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Volume 6 No. 216

International Football

FIFA President Sepp Blatter believes that FIFA's reputation "has been enhanced by the Confederations Cup, despite the demonstrations that have swept across Brazil," according to Ben Smith of the BBC. Speaking for the first time since the protests began, Blatter said that "he had sympathy with people who took to the streets in 100 cities across Brazil." He said, "FIFA has come out of this stronger, with our image enhanced. Football has played a positive part here and given emotion." Blatter said that "he had sympathy with the issues being raised by the peaceful protests." He went on to say that he hoped the government "would clear up the social unrest before next summer's World Cup." Blatter said, "This is not our problem, it is a political problem, but we hope something will be changed so that by the time the World Cup begins next summer we can have a platform to deliver it" (BBC, 6/28). REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported FIFA "has been criticised in Brazil for making a tax-free profit out of the World Cup and leaving the hosts to mke all the investments, something which Blatter challenged." Blatter said, "The aim of FIFA is not to take profit out of the country but to put into the country the necessary help and means to make sure this World Cup is a success. The World Cup provides practically 90 percent of the income of FIFA to ensure we can develop the game around the world" (REUTERS, 6/28).

DEFENDING HIS DECISION: BLOOMBERG's Tariq Panja reported Blatter "defended his decision to temporarily leave Brazil during the Confederations Cup" for an int'l youth football tournament in Turkey, saying that he was fulfilling his responsibilities. Blatter "surprised Brazilian officials by leaving after the opening games of the eight-team Confederations Cup." He said, "In no way could it be said that I escaped responsibility, on the contrary I accepted two responsibilities at the same time" (BLOOMBERG, 6/28).

Protesters who have paralyzed Brazil's cities for the past three weeks were "joined by a group taking aim at billionaire Eike Batista" as they tried to upstage Sunday's Confederations Cup final, according to Biller & Panja of BLOOMBERG. Batista "holds a minority stake in the consortium that was awarded last month a 35-year contract to operate Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium," site of Sunday's final match between Brazil and world champion Spain. Authorities in Rio beefed up security outside the stadium for Sunday's game "in anticipation of a march that at least 18,000 people signed up to attend on Facebook." Among their demands: "revoking the lease of Maracana, which they argue is illegal and doesn’t benefit taxpayers." Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics leader Renato Consentino said, "The game was rigged from the start, and we knew who was going to win." A consortium led by Odebrecht SA, Brazil’s largest builder, offered to pay 5.5M reais ($2.4M) annually to Rio’s state government to manage the near 79,000-seat Maracana, "which reopened this month" after a three-year, $500M renovation (BLOOMBERG, 6/28).

PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION: REUTERS' Pedro Fonseca reported Sunday's final featured "scattered demonstrations proceeded amid an otherwise festive feel." A deployment of about 10,000 police and other security forces "was largely idle before game time" (REUTERS, 6/30).

German website "will release its updated market-value ranking of Bundeliga players" on Monday, according to BILD. Bayern Munich players Mario Götze and Thomas Müller "have overtaken their teammate Franck Ribery" and are the "highest-valued players in the Bundesliga" with a market value of €45M ($58.6M) each. Founder Matthias Seidel said, "If Götze wouldn't have gotten injured at the end of last season, he would have been the first German player to break the 50 million euro ($65.1M) mark." The player with the "biggest market-value increase is Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandoski" whose market value increased by €11M ($14.3M) to €39M ($50.8M) (BILD, 6/30).

Angry CSKA Sofia fans "protested and threw stones and fireworks at the Bulgarian Football Union's headquarters on Saturday, angry at its lack of action as the debt-ridden club battles to avoid the obscurity of the amateur leagues," according to Angel Krasimirov of REUTERS. CSKA "will play in the amateur championship next season if it fails to merge with another first-division club in time for the start of the Bulgarian league on July 20." CSKA is "in serious debt" and last week coach Hristo Stoichkov said that it had declared bankruptcy, although that had not been confirmed by club management or the BFU. More than 1,000 supporters "marched in downtown Sofia, blaming the national body for being too strict and for not allowing a merger." Windows "were smashed and some fans threw fireworks and sprayed graffiti near the main entrance of the BFU's building" (REUTERS, 6/29).

A Spanish judge "delivered a verdict that could provoke a complete modification to the current relationship between clubs and footballers" on March 7, according to Ramón Fuentes of MARCA. Magistrate Verónica Ollé Sesé ruled in favor of Spanish club Nástic on the reduction of the salaries of former players Roberto Peragón and Rodrigo Gemeno following the club's relegation in '12. The ruling has caused the Spanish Football League (LFP) to propose this possibility to the Spanish Footballers Association (AFE) in the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement. Employers, protected in this case, "want to establish in both divisions the possibility of salary reductions in the case of relegation." The AFE believes that if clubs can be compared to other businesses and lower salaries when they want, then players, like any other workers, should be able to give 15 days of notice and then be free to leave (MARCA, 6/30).

After criticizing Barcelona for the club's recruitment of La Liga side Espanyol's youth players, Espanyol President Joan Collet "assured on Sunday that his team has the support of the Spanish Football League (LFP)." Referencing LFP President Javier Tebas, Collet said, "He has told me that he understands our concerns and has a series of measures prepared. We will have to sit and debate them." During the last week, Barcelona has "fished five valuable young players" from Espanyol, ranging from ages nine to 15. In just the last six years, Barcelona has signed 24 Espanyol youth players (AS, 6/30).