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Volume 6 No. 211

International Football

When the Premier League abandoned plans to play a "39th Game" overseas, it "was always likely" that an entrepreneur somewhere "would take up the opportunity to profit from the game's global appeal," according to Glenn Moore of the London INDEPENDENT. With the league's TV income from foreign broadcasters now rivaling that from domestic sources, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox "is reported to have decided the time is ripe." Fox is "said to be planning a summer competition featuring leading clubs from Europe and, possibly, beyond." Murdoch "has long used sport as a battering-ram to drive subscription rates and viewing figures." However, creating a new football tournament "has significant problems," chiefly in making it competitively significant. Clubs such as Man City, ManU, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus "already tour extensively during the off-season." With the leading Premier League and Spanish clubs able to earn up to £125M ($196M) from domestic and European commitments, the sums on offer would "have to be huge to risk draining their leading players ahead of the main season." Broadcasters "would only be prepared to pay enough to finance that if they were sure they could attract enough subscribers to cover the cost" (INDEPENDENT, 6/17).

To prevent a feared glut of agents, FIFA "introduced, 12 years ago, a deliberately difficult exam for them to take and pass before being awarded a licence," according to Alyson Rudd of the LONDON TIMES. And it "has become progressively harder." Former League Two Chesterfield defender Steve Blatherwick said, "I wanted to create a business that tried to be different and had the right ethos. The first step was passing the exams. We wanted to do everything by the book." There is, however, "a nasty twist in store for agents such as Blatherwick who studied hard." FIFA, calculating that only 30% of deals are carried out by licensed agents worldwide, "is keen to deregulate the industry and transfer responsibility for agents to players and clubs." This would mean "no more exams and do little to warn off unsuitable candidates." Although the Premier League "has lobbied against deregulation" -- its CEO Richard Scudamore said the proposals filled him with "some horror" -- FIFA revealed two weeks ago that "it wants to persevere with a plan for the present licensing system to be abandoned and aims for approval for a new system to be in place some time next year." Blatherwick said, "It’s the worst thing that can happen. There’s many very good agents but there could be turmoil." Charlie Driver "worked in advertising and ran a company that dealt with digital rights in sport." He passed the FIFA exam, with sports lawyer and Couchmans LLP partner Dan Lowen’s tuition, in April and joined Law Sport alongside Claudio Vigorelli, the agent for Samuel Eto’o. Driver said, "It’s important that there are regulations. With finance there is the FSA [Financial Services Act]. It’s quite dangerous when people come into the industry not knowing too much about it" (LONDON TIMES, 6/17).

Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho has indicated that he will "have to take a more careful approach to spending" in his second spell at the London club "because of new rules designed to ensure that clubs curb their financial losses," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Bankrolled by Russian Owner Roman Abramovich, Mourinho led Chelsea to successive league titles in '05 and '06 in his previous spell with the Premier League club. However, "the financial climate has changed," with UEFA trying to force clubs to move toward breakeven or ultimately risk exclusion from competitions such as the Champions League. Mourinho said, "Every wrong move you make has an influence on the future" (REUTERS, 6/17).

ECONOMIC STABILITY: The London EVENING STANDARD reported the Blues "have already signed Andre Schürrle from Bayer Leverkusen for an undisclosed fee while Napoli striker Edinson Cavani, Zenit St. Petersburg forward Hulk and Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder are all reported targets." Mourinho: "It's more global. Instead of just focusing on your team, and your targets and ambitions, it's an overall view. It's a different profile of job and I'm happy with that, I'm enjoying that." Mourinho has identified regular qualification for the Champions League as "one key to maintaining Chelsea's economic stability." Mourinho: "It's important for the players, for the young players' development, for the club, for the fan base and for the economic situation which is more important with Financial Fair Play" (EVENING STANDARD, 6/17).

Havas Sports & Entertainment "has been hired to promote sports healthcare work taking place" at The FA's National Football Centre. The agency "will work with Olympic sprinting legend Michael Johnson as part of its account with Perform, which has a sports treatment and rehabilitation center at the site" (PR WEEK, 6/17). ... Ethiopia and Tunisia's progress to the final round of African World Cup qualifying "are in doubt" as FIFA "opened three probes into player eligibility" (BBC, 6/16). ... Nigeria captain Vincent Enyeama said that the row over bonuses that delayed the squad's arrival at the Confederations Cup "had not been resolved, but the players were putting it to the back of their minds." The players "were unhappy" about being offered bonus payments of $2,500 following a 1-1 draw with Namibia in World Cup qualifying and "had demanded double that amount from the Nigeria Football Federation" (AFP, 6/17).