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Volume 6 No. 212

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Australia's likely next prime minister, Tony Abbott, insists the Coalition does not have "the slightest intention" of pressuring the Australian Football League "to stiffen its illicit-drug testing policy, rejecting expectations to the contrary," according to Jesse Hogan of THE AGE. The AFL and AFL Players Association "would not be drawn on the implications of a change of government," although players "privately fear renewed pressure to significantly change the testing regimen they volunteered for." The sports portfolio "is now held by the Nationals' Luke Hartsuyker." On Tuesday, he "commended the AFL for strengthening its illicit-drug policy but did not rule out seeking additional amendments." In a statement, Hartsuyker said, "The Coalition has always supported taking a tough stance on illicit drugs in sport. I note the AFL has enhanced its out-of-season drug-testing regime and, if I am the sport minister in a new Coalition government, I will work with the AFL to reduce illicit-drug use within the code." On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Abbott "offered greater certainty on the issue," countering the suggestion the Coalition may pressure the AFL and AFLPA "to toughen rules surrounding voluntary out-of-competition testing." An Abbott spokesperson said, "The Coalition has not the slightest intention of getting involved in this matter. It is a matter for the code itself to police" (THE AGE, 9/4).

The European Tour, in an effort to "appeal to sponsors," has approved an "'encouragement incentive' for players to commit to at least one native event," according to Alex Miceli of GOLF WEEK. If players do not compete in a native event, the "mandatory minimum number of tournaments for membership jumps from 13 to 15." The move comes "just one year after the tour, fighting an outflow of talent to the U.S., raised the tournament minimum from 12 to 13." European Tour COO Keith Waters called it a “commercial reality” to attract sponsors by retaining top players. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who is on the 15-man tournament committee that "OK’d the incentive, likely will swap the Memorial Tournament next spring for the Scandinavian Masters." Sweden's Jonas Blixt said, "I know they're trying to protect the tour. Hopefully, they'll play it anyway, but it's kind of unfair to the guys to have a tournament in their home country and the guys that don't have one because it doesn't affect them at all." British golfer Lee Westwood said, "I didn't see the point in doing it, to be honest. It was making a rule just for the sake of it." Miceli noted for the "numerous South Africans" on both the European and PGA Tour, the "stakes will be doubled." Because South Africa "hosts seven tournaments, they will be asked to play at least two." South African golfer Charl Schwartzel said, "I don't get why they want to force a guy to play somewhere. Guys are going to give up their memberships" (GOLF WEEK, 9/2).

CONVERSION RATE: In Scotland, Martin Dempster reported a "record number of Americans have entered this season's European Tour Qualifying School." The 86 U.S. players entered is "double last year's total." The decision by more Americans to "turn their attention to Europe in an attempt to get a foot on the ladder is also likely to have been influenced by changes to the PGA Tour Qualifying School." It no longer "offers instant promotion to the money-spinning main circuit, with the developmental Tour now being the primary path to get a PGA Tour card" (SCOTSMAN, 9/4).

South Africa "will be able to field a sixth team in the Super Rugby competition" from '16, according to Brad Morgan of ALL AFRICA. The decision, which was reached at a meeting of SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) in Sydney on Tuesday, "will bring to an end a nightmare for the South African Rugby Union." Deciding which of South Africa's six Super Rugby teams would miss out on the "lucrative southern hemisphere tournament had become a political hot potato" for SARU and led to a lot of criticism and dissatisfaction. South Africa will field the Southern Kings, Lions, Bulls, Stormers, Cheetahs and Sharks for the '16 competition, while both New Zealand (Chiefs, Blues, Highlanders, Hurricanes and Crusaders) and Australia (Brumbies, Reds, Waratahs, Force and Rebels) "will have five teams." While a team from Argentina has not been included, "indications are that a move would be made in that direction in future because the Pumas are part of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship." Some in New Zealand would like a sixth franchise, "while teams from the Pacific Islands and Japan have also been mooted" (ALL AFRICA, 9/4). In Sydney, Iain Payten wrote SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said getting a sixth team had been a "long-held desire" by SARU, for both rugby and political reasons. The difficulty now "comes in settling on a new tournament structure to accommodate the sixth African side." Super Rugby "currently has three pools of five teams from each SANZAR nation." Sources said that SANZAR members and broadcasters "have been locked in challenging discussions to come up with a suitable format," with two conferences of Australia-New Zealand and South Africa-Argentina -- and a joint finals series -- the likely end point (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 9/4).

The Beijing women's rugby sevens team on Tuesday night "apologized for throwing a match at the 12th Chinese National Games." The team said in a statement, "We totally lost our composure during the match. Our inappropriate behavior tarnished the images of rugby and the National Games. We sincerely apologize for it" (XINHUA, 9/4). ... Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Pakistani Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday that Sri Lanka has decided "to resume playing cricket in Pakistan after a four year gap." Rajapaksa said that "a Sri Lankan team will soon play in Pakistan" (IANS, 9/4). ... Hockey India on Wednesday announced cash awards for three field hockey players who "played well in the Indian team's silver winning performance in the recent Asia Cup tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia" (THE HINDU, 9/4). ... The Johor FA has rebutted claims made by the FA of Malaysia "that the state had yet to set up the Integrity Committee to fight match-fixing." The JFA said in a statement Wednesday that it had set up its own committee -- called the Investigation, Security, and Medical Committee and not the Integrity Committee -- "as recommended by the Youth and Sports Ministry and FAM" (THE STAR, 9/4).