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Volume 6 No. 213

International Football

The Chinese football body on Monday "banned two former football chiefs for life and meted out heavy punishments on match-fixing clubs, concluding a three-year-long drive to clean up" Chinese football, according to Jianjie & Bing of XINHUA. Former Chinese football administration heads Xie Yalong and Nan Yong, who have been jailed for taking bribes, "were among the 58 people punished by the Chinese Football Association's discipline commission on Monday afternoon." Twelve clubs including former league champion Shanghai Shenhua "were slapped with heavy fines or deducted points for next season's league." Xie, Nan and former CFA Deputy Head Yang Yimin and World Cup referee Lu Jun "were among the 33 people banned" from football for life. Former Chinese national team players Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin and Li Ming all serving a five-and-a-half year jail term for bribe-taking, "were also banned for life." The CFA discipline commission imposed a 1M yuan ($160,000) fine on Super League club Shenhua, which "had fixed a game" en route to winning the '03 league title. The Shanghai club "was also deducted six points for next season" (XINHUA, 2/18).

Police believe that "a crime was committed" during former club Owner Craig Whyte’s takeover of Scottish Third Division side Rangers, according to Keith McLeod of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. Strathclyde officers "have been looking into the deal since June" and are close to "concluding their investigation." A legal expert said Sunday night that police "will send a report to the Crown Office over Whyte’s dealings at Ibrox." It is understood that enough evidence "has been gathered to suggest that a crime or crimes have been committed." Police "are concentrating on three key areas" -- the legality of Whyte’s initial deal with former Rangers Owner David Murray, the movement of money raised from his notorious link-up with Ticketus and what happened to the missing £14M of unpaid Pay-As-You-Earn and Value Added Tax (DAILY RECORD, 2/18).

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said that a regional football league bringing together the best Russian and Ukrainian clubs "could start as early as next autumn," according to RUSSIA TODAY. The idea "was initially backed by only four Russian clubs" -- Zenit St. Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala, CSKA Moscow and Alania Vladikavkaz. Opponents dubbed the idea "crazy" and "impossible." However, it is "becoming more and more realistic." Miller, one of the biggest advocates of the initiative "hopes so." Gazprom owns Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg and sponsors the UEFA Champions League. Gazprom has "hosted a meeting between representatives of 14 Russian top-flight clubs," only Terek and Mordovia did not send their representatives, and one from Ukraine. The supporters of the idea "see the planned Unified Football Championship, as a cash cow that would attract sponsors and TV revenues" to help clubs meet UEFA Financial Fair Play rules. If created, the league will unite the top nine sides from Russia and as many from Ukraine with the prize fund being around €1B ($1.3B). Former Russia coach Valery Gazzaev "is overseeing its formulation." Miller said that "if everything works out all post-Soviet countries would be eligible" (RT, 2/18).

Scottish Premier League football "is still the most expensive show in town at a time when even the game’s European rulers are slashing ticket prices," according to Jack Mathieson of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. UEFA has "cut the cost of the cheapest briefs for the Champions League final at Wembley" by £90 ($140) compared with two years ago. Meanwhile, Scottish football bosses "still stand accused of pricing ordinary working-class supporters out of the game." The cost of taking kids to a game "dwarfs that of going to the cinema, swimming pool or safari park." In a poll of fans last year, 92% "called for reduced prices," with 42% saying that £10-15 ($16-23) per match "would be fair." Sixty-three percent of fans said that "lower prices would make them go to more games." Supporters Direct Scotland Paul Goodwin said: "Reducing ticket prices might have a short-term impact but it is not the solution" (DAILY RECORD, 2/18).

Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua "will take its battle against star striker Didier Drogba's move to Turkish side Galatasaray to football's governing body FIFA this week." A club lawyer said, "We now have evidence, which we believe will give Shenhua a 99% chance of winning a lawsuit at FIFA" (AFP, 2/18). ... Indonesian Youth and Sport Minister Roy Suryo said that FIFA "has requested the Indonesian government to facilitate the settlement of conflict at its football association." Under the letter, FIFA "asked the government to have a meeting" with both the official national football organization and its newly-established opponent organization (XINHUA, 2/18). ... Uganda Commissioner for Refugees Apollo David Kazungu said that "the Eritrean national football team, which disappeared in Uganda, has finally got refugee status in the East African country." The Refugee Eligibility Committee "had found the group’s claims valid and granted them refugee status" (XINHUA, 2/18).