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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

England football Manager Roy Hodgson said that he believes "the national side would perform better if a mid-season break was brought in to the domestic calendar," according to the London TELEGRAPH. The debate over whether England should "copy the likes of Germany, Spain, France, and Italy by introducing a winter break rears its head every time the national side struggles at a major tournament." The demands of the Premier League, two domestic cups, and European competition, mean the idea "has yet to be put into practice, but Hodgson is certainly in favour." Hodgson: "I find a shorter break now and again is much better than those long breaks. I don't think the best way to keep players fit is to push them through 60 games in eight-and-a-half months and then have three-and-a-half months with no football." He added, "It might be better if we spread the load a little bit differently, and we give them more breaks and certainly a break in the middle of the season" (TELEGRAPH, 4/22).

The A-League is "set to see a wave of high-profile stars lining up to play in Australia" after Sunday's grand final drew record TV ratings and "an unprecedented global audience," according to Dominic Bossi of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The arrival of standout players Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey have drawn the eyes of more than 2.8 million viewers this season as well as millions more from abroad "that has amplified the competition's profile." Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop said, ''Certainly the marquee players have been part of the success story this season. The fact is that they came with big reputations and lived up to those reputations by the way they played on the pitch." He added, "The game was broadcast internationally wider than ever before. That's an enormous opportunity to showcase our competition and could see more marquee players taking an interest in playing in our competition.'' The arrival of the new TV deal next season "is expected to draw more than a million viewers" for the next grand final, as the A-League will be broadcast on free-to-air TV "for the first time, in conjunction with Fox Sports." Gallop: "Going forward, we add free-to-air coverage through SBS next season, which will lift our television audiences and general interest in the competition. It’s foreseeable that we will have over a million viewers of our grand final next season" (SMH, 4/23).

GALLOP SIT-DOWN: In Sydney, Dean Ritchie reported Gallop "made the shock revelation" that football had surpassed cricket in popularity. Gallop also warned rival codes. Gallop: "Football is only going to get bigger and bigger in this country. There is no doubt rival codes are already concerned about football." Gallop answered questions from Ritchie in a "candid sit-down interview."

Q: After decades in the doldrums, has football finally become a mainstream Australian sport?
Gallop: This has definitely been a breakthrough season for the A-League due to a number of factors.

Q: Should rival codes be concerned about football's growth?
Gallop: There is no doubt rival codes are already concerned about football. Football is the only game that can truly represent Australia in all its diversity and multiculturalism. Football is the only true international game. The base of the pyramid at 1.7 million participants is more than a threat, it's a reality for our opposition.

Q: Has the A-League swooped past cricket as Australia's No. 1 summer sport?
Gallop: In the 18-34 male demographic bracket, our research says we overtook cricket this summer. The importance of that age group is that these are young missionaries for the sport -- going to games, watching it on TV, buying replica shirts, talking about the game on social media. They are the future business leaders of the country and, indeed, are the future fathers of kids in Australia.

Q: Can football potentially go past rugby league in popularity?
Gallop: As the world gets smaller, football gets bigger. Football is only going to get bigger and bigger in this country.

Q: You didn't answer my question, David.
Gallop: The other codes are very well established but there's no doubt football has the biggest growth opportunity (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 4/23).

Spanish football "fights to reinvent itself and become a credible, real sport," according to José Félix Díaz of EL CONFIDENCIAL. With salaries increasing by 300% over the last 10 years, the numbers contradict the notion that in regards to spending, "it's all worth it." In the coming months, there will be "budget reductions, salary renegotiations and few signings," and these moves will have to gain the approval of the Spanish Football League (LFP). If teams do not have more revenue than costs, they will not be able to sign, as part of a Superior Sports Council (CSD) rule (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 4/22).

Football Finances has made public a list of the countries where, based on a Europol study into corruption in football from '11 to '13, the most rigged games took place, according to LIBERTAD DIGITAL. Germany led the way by a wide margin with 70 rigged games and was followed by Switzerland, which had 41. The rest of the list is as follows: Finland, 32; Hungary, 20; Belgium, 19; Croatia, 18; Turkey, 17; Austria 16; Bosnia and Slovenia, 7. The findings also showed that corruption was involved in half of the 300 games played in Africa, South America and Asia. It was revealed that two thirds of the rigged games in Africa were part of classification for the World Cup (LIBERTAD DIGITAL, 4/22).

Trinidad's Prime Minister office said that former FIFA VP Jack Warner "resigned as Trinidad and Tobago's national security minister on Sunday, two days after an investigation accused him of 'fraudulent' management of the CONCACAF football confederation," according to Simon Evans of REUTERS. Warner, who stepped down as CONCACAF president in '11 after a "cash-for-votes" scandal, "was accused on Friday at a congress of football officials in Panama of tricking the body that represents football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean out of ownership" of the $26M Centre of Excellence in Port of Spain. He "is also facing an FBI probe over a separate issue." Trinidad PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, "I have today accepted the offer of resignation of the Minister of National Security, Mr. Jack Warner from the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago." Pressure on Warner "to resign built up over the weekend after one of the major partners in Trinidad's four-member party coalition government called for Warner's firing" (REUTERS, 4/22).

Juventus may be marching toward the title, but it risks "a ban" on its home stadium "after racist abuse was aimed at Milan’s players" in Sunday's 1-0 win. The Bianconeri "have already received several fines and warnings," so they "could be forced to play a match behind closed doors" (FOOTBALL ITALIA, 4/21). ... A senior official at the Dutch FA (KNVB) said on Monday that the association "would team up with Indonesian youth and sports ministry and Indonesian FA (PSSI) in developing Indonesian football" (XINHUA, 4/22). ... FIFA President Sepp Blatter denied that he is backing UAE FA President Yousuf Al Serkal "for the Asian Football Confederation presidency." Al Serkal was quoted in reports on Sunday saying that "he had the support of the FIFA chief 10 days out from the AFC presidential election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia" (WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER, 4/22). ... The South African national football team has "been handed a major World Cup boost" with FIFA formally deciding that the upcoming tie against the war-torn Central African Republic "must take place at a neutral venue" (SOWETAN LIVE, 4/19). ... Team officials said that South Korean football club Gyeongnam FC "will host Queens Park Rangers of the English Premier League in an exhibition game this summer" (KOREA HERALD, 4/22).