UEFA has decided "to take action" over ManU Manager Alex Ferguson’s "failure to conduct post-match interviews in the aftermath" of ManU’s Champions League exit Tuesday night, according to Sam Munnery of the LONDON TIMES. Ferguson "opted for a media blackout" after the 3-2 aggregate defeat by Real Madrid, which included a controversial red card for Nani, perhaps "fearful that his emotions could land him in hot water" with UEFA. A "fuming" Ferguson was said to be "in no fit state" to speak to the media, including ManU’s own in-house TV channel, MUTV. Instead, the club sent assistant Mike Phelan "to fulfil the obligation." If he was trying to avoid the wrath of UEFA, however, Ferguson "must now reflect on the irony that keeping his counsel yielded the same outcome." UEFA confirmed it had opened disciplinary proceedings against ManU "over the club’s failure to provide Ferguson and at least two players to do the flash quotes" to TV rights holders after the game (LONDON TIMES, 3/6). In London, Jamie Jackson reported UEFA rules state that "all managers must attend post-match press conferences." While Ferguson speaks to TV after domestic league and cup games, he "refuses to be present at briefings with the print media" (GUARDIAN, 3/6). The PA reported that UEFA issued a short statement "confirming disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the club regarding the two incidents." The statement read, "The case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on Thursday 21 March." Ferguson is "due to speak to the media on Friday" ahead of ManU's FA Cup quarterfinal with Chelsea (PA, 3/6).
UEFA CLEARS REF: In London, Simon Rice reported UEFA said it has "no problem" with referee Cuneyt Cakir following the fallout from his decision to hand Nani a red card. The Turkish referee showed Nani a red card "for his waist high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa in the 57th minute." There have been "mixed views on the decision." UEFA has confirmed Cakir "will remain on its list of officials" to take charge of Champions League matches this season. A UEFA spokesperson said, "We have no problem with him. There are no issues for us regarding the sending off and we will wait for the official reports of the match delegate and the referee's observer, as is procedure. If they raise concerns then we will act" (INDEPENDENT, 3/6).
The Australian Rugby League was "thrown into chaos" on the eve of the season after widespread speculation Cronulla was "set to become the first major victim" of the Australian Crime Commission's investigation into drugs in sport, according to Proszenko & Jackson of THE AGE. Several Sharks players are also "believed to be facing a minimum six-month ban." Bookmakers suspended betting on the Sharks' round-one clash with Gold Coast on Sunday amid rumors that several players "were set to be stood down." There was speculation that the club was negotiating with Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority officials to "cut a deal that would result in bans of just six months" (THE AGE, 3/7). In Brisbane, Garry & Webster reported revelations that the club had engaged former ASADA prosecutor Richard Redman "only confirmed a belief that Sharks players from the 2011 season might have a problem." Sharks captain Paul Gallen "had been asked if the pall of the doping scandal meant he and his teammates were now seen with suspicion." Gallen said, "It never was before, but it might be in future, which is a shame." Presumably, Gallen "made these remarks before Redman had sat down 14 Sharks players on Tuesday and told them they should start considering an early plea or face a two-year sanction" (COURIER-MAIL, 3/6).
ON THE DOTTED LINE: In Melbourne, Carayannis & Walter reported a lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with ASADA, went to the meeting "with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs." The players were told that if they signed the documents "they would not face further sanctions and would remain employed by the club." But if they did not sign, they would "open themselves up to the possibility of longer suspensions." The players "refused to sign" (THE AGE, 3/7).
GROWING CONCERN: In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported fears Cronulla's first match of the season against the Gold Coast Titans "could be abandoned because they could not field a team." Coach Shane Flanagan "denied" the claim. Fox Sports "was not commenting" Wednesday night, although the broadcaster "had not even had a discussion with the NRL about what would happen if the game did not proceed" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/7). Also in Sydney, Josh Massoud reported "there are also concerns the net could be widened to implicate ex-Cronulla players who have since moved to other clubs." Sources stated as many as 22 players across the code "are under the spotlight." A Sharks source said that the players implicated in the scandal were "concerned, rattled and distressed." The source said, "They had no reason to question the club and its performance staff about what supplements they were taking. They trusted that what they were being given was safe" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/7).
GOING TO COURT? In Sydney, Walter & Jackson reported Cronulla players are "believed to be considering legal action if they are suspended." Sharks players "were given Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 peptides" during the '11 season. If the players were to be suspended, the players "might sue the club, claiming to have been told the substances were legal" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/7).
The Australian Football League's Medical Dir Peter Harcourt is hopeful an amendment to the substitution rule -- to allow clubs to make a replacement while testing whether a player is suffering from concussion -- "will be in place before the start of the season," according to Courtney Walsh of THE AUSTRALIAN. Harcourt said that "the AFL Medical Officers Association had recommended the league adjust the substitute rule to allow club doctors greater time to assess the welfare of any player needing attention for a knock to the head." It would mean "a substitute could take the field briefly while his teammate is receiving medical assistance but then return to the bench should tests clear the injured player of concussion." Harcourt: "I think that the AFL internally, on the recommendation of the AFL Medical Officers Association, is looking at activating a substitution in order to take the pressure off the teams in order that the doctor can go about their assessment." Statistics released Wednesday in the AFL's annual injury report found that while injury levels overall had decreased, "the incidence of concussion had risen through 2012." But Hugh Seward, who co-authored the report, said that "the increase in weeks missed by players suffering from concussion was due to a more cautious approach from clubs" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/7).
HIDDEN IDENTITY: In Melbourne, Cooper & Lane reported the AFL players' union and league medical bosses "are opposed to a call for integrity investigators to be told which footballers have drug strikes, because confidentiality under the illicit drugs policy is too important." Independent Senator Nick Xenophon "suggested the league's integrity team should be told the identity of players who failed tests." Under the AFL's illicit drugs policy, "the identities of players who fail drug tests are known only to the player, his club doctor and the league's medical commissioner." AFL Players Association GM of Player Relations Ian Prendergast said that "the proposal was 'unnecessary and inappropriate' and had never been raised by the league" (THE AGE, 3/7).
AN 'INCURABLE PROBLEM': Also in Melbourne, Jake Niall wrote Western Bulldogs President Peter Gordon has "highlighted concerns about the AFL's illicit drugs policy, which had created a series of unfortunate issues for clubs and players, despite the AFL's best intentions to deal with a society-wide problem." Gordon said the AFL had sought ''to cure an incurable problem'' and the Bulldogs president also suggested he did not feel he had the right to act ''as moral policeman'' to experienced players in terms of what they did in their own homes during the off-season (THE AGE, 3/7). In a separate article, Walsh wrote the AFL medical director said that it was "disturbing that a highly respected football doctor had only a limited knowledge of what his club's sports science department was doing." Essendon's Bruce Reid was unaware that fitness advisers Dean Robinson and Steven Dank "had approached doctors outside of the club seeking supplements." Harcourt said, "It is disturbing and it highlights why we need a governance review" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/7).
The European Commission "will investigate whether financial support given to five Dutch football clubs complies with EU rules on state aid," according to Robert-Jan Bartunek of REUTERS. The in-depth investigation, which centers on clubs NEC Nijmegen, MVV Maastricht, Willem II Tilburg, PSV Eindhoven and FC Den Bosch, "concerns deals done between the clubs and the local council, often involving real estate transactions." Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said, “I strongly believe that professional football clubs should be well managed and not ask for help from the tax-payer when facing financial difficulties" (REUTERS, 3/6).
Korean Basketball League Wonju Dongbu Promy head coach Kang Dong-hee "will be questioned by prosecutors Thursday over possible manipulation of games," according to Kim Tong-hyung of the KOREA TIMES. Authorities arrested a fixer who they believed paid Kang 30M won (about $27,500) for fixing a league game two years ago. Kang has "strongly denied the allegation." An official from the prosecution in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province said, ''It’s difficult for us to provide more details on a case that is currently under investigation. If we are able to prove that Kang was indeed involved in rigging games, our probe will spread widely into the league" (KOREA TIMES, 3/6).
Terming the charges levied by police for security during Indian Premier League matches played at DY Patil Stadium in neighboring Navi Mumbai in '10 as "excessively high," the Board of Control for Cricket in India "has urged the Home Secretary of Maharashtra to fix reasonable rates, comparable to those charged by other states," according to the PTI. The high court "is presently hearing public interest litigation filed by Santosh Pachlag regarding non-payment of over Rs 5 crore ($912,000) by BCCI to the state police on account of security for IPL matches played at DY Patil Stadium." The BCCI has further said that "it is not liable to pay the charges, but agreed in the interest of the sport" (PTI, 3/6).