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Volume 6 No. 213

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Premier Rugby Ltd., which represents the English Premiership clubs, and the NFL "are to jointly back an innovative rugby union plan in the U.S.," according to Tom Dart of the London GUARDIAN. London Irish "will play an exhibition game this summer" against a U.S. team "blending international stars and promising young talent." The goal is to eventually "create a professional rugby union competition" in the U.S. The match will take place at Gillette Stadium near Boston on Aug. 10 and be called the Independence Cup. It is "the first step toward establishing an East Coast league of about six teams from Boston to Miami that would begin as early as next year." The fixture is backed by Premier Rugby Ltd. and the NFL via its NFL Network TV channel, "which is set to broadcast the game." A return match in London "will take place a week later and could be televised in the U.K. and Ireland by BT Sport, the new Premiership rights holder." If the event is a success, "the plan is to build on that momentum," and seek potential investors who are "willing to pay for one of the new franchises and to conclude deals to play fixtures in NFL stadiums." The NFL Network "is hoping to find live sports to cover outside of the American football season" (GUARDIAN, 5/11).

A 'TALL ORDER': In the GUARDIAN's Talking Sport blog, Dart wrote the scheme "is the brainchild" of U.S.-based promoters George Robertson and Michael Clements. They formed a company called RugbyLaw and "have been in negotiations with potential partners for months." Robertson and Clements believe that the "prudent, slow start" made by Major League Soccer since its formation in '96 "has doomed soccer to limited growth and appeal in the U.S." They feel that Americans "will only embrace a new competition if it is high-grade right from the start and that fans will not have the patience to wait a decade or more for a league to become credible, as was the case with MLS." In this view, the "planned six-team league in NFL stadiums along the East Coast needs to be privately-run." Governing bodies "lack the ambition, energy, international focus and business intelligence to expand leagues." To work, the RugbyLaw scheme "needs to find investors willing to sink tens of millions of dollars into the project." It "is a tall order but the involvement of the NFL could prove highly significant" (GUARDIAN, 5/11).

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority remains prepared to interview any National Rugby League Cronulla player "willing to give evidence into investigations into alleged drug use at the club in 2011, but has scrapped plans to question every member of the club's squad that season," according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Despite "being given the green light by NRL CEO Dave Smith to resume interviews with Cronulla players after a legal dispute" over the level of co-operation provided by Cronulla's Wade Graham, ASADA has advised the Sharks' lawyers they do not plan to do so. The shock move fueled "speculation in league circles on Sunday that ASADA was either close to laying charges against players or conceding defeat in the doping scandal." ASADA "will now focus more on other lines of inquiry as the first interview with Graham proved fruitless and investigators believe their resources can be better utilised elsewhere" (SMH, 5/13). In Melbourne, Brent Read reported Cronulla captain Paul Gallen "reacted with ambivalence to the developments." Gallen and his teammates were informed via text messages from Cronulla CEO Steve Noyce but know "full well that ASADA is likely to resume interviews at some point down the track" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/13).

SUSPICION REGARDING BOCK: Also in Melbourne, Carly Crawford reported Australian Football League Gold Coast player Nathan Bock "is embroiled in the drugs-in-sport investigation because of concerns he may have been given banned peptides." Bock was allegedly given a substance described to him as an amino acid that was cleared for athletes to use. Bock is the Australian Football League player being investigated by the AFL and the ASADA (HERALD SUN, 5/13). 

ACC SEEKING HELP: In Melbourne, Sean Parnell reported the Australian Crime Commission "wants a range of high-powered law enforcement bodies to help embattled anti-doping officials deal with drugs in sport." With the ASADA under pressure to demonstrate the results of its investigation into "the major football codes, the ACC has been building a broader network of police and government officials behind the scenes to help safeguard the integrity of the sport" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/13).

The membership figure of the German Football Federation (DFB) has reached the highest value in the federation's history. The federation has a total of 6,822,233 members, which is 22,105 more than the previous year. The DFB is divided into 21 state federations. The number of football clubs has remained largely stable with 25,456 clubs (2012: 25,641). DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach said, "The membership record highlights football's tremendous significance in Germany. Football has never before excited and moved more people. On the other hand, the development at the youth level has shown that we will face huge challenges in this area, especially due to the demographic change. The combined goal of the DFB, state federations and clubs has to be creating attractive offers through innovative concepts and services for the youth and the numerous volunteers" (DFB).

The head of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya said that it "is ready to deal a blow to fellow Spanish city Valencia's hopes of a return to the Formula One calendar next year," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. The track's Dir General Salvador Servia "played down suggestions that Barcelona, which has hosted an annual grand prix since 1991, would be forced to alternate with Valencia, which has been dropped from the schedule this season." Servia said, "We are working on next year. We have already published the ticket prices for 2014." He added that Barcelona "wanted to extend a contract that ran until 2016 to remain a permanent fixture on the calendar." Servia: "We have done 23 years of Formula One and our objective is to do another 23 years" (REUTERS, 5/11).

MONEY RULES: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that the racing series "has put money into New Jersey's postponed Grand Prix of America to ensure it will go ahead next year." Ecclestone said, "There's no reason why it shouldn't happen. We've put money behind it to pay a lot of things off, a lot of their debts. So I'm hoping now we are going to get it together. We're going to try and make it happen next year" (REUTERS, 5/11).

Convicted sports-doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes is "threatening to reveal the dirty secrets of the world's major sporting events as he offers to sell his story to newspapers after being convicted on public health charges in Spain for his role in helping top cyclists to cheat," according to Giles Tremlett of the London GUARDIAN. Fuentes has sent out a list of subjects that -- for a price -- he is now prepared to talk publicly about. It includes Spanish Champions League teams, "London marathon winners, Olympic medallists and a long list of cyclists he was involved with." He has also offered "to reveal how Tour de France officials failed to detect doping even when they tested those who had been taking performance-enhancing substances." One category of revelations he is offering is, "How I prepared a team to play in the Champions League." That alone "threatens to widen the scandal surrounding his doping activities to football, a sport in which Spain currently leads the world as European champions and World Cup holders" (GUARDIAN, 5/10).

NEW LAW IN SPAIN: The AAP reported the Spanish parliament on Thursday passed "a beefed-up anti-doping law that will toughen penalties in order to polish Spain's image as it bids to host the 2020 Olympic Games." According to a draft of the law, it raises fines for doping to up to A$521,000 ($521,469) "but stops short of making doping punishable by jail" (AAP, 5/10).

UCI TO APPEAL: The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) will appeal the April 29 court decision not to release to the UCI and other anti-doping organizations the more than 200 bags of blood and other evidence gathered in police raids in '06, which were presented in Fuentes's trial (UCI).

SAIZ SPEAKS OUT: The EFE reported former Liberty Seguros Team Manager Manolo Saiz described the impact he has felt from the case since he was cleared of all charges in the April 29 ruling. Saiz: "In this case you're not the same Manolo that were you were before. You are a sadder, more down, more thoughtful and more insecure Manolo" (EFE, 5/12).

Indian Premier League Chair Rajeev Shukla has said that "discussions on inducting another team in the cash-rich Twenty20 league would be held soon after the end of the ongoing sixth edition of the tournament" (PTI, 5/12). ... Athletics South Africa administrator Zola Majavu has made it clear the R10M ($1.1M) broadcast sponsorship money "will not be used to pay the federation's debts." The SABC broadcast sponsorship deal, which was secured by Accelerate Sport, is for R10.25M ($1.13M). ASA still owes Accelerate just more than R2.5M ($275,000) (SOWETAN LIVE, 5/10).