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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

Scottish Football crowds at Celtic and Rangers games this season "have been up to 20,000 lower than the figures released to the public," according to John Ferguson of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The revelation explains "the huge gaps in the stands when the clubs have been claiming near full-houses." The number of supporters the clubs publicize "is far larger than the true figure reported to police." Fans "used freedom of information laws to force Strathclyde Police to reveal the real number of supporters attending games at Ibrox and Parkhead." Celtic reported a figure of 49,428 on the Scottish Premier League website for its game against Ross County at Parkhead in December -- 20,497 more than the real attendance of 28,931. When Rangers played Queen’s Park at Ibrox in October, the attendance figure was announced at 49,463. The "real number given to police" was just 34,481. The difference is "understood to be made up mainly of season ticket holders counted as attending when they have not actually gone to the game" (DAILY RECORD, 3/16).

PERCEPTION AND REALITY: In Edinburgh, Tom English opined "to suggest that Celtic and Rangers are more alike than many of their supporters would ever care to imagine is to subject yourself to a social media fatwa -- but it’s the truth." All season, we have "marvelled at the phenomenal crowds that have piled into Ibrox." Turns out that the numbers "have been tweaked somewhat." In its 11 home games from the beginning of the season to the end of January, Rangers officially recorded a combined attendance of 515,250 when in fact it was 407,909. Celtic’s official crowd figures "have been the source of much comedy this season, their certified numbers telling you one thing and the naked eye telling you quite another." In their first 13 home league games this season, Celtic said that a total of 597,391 attended Parkhead when the amount given to the police was 437,990 (SCOTSMAN, 3/17).

FIFA medical chief Michel D'Hooghe said that he "is concerned about the prospects of playing the 2022 World Cup in the summer heat of Qatar," according to Andy Sambidge of ARABIAN BUSINESS. D'Hooghe "entered the debate about whether the Gulf state should stick to the traditional slot of June for a World Cup or consider a shift to the winter months." In comments published by the AP, D'Hooghe said, "Personally, I think it would be a good thing if we could play this World Cup in better temperatures than in full summer in Qatar" (ARABIAN BUSINESS, 3/16). The NEW STRAITS TIMES reported even though D'Hooghe said games and training would be held in "climate conditioned temperatures" of 21 degrees Celcius (70F), the thousands of fans and other officials following the month-long tournament "would have to deal much more with the scorching heat." UEFA President Michel Platini has already said that "he would prefer the cooler winter months," but such a shift "would be a major headache for clubs and leagues who are in the midst of their own seasons at that time" (NEW STRAITS TIMES, 3/17).

Brazil's 2014 World Cup organizing committee "has guaranteed Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium will be ready in time to host the FIFA Confederations Cup in June." The iconic venue "has already had its playing surface laid but is still awaiting the installation of its fibre-glass roof" (XINHUA, 3/17). Indonesia's two troubled football associations have agreed to merge, "ending a feud that had FIFA threatening to suspend the country from international competitions." A meeting Sunday "resulted in the dissolution of the breakaway Indonesian Football Rescue Association and an agreement to reconcile the country's two topflight championships next year" (AP, 3/17).