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Volume 6 No. 215

International Football

Premier League football clubs "will gather next week for a fresh attempt to reach a compromise deal on cost controls, with opinion still sharply divided on how, or even whether, to force clubs to live within their means," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Ideas include "allowing clubs a permitted level of losses per year or a limit on the amount salaries can be increased, or a combination of the two." A senior exec at a leading club said, "The devil is going to be in the detail." Nonetheless, change "is in the air as football’s most lucrative and profligate league embraces financial realism." Even Chelsea and Manchester City, the two big culprits in football’s spendthrift culture, "profess to be disciples of this new doctrine of frugality." Both clubs "completed the January transfer window by turning a net profit on their deals." Deloitte Sports Business Group Lead Partner Dan Jones said that clubs were "now in a reporting period that counted towards the break-even rules" of UEFA. Jones said the relative restraint shown by clubs in this window might "reflect an increasing focus on clubs achieving more sustainable levels of expenditure." Privately, several clubs "suspect the bigger beasts want cost controls to reinforce their Premier League stranglehold." University of Michigan Sport Management Professor Stefan Szymanski said the smaller clubs are essentially being offered golden handcuffs -- "an agreement to limit financial competition, which almost guarantees that small clubs will never be competitive on the pitch" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/1).

U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and former Home Secretary Jack Straw will push the FA for a "response to concerns they have raised" over Championship side Blackburn Rovers, according to Nick Harris of the London DAILY MAIL. The questions raised by Robertson and Straw concern Blackburn's "descent into chaos" since the club was taken over in Nov. '10 by Indian poultry conglomerate Venky's. Straw is "so incensed by the FA's failure to provide answers" to questions Robertson put to football's governing body last July that he "plans to raise the issue in the House of Commons." Since '11, the FA has been "examining events at Blackburn" in the months following the £23M Venky's takeover. Documents suggest that Venky's "openly admitted knowing little about football" when it bought Rovers. It instead relied on "a number of advisers, both formal and informal" (DAILY MAIL, 2/2).

EPL Queens Park Rangers Chair Tony Fernandes has "strongly defended the club’s spending" in the January transfer window and denied he has acted "recklessly" insisting there is a "sensible" business plan in place, according to Jason Burt of the London TELEGRAPH. Fernandes said that if QPR was relegated from the Premier League it would "not lead to a financial meltdown." Fernandes said, "I’m an accountant, I run businesses. We are sensible with what we are doing." Fernandes also claimed that the club’s wage bill "had actually been reduced in January," because of the number of players who had gone out on loan despite the arrival of high-earners Christopher Samba, for £12.5M ($19.7M), and Loïc Rémy for £7M ($11M). Fernandes: "If you analyze it, we haven’t spent that much money on transfers, and as for our wage bill, when I look at other clubs when they put their results out then ours is not too bad, and there is now value in the squad." Nevertheless, he conceded owning a football club was a "gamble" (TELEGRAPH, 2/2). In London, David Kent reported Fernandes has "vowed to maintain his financial backing of the club even if he steps down as chairman." Fernandes wrote on his Twitter account, "I take all responsibility and will face the music... If can't fix it I will be first to go." Asked if he was planning to step down, Fernandes said, "At the moment, no" (DAILY MAIL, 2/3).

The UAE FA has "made a formal bid to host the 2019 Asian Cup," according to Ahmed Abbas Rizvi of THE NATIONAL. The FA sent in its papers to the Asian Football Confederation on the final day of accepting bids. It "will be competing against six nations" -- Bahrain, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Iran -- to host the continent’s premier football tournament. Australia will host the 2015 Asian Cup before it is West Asia's turn in '19. FA General Secretary Yousuf Abdullah said, "We already have some of the best footballing facilities, and we have shown our organizational abilities through the successful hosting of international tournaments in the past like the Youth World Cup and the Club World Cup." Abdullah said that the FA "will be setting up special committees soon" to start working on its bid presentation (THE NATIONAL, 2/2).

Pompey Supporters Trust insists its plans to buy League One side Portsmouth FC has not been derailed by a third adjournment of its court case. Portsmouth's stadium, Fratton Park, is still in the hands of the club's former Owner Balram Chainrai. Administrators PKF must gain Chainrai's permission to sell the ground before any deal with the PST can go ahead. No agreement has been reached (PST). ... ManU was again "left bemused in the gloom" when all four floodlights at Fulham's Craven Cottage went dark as Fulham defended a corner kick in the 42nd minute of ManU's 1-0 win Saturday. ManU had already been "plunged into darkness once this season." The hold-up was "thankfully brief." The lights came back on 10 minutes later (London GUARDIAN, 2/2). ... Indonesian football club Persema Malang has "admitted to not paying its Dutch-born player Irfan Bachdim for months," following the player's recent decision to leave the team to play with a Thai club. Persema Assistant Manager Dito Arief said, "We indeed haven't paid Irfan's salary, although honestly we're not sure for how many months" (JAKARTA GLOBE, 2/2).