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Volume 6 No. 215

International Football

There are no plans for next Wednesday’s Premier League matches to be postponed, even though "they may be vying for police support with Margaret Thatcher’s funeral," according to Sarah Ebner of the LONDON TIMES. The former Prime Minister’s funeral will be held next week at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It will be attended by the Queen, her husband Prince Philip and other heads of state and dignitaries from across the globe. Although the public "will not be able to attend the funeral service itself, thousands may line the route of the procession." Parliament is "expected to be suspended for the event," but "it is highly unlikely" that the Premier League matches between West Ham United against ManU and Fulham against Chelsea will be delayed. Manchester City is also playing Wigan Athletic. The Metropolitan Police said it was “too early” to make a call on postponing the games. However, football clubs "are used to working with their local police forces and there are regularly events which go on at the same time as sporting fixtures" (LONDON TIMES, 4/9). In London, Andy Hodgson reported the Premier League confirmed that clubs "will not be asked to hold a minute’s silence" for Thatcher. Football League chiefs "took the same line," but said that individual clubs "were free to organise their own tributes" for Thatcher (EVENING STANDARD, 4/9). Also in London, David Kent reported Wigan Chair Dave Whelan "has called for a one-minute silence" in honor of Thatcher. Whelan believes that football fans "should pay their respects to the deceased Prime Minister." Whelan: "We owe Mrs. Thatcher a minute's silence. We have to say thank you very much for the service she gave" (DAILY MAIL, 4/9). In London, Oliver Kay wrote football authorities "are determined to resist growing pressure" from inside and outside the sport, to hold a minute’s silence before this week’s fixtures.The FA, the Premier League and the Football League say that "it would be inappropriate" to call for such tributes. The England and Wales Cricket Board said it "has no plans for silent tributes" before Thursday’s first round of matches in the LV= County Championship season, but "has advised counties to fly flags at half-mast" for next Wednesday's funeral. Premier Rugby has said its 12 clubs "will be left to decide" if they will hold a moment of silence before this weekend's matches (LONDON TIMES, 4/10).

ROCKY RELATIONSHIP: EUROSPORT's Early Doors blog wrote, "As a nation absorbed Monday's monumental news ... football, unusually stayed mute." The national sport "is not always so reluctant to honour the dead." A minute of silence is  "usually offered enthusiastically." Yet, the death of Thatcher "elicited nothing but stony silence." In an era when football "holds politicians in its thrall, providing the perfect ground on which to seamlessly identify with common folk, Thatcher and her colleagues seemed to hold the sport, and more specifically its supporters, in contempt" (EUROSPORT, 4/9). GOAL's Oliver Platt wrote that Thatcher "oversaw a period of enormous tragedy and change in the game with which she had a rocky relationship during her time as Prime Minister." The death of a high-profile Briton "usually prompts recognition" from the FA -- but a minute's silence "was absent" from Monday night's Manchester derby. The Premier League has confirmed that no such remembrance will be enforced during the upcoming weekend's games, but "this is hardly a surprise" (GOAL, 4/9).

KEEPING A DISTANCE: In London, Ian Herbert reported the sporting world was "one she did not understand and did not want to understand." Thatcher "used this realm when it suited her, asking British athletes to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for instance." Thatcher also "considered ordering Britain's football teams to pull out of the Spain 1982 World Cup after Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, though neither England, Scotland nor Northern Ireland was due to play in the same group as Argentina" (INDEPENDENT, 4/9). Also in London, Owen Gibson reported former British Olympic Silver Medalist and Sports Minister Colin Moynihan called her "the finest captain of Team GB" and detailed a list of achievements he claimed modernized British sport at a time when she and he combined to "face, tackle and seek to eradicate the scourge of football hooliganism at home and abroad." That she had "little natural connection with, or affinity for, sport is widely documented." While every prime minister has "paid at least lip service to the power of sport and the pull of football, Thatcher exhibited the opposite" (GUARDIAN, 4/9).

A DIFFERENT ERA: In London, Henry Winter reported a full understanding of Thatcher's remarkable career "also requires an analysis of her stance on the national game, an ill-informed arrogance that has since been wisely avoided by prime ministers ever since." Thatcher "disliked football and denigrated fans." Thatcher’s era of the '80s "was blighted by hooliganism," but she "seemed to have come to the opinion that all fans were feral and she was not for turning on that blinkered outlook." She saw "criminals where they were simply civilians, many tragically victims" (TELEGRAPH, 4/9). The AP's Rob Harris reported Thatcher "barely concealed her distaste for sports." Instead, she "tried to use the athletic arena as a political weapon of sorts during the Cold War," and even took on the football establishment as violence at matches "damaged the nation’s image." British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe said, "She never really understood sport until it migrated -- and sometimes mutated -- beyond the back page, or impacted on other areas of policy" (AP, 4/9).

UEFA's Technical Committee on Arbitration has decided that German referee Wolfgang Stark will not officiate any more Champions League games this season "due to technical errors during the game between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona" on April 2, which ended in a 2-2 draw, according to EL PERIODICO. The decision "comes days after a formal complaint that Barcelona filed to UEFA" (EL PERIODICO, 4/9). UEFA has reportedly denied suggestions that Stark "will not referee again" this season, according to Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC. Esports 3 claimed that Stark "had been 'put in the freezer' by UEFA's Referees Committe," but Mundo Deportivo later said on Tuesday that Stark has not been definitively removed from consideration for further Champions league matches this season" (ESPN FC, 4/9).

League Championship side Leeds United Chair Ken Bates is facing calls for a charge of bringing the game into "disrepute" to be brought against him, according to James Riach of the London GUARDIAN. The Office of Communications ruling upheld a complaint of "unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy" from the Leeds United Supporters' Trust. Leeds United Supporters' Trust Chair Gary Cooper has called on the FA to "hold Bates accountable" after broadcasting regulator Ofcom's report found that "he used his position as the Leeds chairman to access computer files and broadcast private information through the club's in-house station Yorkshire Radio." Ofcom, the independent regulator for the U.K. communications industry, found that two separate interviews with Bates, broadcast in February '12, "were likely to have materially or adversely affected listeners' views of Mr. Cooper" and that "Mr. Cooper's privacy was unwarrantably infringed." A disrepute charge against Bates "has been held in abeyance by the FA since August last year." Cooper has demanded a full apology and believes that Bates "has manipulated his authority as club chairman" (GUARDIAN, 4/8)

LOOKING INTO IT: Ofcom has "opened an investigation into whether Sky's stance amounts to 'undue discrimination,' which would be a breach of rule 4.1 of the Broadcasting Code." The Ofcom investigation is "expected to last up to 10 weeks, or 50 working days" from March 18, and so a decision might not be announced until the last week of May (MEDIA WEEK, 4/9).

A Singapore businessman accused of bribing three Lebanese football match officials with prostitutes "has been released on bail after he entered a not guilty plea in court on Tuesday," according to Kevin Lim of REUTERS. Businessman Eric Ding Si Yang, who once worked for the local New Paper tabloid as a football tipster, "will contest the three corruption charges that had been filed against him, his lawyer Thong Chee Kun told reporters." Bail was set at S$150,000 ($121,000) and Ding "will appear in court again on April 18" (REUTERS, 4/9). The Hong Kong STANDARD reported prosecutors told a court Ding was "part of an int'l syndicate rigging the sport." Singapore state prosecutors said, "There is evidence to suggest the involvement of international syndicates for the offenses committed by the accused." The prosecution said Ding was a "high flight risk" because he has homes in Singapore and Bangkok, where his Thai wife and their daughter live. The prosecution said, "The forfeiture of bail money in the event of an accused's abscondment is a calculated loss which the syndicate can easily recover through illegal soccer betting in merely a single game" (STANDARD, 4/9).

The FA "will launch its first foreign-language website later this week in Mandarin." Most of the Mandarin website's content "will be translated by" Local content provided by FA partners in the region "will also play a part" (WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER, 4/9). ... Moscow's top construction official said that "renovations to Luzhniki Stadium could cost" almost $800M ahead of the 2018 World Cup. Moscow Deputy Mayor for City Planning & Constrution Marat Khusnullin said, "If FIFA keeps all of its tough demands, then it could cost as much as $635M to $793M." Among the areas that must be brought up to FIFA regulations in the 78,360-seater "are spectator comfort, VIP facilities and media resources" (WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER, 4/9). ... Football Federation Australia "will undertake a review of the A-League refereeing structure at the end of the season as the fallout from last week's opening finals matches claimed prominent whistleblowers Jarred Gillett and Chris Beath." Gillett, who handled the Melbourne Victory vs. Perth Glory game last Friday, and Beath, who controlled the Adelaide United vs. Brisbane Roar match two days later, "were not considered for this week's grand final qualifiers after they were found to have made errors that sparked controversy" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 4/10).