Scottish football clubs "will be reunited in a new professional league next season after smaller teams backed a plan designed to spread limited revenues more evenly," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. The agreement "reverses a breakaway by top clubs to form the Scottish Premier League" 15 years ago, and "will allow more money to filter down to the second tier." Scottish Football League clubs "approved the changes on Wednesday, marking the end of the road for a league body set up in 1890." The shake-up "has already won the blessing of SPL teams." The main change that fans will notice "is the introduction of end-of-season play-offs to decide one of the places in the top division." The current structure of a 12-team top flight and three lower divisions of top 10 teams "each will remain" (REUTERS, 6/12).
MAJORITY VOTE: The SCOTSMAN reported "a minimum of 22 of the 29 SFL clubs eligible to vote -- Rangers did not get a vote as they are associate members having joined last summer -- were needed to push reconstruction proposals through." Amid a background of acrimony surrounding the vote and with the ever-present threat of a breakaway by the first division clubs, 23 clubs voted yes with six against. SFL CEO David Longmuir admitted "there was some sadness behind the end of his organisation," saying, "yes and those feelings are heartfelt.” He "also conceded that there were many misgivings among the clubs, even those who had voted yes." Longmuir: “But nevertheless a lot of them have seen it for the good of the game and we all accept that Scottish football is better governed under one roof" (SCOTSMAN, 6/12).
TAKING OVER: The HERALD SCOTLAND reported the SFL ended 123 years of its history by being "swallowed up" by the SPL. It was "widely perceived that the new governing body -- to be called the Scottish Professional Football League -- would be the result of a merger," but SFL President Jim Ballantyne was "strident when asked if he felt it was more of a takeover." Ballantyne: "It is not a feeling, it is a fact. It is a takeover. We are joining their company, their organization. They have swallowed us up. We could use nice words about it, but it is a takeover" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 6/12). In Glasgow, Parks & Ralston reported the Scottish FA and First Division clubs were accused of “shafting” lower league outfits. Scottish Third Division Annan Chair Henry McClelland "rounded on First Division clubs and slammed them for selling out on lower league clubs," who are set to be up to 25% worse off under the new system. McClelland: “I only hope the conscience of the First Division clubs is clear. They have shafted their peers in the second and third division, who have done nothing wrong whatsoever" (DAILY RECORD, 6/12).
RANGERS CLOCK TICKING: The SCOTSMAN reported the SFA "will decide by the end of the month whether it will investigate links" between Rangers and former Owner Craig Whyte. SFA CEO Stewart Regan said that the SFA board would examine a report requested by the current Ibrox directors regarding allegations Whyte was involved in former CEO Charles Green’s bid to buy the club’s business and assets (SCOTSMAN, 6/12).
Russian Premier League club FC Lokomotiv, currently owned by the state-run Russian Railways, is going to be sold to a private individual, most likely to metals oligarch Vladimir Lisin, the Russian online newspaper gazeta.ru reported on Wednesday. The report, based on the paper’s unnamed sources, claims Lokomotiv is hurriedly being prepared for sale as the Russian Railways management is disappointed with the team’s performance over the last few seasons. In '12, Novolipetsk Metals Plant Owner Lisin was Russia’s second-richest man with a net worth of $15.9B, according to Forbes. He is president of the European Shooting Confederation and the Russia Shooting Union. Lokomotiv, which won the Russian Premier League in '02 and '04 and reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup twice in the late '90s, has had a terrible run over the last few seasons. The squad has not won any medals since '06, and last season, it finished in ninth place, its worst-ever result. The appointment of former Croatia Manager Slaven Bilic as the side’s coach prior to the season and the annual budget of $115M, one of the highest in the league, apparently did little to restore the club’s once solid reputation.
SHAKE UP AT CLUB: The news about the possible sale of the club comes amidst reports that Bilic is likely to be replaced with Belarusian coach Leonid Kuchuk, who managed Kuban Krasnodar in the second part of the season, bringing the South Russian side to fifth place and a slot in the Europa League, the best result in the club’s history. If appointed, Kuchuk would become Lokomotiv’s 10th coach since '05. Lokomotiv’s and Lisin’s spokespeople were not available for comment on June 12, which is a national holiday in Russia.
Brazil arrived at the one-year mark to the World Cup on Wednesday "admitting to mistakes in its preparations but vowing to get its act together in time," according to the AP. After facing difficulties getting its stadiums ready for the Confederations Cup, "Brazil is promising that things will be different ahead of the World Cup." Brazil "just barely" got six stadiums ready for the Confederations Cup. Two of them were completed by the original deadline in December, and in some cases there was time "for only one test event before the venues hosted official matches" in the tournament for continental champions. Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said, "I do believe we could have delivered them sooner to allow for the realization of more test events, which could have anticipated some of the problems that arose during those test events. Apart from that, I believe that all requirements were executed in accordance with expectations and that we will have a Confederations Cup that will be held as expected." Brazil's government said that "infrastructure projects which were not ready in time for the Confederations Cup will also be finalized by the World Cup." Rebelo: "We have been monitoring transportation and urban mobility on a daily basis. These works will be delivered in time, together with the next six stadiums. Airport, security, telecommunications and urban mobility will be ready and compatible with the expectations held by the country and by the world" (AP, 6/12).
BLATTER OPTIMISTIC: FIFA President Joseph Blatter said that he is optimistic that Brazil will be ready to host a quality World Cup when the event gets started next summer. Blatter: "I am a happy president because we're only one year away, which marks an outstanding milestone. Brazil, with 200 million people and the sixth-most important economy in the world, is like a continent, a power not only in football but also economically. I am convinced that one of the legacies of the World Cup will be its contribution to Brazil also becoming a power in the field of social and cultural values. In football there are no differences or social classes" (LA AFICION, 6/12).
Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund finished the '12-13 season with the highest attendance of any European club, according to final figures from Stadionwelt. Dortmund sold out all 17 of its home games and averaged 80,482 in attendance. Premier League club ManU averaged 75,530 for second place and La Liga outfit FC Barcelona averaged 71,350. The Bundesliga has 11 clubs in the top 30, which is by far the most of any European league. The EPL has six teams in the top 30, and La Liga had three (Stadionwelt).
A study of the money earned and spent during the '11-12 season by Europe's top football leagues showed that the top leagues in both the U.K. and Germany "are more rich than Spain," according to Rodrigo Silva of EL PAIS. The Premier League led the way in profit with €2.9B, and was followed by the German Bundesliga, which earned €1.9B. Of the five leagues featured, Spain's La Liga finished third in profit with €1.8B, with the Italian Serie A and the French Ligue 1 earning €1.6B and €1.1B, respectively. In La Liga, top-earning clubs combined to make €1B (56%) of the total €1.8B, with the league's other 18 teams combining for just €.8B (44%). The Bundesliga and Premier League were also the leaders in attendance, with average Bundesliga attendance leading the way at 44,293, followed by the Premier League's 34,646. Average attendance at La Liga games was 26,050. The league that spent the highest percentage of its profit on player salaries was Serie A, at 75%. Ligue 1 spent 74% of profit on player salary, followed by the Premier League at 70%, La Liga at 60% and the Bundesliga at 51%. Outside of La Liga, the Premier League had the highest number of Spanish players, with 24, at a total cost of €317M, while eight Spanish players played in Serie A for a combined €23M in salary, with six Spanish players earning a total of €54M in salary in the Bundesliga (EL PAIS, 6/11).
Spanish Football League (LFP) President Javier Tebas has warned La Liga fans that "the biggest stars of the league will look to leave over the next four years as clubs struggle to pay off their debts," according to Nick Turner of INSIDE SPANISH FOOTBALL. Spain international Jesus Navas has already bolted to join Man City. Tebas: "Fans need to be aware that there is going to be an exodus of players over the next three to four years, because we need clubs to decrease their debts if they are able to become alternatives to the big clubs. The fundamental idea, with a few caveats, is that clubs must spend what they earn." Tebas added that the league will need the support of the foreign market. Tebas said, "We need to look to the foreign market if we are to increase our television revenues. And that means we have to pay attention to the television operators abroad, and make things easier for them in terms of kick off times" (INSIDE SPANISH FOOTBALL, 6/12).
The Quebec Soccer Federation has been suspended by the Canadian Soccer Association after "failing to reverse its decision to ban the use of turbans/patkas/keski on the football pitch" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 6/12). ... The first African Football Film Festival opens Thursday in Lagos, Nigeria. It "will be over three days and will screen five films" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 6/12). ... FIFA has fined Zambia following "the hurling of missiles on the pitch by some fans" during last weekend's Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifier game against Lesotho (XINHUA, 6/12). ... La Liga side Rayo Vallecano confirmed that they "will take their appeal over a rejected application for a UEFA licence to the Court of Arbitration for Sport" (FOOTBALL ESPANA, 6/12).