City players Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott "to go over and thank the club's travelling fans for attending." After City won 2-0, TV footage picked up the official, John Brooks, telling the Man City pair "they've paid 62 quid over there, go and see them" as they exchanged handshakes following the final whistle (DAILY MAIL, 1/14).

CONTROL FROM UP TOP: In London, Tony Evans wrote football's "lingering identity crisis was thrown into sharp relief by the City fans' mini-protest." City supporters sang "£62 and we're still here." Being fleeced "was a point of pride." Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore noted that league stadiums maintain a 95% occupancy. Full houses and the noise they provide "make the televisual experience more compelling," which is often "taken for granted." UEFA President Michel Platini's "manifesto for greed assumes that the big clubs will always pack their stadiums." UEFA expects that demand to watch Real Madrid and ManU "will never fade." Top officials are "only thinking about their cash cows." Can't afford £62, "tough" (LONDON TIMES, 1/14).

Africa Cup of Nations hosts South Africa "face a battle to convince fans to back them in large numbers" at the tournament after less than 15,000 watched a 0-0 draw with Algeria in its last warm-up game in Soweto on Saturday, according to REUTERS. Only 14,558 attended the match at Orlando Stadium, "reflecting a general discontent with the team's performance." The showing "did little to dampen fears that the tournament" will attract small crowds (REUTERS, 1/14). ... The Spanish Professional Football League (LFP) has revealed the Week 21 La Liga clash between Barcelona and Osasuna will be played Jan. 27 at 7pm local time and the Athletic Bilbao vs. Atlético Madrid match will take place on the same day at 9pm local time (EFE, 1/14).