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Volume 6 No. 214


Arsenal Chair Peter Hill-Wood has "denied any knowledge of a takeover of the Premier League club by interests in the Middle East," according to the London EVENING STANDARD. Of a possible £1.5B ($2.2B) takeover, Hill-Wood said, "I have heard nothing and I don't think anybody knows anything about it at the club. It all seems a bit of a waste of time. If there is this consortium, they can't make any progress unless they attempt to get in touch" (EVENING STANDARD, 3/8).

Former National Rugby League Cronulla Sharks CEO Peter Gow has urged the Sharks board, including Chair Damian Irvine, "to resign over the club's doping scandal, claiming board members had taken action against the coaching staff in order to 'save their own skin,'" according to Stuart Honeysett of THE AUSTRALIAN. Gow was among the supporters who turned up to Sharks Stadium to show their support "after head coach Shane Flanagan was stood down and four other officials -- who had been in charge of the football department in 2011 when up to 14 players were alleged to have taken performance-enhancing drugs -- were sacked." Gow: "I think directors should stand down.They should stand down for the simple reason they haven't allowed due process. I believe they have taken people's livelihoods and put them in jeopardy and I think they've tried to do something to save their own skin" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/11).

CRY ME A RIVER: In Sydney, Dean Ritchie reported "suspended Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is 'gutted' at being forced to miss one of his club's most famous wins." Flanagan and sacked Sharks officials Mark Noakes, Konrad Schultz and Dave Givney watched Saturday night's match against Gold Coast at Gymea Tradies Club. Flanagan was "in tears." The fourth official, former football Manager Darren Mooney, was taken to hospital Saturday "because of stress." Cronulla showed "extraordinary courage and commitment to overcome Gold Coast 12-10 before a loud Sunday night crowd of 17,541 at Sharks Stadium." Asked if he cried, Flanagan said: "Bloody oath. I can't believe this has happened. I have done nothing wrong, this is terrible. I wanted to be there. I am overwhelmed by the support." It was "an emotional night for the club, its players and fans." The Sharks entered the field to a standing ovation -- "a roar never heard before at Cronulla" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/10). In Melbourne, Brad Walter wrote, "One of two substances, alleged to have been illegal and taken by Cronulla players in 2011, was Thymosin Beta 4, which is used with horses." Flanagan and the sacked members of the coaching staff "have denied any knowledge of players being given vials labelled 'for equine use only.'" Noakes said, "Horse steroids or supplements that aren't for human use - I knew nothing about that. For someone to come out and say that, [or] allegedly say that, it just makes us look guilty of doing that which I have no recollection. I've never seen anything like that, that even resembles that" (THE AGE, 3/11).

CODE CHANGES? In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote, the sobering reality is that "they have another month of turmoil and pain before ASADA finishes its investigation, according to NRL CEO Dave Smith." Smith said, "I met with ASADA last Friday and they told me that they are probably four weeks away from finishing with Cronulla. I really want it done as quickly as I can. Fundamentally, we need to get it done and dusted" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/10). In Brisbane, Chris Garry reported the NRL has written to the World Anti-Doping Agency, "arguing against proposed amendments to its code which would automatically disqualify teams for two seasons if more than one of their players failed an in-competition test." There is scope for WADA to recommend further sanctions "as the anti-doping rules in Australia comply with the world body's." Currently it takes "three or more players from a team to commit doping violations for WADA's code to recommend team sanctions." The code says: "The ruling body of a competition in which its members violate the code shall impose an appropriate sanction on the team e.g. loss of points, disqualification from a competition or event." That could mean a "worst-case scenario of the Sharks being kicked out of the NRL" if players were found guilty by ASADA (COURIER-MAIL, 3/11).

MORE TROUBLE: The AAP reported Cronulla is facing claims of "alleged under-the-table payments to players in breach of the salary cap." The club recently cut ties with E Group Security, "which was a sponsor and provided security to the club, and replaced it with another firm." It has been alleged the company "helped to top up money for star players outside the salary cap." Cronulla advised the NRL's salary cap auditor, "who is investigating the claims" (AAP, 3/10).

The Pompey Supporters Trust has taken a "significant step" towards completing its takeover of the "stricken south coast club" after exchanging contracts with the administrators PKF, according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The two parties have exchanged contracts pending a high court case on April 10 or 11 that will rule on whether the former Owner Balram Chainrai is "required to sell Fratton Park to the fans' group" for the £3M ($4.5M) that it believes it is worth rather than the £10M ($15M) he has valued it at. By exchanging contracts, "any uncertainty over whether PKF might change its mind at this late stage or surrounding a rival bid by a consortium led by the football financier Keith Harris is removed" (GUARDIAN, 3/8).

Ligue 1 Paris St. Germain "made more money from miscellaneous sales" than from its football income, according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. PSG’s net loss during the '11-12 season was kept down to €5.5M ($7.2M) because of €125.4M of income from “other products,” according to figures released by French football’s licensing authority, the DNCG. That income is "more than the team made from ticket sales," TV rights and sponsorships put together. They accounted for just €97M. PSG qualified for the quarterfinals of the Champions League this week. Clubs that fail to meet UEFA’s financial rules "face being banned from that competition" from '14, though lesser sanctions are also possible (BLOOMBERG, 3/8).

EPL side Southampton Exec Chair Nicola Cortese "has criticised the Premier League's decision to impose wage and spending controls on member clubs," according to Peach & Ziegler of the PA. Saints reported a £0.9M ($1.34M) profit for the last six months" of '12, helped by "the increased income of being promoted to the top flight." That result, and a wage bill that is 59% of turnover, would see Southampton comfortably comply with the new financial regulations, "but Italian banker Cortese insists owners should be allowed to run their clubs as they wish." Cortese: "We believe very strongly that each club should continue to be permitted to run their business - including their pay rolls - as they see fit. This is fundamental to the future integrity of football" (PA, 3/8). The BBC reported that under the new controls, no club will be allowed to make a total loss of more than £105M ($156M) over the next three seasons and "must limit their player wage bills from next season." Clubs whose total wage bill is more than £52M ($77M) will only be allowed to increase their salaries by £4M ($5.9M) per season (BBC, 3/8).