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Volume 6 No. 211

International Football

There is an "imminent threat of government legislation facing the FA" even after Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson called its 150th anniversary "an extraordinary achievement" Wednesday, according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The Select Committee response in the next 10 days to the FA’s plans -- or lack of them -- for governance reform "is expected to be highly scathing of the football authorities" for sitting on its hands. This "could open the way for  legislation," possibly in the next session of parliament. And such an incendiary verdict from an all-party Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee "would give Robertson the ammunition to be a lot more critical of the FA’s reform impasse." Roberston said: "We have identified one worse. Football has made some progress since I made that remark." The minister also claimed it was "complete rubbish" that FIFA would intervene if the government "introduced new laws to bring about the desired football governance changes, mainly blocked by strong FA Council opposition." FA Chair David Bernstein called reform progress "slower than it might have been." Robertson described Bernstein, who is standing down as FA chairman in July, as "crazy." Robertson said, "Nobody can think it’s a sensible idea to change a chairman in the middle of the 150th celebrations" (DAILY MAIL, 1/16).

TAKING STOCK: In London, David Conn wrote in the GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog "when contemplating the endearing qualities and maddening weakness" of the modern FA as it "treated itself to a 150th anniversary back-slapping banquet, it is crucial to understand how genuinely distinguished its history is." That original gathering in 1863, at a London pub, the Freemasons Arms, where 12 clubs of upper-class gentlemen met "to unify a set of laws, so they could play football against each other, did -- really -- establish the great and beautiful game." Amid the glitz, cheers and back-slapping to celebrate a truly remarkable history and the good work still done in many areas, the modern FA "should make time for a courageous, sober stock-take." Those gentlemen defining the laws at the Freemasons Arms "never imagined their sport would grow to captivate the world, but a surrender to commercial interests, viewing football as an entertainment product, was always the opposite of what they wanted" (GUARDIAN, 1/17).

Former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola "turned down better financial offers to accept the job as Bayern Munich manager," according to Simon Rice of the London INDEPENDENT. Guardiola "was coveted by a number of clubs, most notably Chelsea." A surprise announcement from Bayern Munich Wednesday revealed that the Spaniard "had opted for a move to Germany." Club Chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has since revealed that Guardiola's "decision was guided more by his heart than his wallet." He said, "If it were purely down to money, then Bayern would have had no chance" (INDEPENDENT, 1/17). The London TELEGRAPH wrote the appointment of Guardiola "is the best possible recognition the Bundesliga could receive, according to the German media, who are celebrating Bayern's coup as a victory over the rest of Europe." The "Frankfurter Allegemeine" newspaper wrote: "The German record champions and German football as a whole could not have earned a greater seal of approval." Germany's "BILD" newspaper proclaimed the signing as Bayern's "biggest coaching coup of all time." And the "Süddeutsche" newspaper claimed Guardiola's appointment means "German clubs need fear nobody." It said, "Look here -- German clubs have reached the zenith. This transfer is a clear signal to the international football community" (TELEGRAPH, 1/17).

LEADING THE NEWS: In London, Sid Lowe wrote on the GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog "Gute Nacht (Good night)," so began the Spanish radio show Al Primer Toque at midnight, "prime time for the country's daily digest of sports news and debate." At around the same time, newspapers everywhere "were putting the finishing touches to their front pages." Guardiola "was on all of them." "PEPinazo", ran the headline on the cover of "Marca" -- "Bang!" His decision to join Bayern Munich "was everywhere and opened news bulletins." Not the sports section, the news. It is "not quite unanimous, but nearly." One famously controversial columnist calls it a "coward's" choice, insisting: "Pep has run away from the challenge, run away from Mou [Real Madrid Manager José Mourinho] and taken the easy option." "El País" newspaper said, "Guardiola chooses Bayern over the noise of England." The Madrid-based and largely Madrid-oriented "Marca" "gives over seven pages to the signing." "El Mundo Deportivo" newspaper called him the Kaiser, noting: "Herr Guardiola is off to Germany" (GUARDIAN, 1/17). In Madrid, Besa & Martín opined although the contract is economically inferior to what the English club offered, Guardiola "likes the organization of the Bundesliga," and the structure of Bayern Munich whose leadership is full of former players including Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß and Rummenigge (EL PAIS, 1/16). Also in Madrid, Andrés Aragón opined when Guardiola lands in Munich this summer to take over the reigns of Bayern, he will encounter a team "very different from the one he left in Barcelona." The team "will have a midfield with just as much potential, but more apt to direct confrontation than one touch football" (EL MUNDO, 1/17).

SURPRISE MOVE: In Paris, L'EQUIPE wrote Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenter was "surprised" by Guardiola's decision. Wenger said, "He told me a number of times that he wanted to come to England, so I am surprised that he chose to go to Germany." He added, "Bayern is an interesting club and the German championship is also interesting so his choice is understandable. It is not a step backwards. Germany, with possibly Spain, possesses the best group of young players" (L'EQUIPE, 1/17).

The Premier League, Hong Kong FA and financial services company Barclays have announced Man City, Tottenham, Sunderland and South China FC will compete for the Barclays Asia Trophy Hong Kong in July. The four team knock-out tournament will take place over two match days on July 24 and 27, with a final to determine the winner and a playoff to decide third place. All matches will take place in the Hong Kong Stadium (Premier League). ... The Korea FA will lift lifetime bans on players involved in an '11 match-fixing scandal. The organization decided to reduce the penalties on 11 K League Classic players who were "either acquitted in court for their alleged roles in match-fixing or reported themselves to officials" (YONHAP, 1/17). ... Brasileiro club Corinthians has been ranked second behind Ligue 1 Paris St. Germain among the world's highest spending clubs so far in '13. At the midway point of FIFA's European winter transfer window on Wednesday, Corinthians had spent €22.4M ($30M) and PSG €40M ($53.5M), according to German football website Transfermarket (XINHUA, 1/17).