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Volume 6 No. 215

International Football

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has "called for points deductions and even relegation to be considered for teams or federations associated with racist offences," according to Mark Bryans of the PA. Blatter, 76, "has been criticised in the past" for some of his comments made surrounding discrimination in the game. Blatter posted comments on his official Twitter account Sunday which "appear to indicate a hardening of his stance on the issue." Blatter wrote, "Sanctions against discriminatory acts must be very severe. We will discuss this at next Strategic Committee in 3 weeks." He added: "Deduction of points/team relegation. Financial sanctions: not efficient. Matches behind closed doors: not good solution" (DAILY MAIL, 1/20). The AFP reported Blatter said at a news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia Sunday that "without heavy punishment racism would remain within the sport." Blatter: "The entire world fights against racism and discrimination. Football is part of the world's society. We unite more than 300 million people around the world and should set an example. Without serious sanctions nothing will ever change" (AFP, 1/20).

NO RUSSIAN LEAGUE: REUTERS' Gennady Fyodorov reported FIFA President Sepp Blatter "has dismissed any idea of several wealthy Russian clubs creating a new league with top teams from the former Soviet states," saying that "any such move would be against the principles of the world governing body." Blatter said, "It's impossible. It goes against the principles of FIFA, therefore FIFA would never support such idea." New Russian Football Union President Nikolai Tolstykh, sitting next to Blatter, assured the FIFA head that "his country would follow the guidelines of the world's governing body." Tolstykh said, "We've not received any details on how this new league plan to operate, but in any case, we would never go against the wishes of FIFA" (REUTERS, 1/20).

Football fans "have launched a campaign to cap the cost of tickets for Premier League away games" at £20 ($32), according to the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. The Football Supporters Federation initiative "will be kicked off in Manchester." The FSF wants followers of all Premier League clubs to join forces in its "Twenty's Plenty for Away Tickets" at an event in Manchester next week. Nine out of 10 fans who completed a recent survey said that "ticket prices were too high with four out of 10 saying they were going to fewer matches thanks to increases." FSF spokesperson Martin O’Hara said: "In the short term clubs, might make a few extra quid by squeezing away fans dry but long-term vision is required." A series of events aimed at drumming up support "will be held across the country" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 1/18). In London, Amy Lawrence reported UEFA has fined Dutch Eredivisie club Ajax €10,000 ($13,300) after its crowd "displayed banners about the effects of mega-money in football." Following on from the "disquieting story of Manchester City supporters being warned by police to take down banners questioning the price of an away ticket" at its recent match at Arsenal (a slogan with no swear words or severe antagonism, by the way). During Ajax's Champions League match at home against Man City in October, its fans "unveiled a banner with the motto 'Against Modern Football,' beneath a cartoon of a sheikh holding a bag embossed with a dollar sign, the image presented as a stop sign with a red line through it." Another slogan read "€80 for the away section is ridiculous," and there were banners with offensive messages aimed at Man City, Chelsea, Red Bull Salzburg and Red Bull Leipzig. UEFA's official stance was that the Dutch club was fined for "display of a provocative and inappropriate banner" (GUARDIAN, 1/18).

FOOD BILL DEBT: In Glasgow, Euan McLean reported furious Scottish Premier League Kilmarnock fans "called on Michael Johnston to resign" Saturday night as the under-fire chairman denied claims the club face a winding-up order. A local businessman "has instructed lawyers to recover" a £16,000 ($25,300) debt for food supplied to Killie’s Park Hotel. However, the defiant Johnston insisted that he did not "fear the prospect of sheriff officers banging on his door" Sunday, when a petition could be served demanding the debt is settled. Supporters Association chief Sandy Armour fears the club is "on the brink of administration." Armour said: "This should set alarm bells ringing. It sends out a very negative message about the state of the club" (DAILY RECORD, 1/20).

PROTEST PLAN: In London, Dominic Fifield reported "Mauricio Pochettino will walk headfirst into a supporters' protest" when he takes charge of EPL side Southampton for the first time against Everton on Monday after the club acted ruthlessly by sacking Manager Nigel Adkins to safeguard its "long-term ambitions." Fans "have strongly critised the decision and intend to wave white handkerchiefs after five minutes of Monday's televised game" (GUARDIAN, 1/18).