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Volume 10 No. 26

International Football

FIFA research published on Tuesday showed that football agents "took a bigger cut" from int'l player transfers in '12, even as trading in the billion-dollar market fell by $290M, according to Graham Dunbar of the AP. Player representatives took $163M in fees from clubs, at 28% average commission, "as their total take from cross-border transfers rose" $33M in '12. In an annual survey, FIFA subsidiary Transfer Matching System stated, "2012 witnessed a greater involvement of intermediaries." English clubs "spent the most," with FIFA processing $59M in fees to agents in int'l deals. Italian clubs paid $41M and Russian clubs $23M, and "agents also banked payments from players" which FIFA's system didn't record (AP, 4/16). BLOOMBERG'S Tariq Panja reported that "clubs paid fees to recruit players from other teams" only in 14% of cases, while 70% involved out-of-contract players. The remainder was made up of loan agreements. FIFA "didn’t say why spending was down" from a year earlier, though some of the reduction "may involve European teams," football’s biggest spenders, "trimming outgoing costs in preparation to meet new break-even regulations" (BLOOMBERG, 4/16).

BRAZILIAN TALENT IN DEMAND: REUTERS' Keith Weir reported "Brazil's reputation as a source of top football talent was underlined" on Tuesday by a report showing that Brazilians were the most heavily traded players on the int'l transfer market last year. TMS General Manager Marc Goddard said that "it was too early to say whether the global economic crisis or pressure on clubs to curb losses was dampening the market." Oscar, who joined Chelsea from Internacional last July, "was one of almost 1,500 players with Brazilian nationality" involved in int'l transfers in '12 (REUTERS, 4/16).

Tens of thousands of fans "face the prospect of major travel difficulties" after the FA ignored advice from rail operators and announced that next month’s FA Cup Final between Man City and Wigan Athletic would kick off at 5:15pm, according to Ebner & Munnery of the LONDON TIMES. The governing body was warned by Virgin Trains that supporters would be “unable to return to the North West” following the match on May 11, but "stuck with the late afternoon kick-off time." Fans of Wigan and Man City "are likely to miss their last trains back, a possibility that will be significantly increased if the match has to be decided by extra time and penalties." The FA "has defended its decision," and invited fans to use National Express, Wembley’s “official coach partner.” Wigan Athletic Supporters Club Committee member Jason Taylor said, "They’ve scuppered all of us. We’re not totally surprised, but we were hoping they would have the common sense to look at this and come to a different decision -- giving fans a decent crack at getting home." The last train back to Manchester on the day is at 9pm, but Wigan fans "will need to be even quicker as their last train leaves London’s Euston station at 8.31pm." That City and Wigan fans will be using similar train lines and motorways is an "added complication" to travel arrangements (LONDON TIMES, 4/16).

MADE FOR TV: In London, Andy Hunter reported the FA has been "accused of prioritizing television revenue over supporters' welfare." For the second season in a row, the FA's showpiece event "will be played on an evening when train services from London to the north will be disrupted by engineering work." Wigan Athletic Supporters Club believes that decision "should allow the final to start at 3pm." Taylor: "It seems the FA are more interested in what the television companies want than the logistics of supporters getting to and from their final." FA General Secretary Alex Horne last week "defended the late kick-off times on the basis of their appeal to a television audience." Horne: "We're now used to consuming our football in those time slots. It really works. Lunchtime kick-offs just haven't got the same appeal" (GUARDIAN, 4/16).

TRAIN TROUBLE: The MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS reported Virgin is "unlikely to put extra trains on." In a statement, Virgin said, "The unpredictability of exactly when the match will end, coupled with the earlier close down of the route for essential maintenance and inspection means that the planning of any additional services is extremely difficult given the high numbers of supporters that would attempt to return to the North West that evening" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 4/16). In London, Ladyman & King reported Virgin did say it "would help City and Wigan supporters return to the North West a day after the Cup final." Virgin's statement added, "We are of course more than happy to bring Wigan and Manchester City supporters down to London on the Saturday and for them to return on the Sunday. We are looking at the possibility of running an additional service from Wigan on Saturday morning" (DAILY MAIL, 4/16).

HOTELIERS DREAM: Also in London, Tony Barrett opined for London hoteliers, the late kick-off is "great news." For the tens of thousands of supporters who will travel to London from the Northwest, "it is an absolute inconvenience, one that borders on being an imposition." The FA "will defend itself vigorously." The kick-off time "is the same as last year’s, they will say." They will also point out, "quite rightly, that this is the continuation of an established policy and not a deviation from it." However, such defenses "will count for nothing to those who will leave Wembley after the final with very little chance of public transport being available to take them back to Manchester or Wigan" (LONDON TIMES, 4/16).

Fans of Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund "engaged in fights while standing in queue for Champions League semifinal tickets at several locations," according to BILD.  Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke "has admitted mistakes in the way the club handled the ticket sales." He said, "We underestimated the unbelievable demand. It's our fault. We will learn our lessons from this and not offer a free-for-all ticket sale in the future." Dortmund will host Real Madrid on April 24 at 9pm local time (BILD, 4/16). The London TELEGRAPH reported "brawls broke out amongst supporters waiting in queues at separate locations in Dortmund's city centre as the tickets available were snapped up within an hour of going on sale." Police had organized the lines from midnight on Monday after organized gangs "had tried to aggressively jump in, but officers reported fights breaking out in the early hours of Tuesday morning." After some supporters began camping out 36 hours before tickets went on sale, Dortmund President Reinhard Rauball and club icon Norbert Dickel "handed out hot dogs and drinks to the queuing masses" (TELEGRAPH, 4/16).

Russian clubs FK Krasnodar and Krylya Sovietov Samara "have threatened legal action against several media outlets after being accused of fixing a league match between the two sides" over the weekend. Several Internet sites reported that Saturday's game in Krasnodar "was fixed after Samara, fighting to avoid relegation, beat the home team 3-0" (EUROSPORT, 4/16). ... Romanian football club Rapid Bucharest's players "have gone on strike and will not play their Romanian top-flight fixture at FC Viitorul Constanta on Saturday in a protest over unpaid wages." The club's management "was not available for immediate comment on Tuesday" (EUROSPORT, 4/17). ... La Liga FC Malaga Manager Manuel Pellegrini's agent Jesus Martinez on Tuesday claimed that the club "owed his client wages," alleging that it had reneged on promises to get its finances in order. Martinez alleged that club Owner Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani "had not kept his word and criticised Spanish media for not holding the Andalusian club to account more" (AFP, 4/16). ... As EA Sports "prepares to unveil its plans for the launch of FIFA 14, evidence suggests Brazilian 2nd division sides will be included in the new game, speculation has renewed over when women will be included." Rumor also has it that Gary Neville "will be included as a commentator" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/16).