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Volume 6 No. 211

International Football

A rule book has been drawn up for the proposed Scottish Professional Football League, and clubs "will be able to see the documents before deciding whether or not to vote in favour of the new set-up," according to Richard Wilson of the HERALD SCOTLAND. The Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League members are "expected to hold their respective votes next month, with a single, merged body considered to be possible in time for the beginning of next season." As part of the league reconstruction proposals, "a fairer wealth distribution model will be introduced, along with more play-offs between leagues and, most contentiously, a 12-12-18 structure for Scotland's 42 professional clubs." Many teams are still "uncertain about the latter, but a majority want to see the SPL and the SFL merge." Some involved in the discussions "were sceptical that a rule book could be drawn up in time for the beginning of next season." However, a draft was begun and lawyers involved in writing it "signed off on a final version earlier this week." This will reassure those individuals who are concerned about timescale, but "may also prompt wavering or sceptical clubs into a 'yes' vote" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 2/27).

Russia Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that FIFA and UEFA will "block any proposals for a joint Russian-Ukrainian football league," according to R-SPORT. Many of Russia’s top clubs, backed by a top Kremlin official and state gas firm Gazprom, "are pushing to create the cross-border league to unlock extra revenue, ostensibly to help them comply with new financial fair play rules." Mutko, a former Russian FA head who doubles as a member of FIFA’s exec committee, said, "Here we have the Champions League and the Europa League and obviously neither FIFA nor UEFA will be interested in the appearance of any new competition. And from a sporting point of view I see no logic in this here. We have our league and we should concentrate on that. If there are any financial resources, let’s put them into Russian football." Gazprom head Alexei Miller said that the proposed Unified Football Championship would see 80 clubs from Russia and Ukraine "combined into a four-division structure, with future expansion into other post-Soviet countries." Miller added that the tournament would have a total budget of $1B annually, with $800M of that sum "spent on the 18-club top division" (R-SPORT, 2/26) .

The J.League announced the formation of J.League Division 3 to serve as the third-tier professional football association league in Japan, starting in '14. Teams from the current Japan Football League and other regional leagues will be reviewed to see if they meet the standards to joining the league. These standards include: a home stadium with capacity of 5,000, three or more players with a pro contract, and a coach with a league approved "S" class license. J.League Chair Kazumi Ohigashi expects the league to "consist of approximately of 10 teams including relegated teams from J2 (Division 2)" (J.League).

A promotion-relegation system "will be introduced this year for the first time in the 30 years of Korean professional football," according to Do Je-hae of the KOREA TIMES. For the first time, there will be two divisions: the K League Classic consisting of the top 14 teams from '12 "and the second-tier K League consisting of six sides." The bottom two clubs at the end of the season "will drop down to the second division." Furthermore, the K League Classic "will split into two" based on teams’ records after 26 games. The clubs "will then each play 12 more games within their group to determine the final standings." This new system "faced opposition from struggling, community-owned clubs like Incheon United, Gyeongnam FC, Gwangju FC and Daejeon Citizen." However, it is "widely expected to upgrade Korean football and help eliminate irregularities like a major match-fixing scandal" that saw nearly 60 players and coaches indicted on charges of match-rigging in '11. The K League Classic will begin its inaugural season Saturday, with '12 champions FC Seoul hosting the reigning FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers "in the first of the three matches on the opening day to be broadcast live by KBS1" (KOREA TIMES, 2/27).

The Asian Football Confederation is investigating a report of matchfixing in Lebanon, "after the World Cup hopefuls handed out punishments to 22 players for rigging games," according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. The Lebanese Football Federation announced the punishments, "including lifetime bans for Malaysian-based defender Ramez Dayoub and Indonesian-based forward Mahmoud El-Ali," after a two-month investigation involving over 60 witnesses. An AFC spokesperson said, "We have received a report today and our disciplinary committee are looking into it." Dayoub, who along with Ali was fined $15,000, "denied the allegations." Dayoub: "I am not guilty. They have suspended me and accused me of matchfixing without any evidence or proof" (REUTERS, 2/27). The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has confirmed the worldwide extension of sanctions imposed on 74 players and officials; 70 by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and four the Korean FA. The FIGC informed FIFA that in the course of three different proceedings during '12, a number of 106 players and officials had been charged with match fixing, illegal betting or corrupt organization. Once all domestic processes were complete, the Chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee decided to extend those domestic suspensions and bans that have not yet expired and/or have not been annulled on appeal. This has resulted in the extension worldwide of 76 sanctions, of which 11 are life bans (FIFA).

French national team kit supplier Nike has unveiled the new away jerseys all the national teams. The uniforms are light blue (LE PARISIEN, 2/26). ... Brasileiro club Vasco was ordered to pay its former striker player Romario R$18M (R$9M) by a Rio de Janeiro court. The amount was related to image right fees owed to the player (ESPN BRASIL, 2/26). ... A fan of League Championship side Millwall who directed racist abuse at a Leeds United striker "has been banned from football matches for five years and ordered to pay" more than £500 ($758). Gerrard Scanlon, a delivery driver, "admitted his foul-mouthed tirade when he was brought before magistrates on Wednesday and fined" £425 ($645) (PA, 2/27). ... FIFA confirmed the extension of disciplinary sanctions to 58 individuals relating to domestic match-fixing and bribery investigations in China that date back to '10. The sanctions by the Chinese Football Association’s disciplinary committee involve players and officials, with 25 receiving a five-year ban from all football activities while the remaining 33 individuals were banned from all football activities for life. The chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has extended the sanctions to have worldwide effect (FIFA). ... FIFA ordered Barcelona to "stop fielding six foreign players under the age of 18" because its signings don’t comply with its regulations. South Korea’s Lee Seung Woo, 15, and Cameroon’s Patrice Sousia, who plays in an under-13 category, are among youth-team players "who have stopped competing while Barcelona appeals the decision" (BLOOMBERG, 2/26).