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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

At least five clubs competing in this season’s UEFA competitions "risk breaching the European football’s governing body’s new financial break-even rules," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino "declined to name the clubs" that will breach the rules if their losses over the last two seasons exceed €45M ($61M). Clubs in breach face sanctions, the most punitive being "a ban from Uefa competition." Infantino added that up to 40 of the 237 clubs competing in this season’s Champions League and Europa League "are likely to exceed losses" of €5M ($6.7M) over the two seasons. They would "also face sanctions if their owners were unwilling or unable to cover the losses." Infantino said that all clubs "were co-operating with Uefa requests for financial information." UEFA, on Thursday, will "publish data showing signs of such improvements: revenue growth overtaking wage growth for the first time since records were compiled seven years ago," and €600M ($811M) lopped off the total losses of first division clubs. However, the "pace of wage growth remains a concern." Infantino said, "It’s growing. Year by year it’s growing. This is the problem" (FT, 9/19).

The prospect of a winter World Cup in '22 "took a step forward after European football chiefs agreed a summer event could not be played in Qatar," according to Phil McNulty of the BBC. UEFA's 54 member associations "backed the switch at a meeting in Croatia." FIFA VP Jim Boyce said, "The World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer. Everyone was certainly in agreement about that." Boyce added that "the debate was now whether the tournament would be played in January of 2022 or in November and December of that year." UEFA favors January so that it does not impact on the Champions League, "but British associations want to ensure their domestic festive fixtures are protected." Boyce said that the associations do not want FIFA "to rush that decision." Boyce: "There is still nine years to go and people feel FIFA should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football" (BBC, 9/19). The PA reported FIFA's exec committee "is now expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup to the winter at its meeting in Zurich" on Oct. 3 (PA, 9/19).

MOMENTUM FOR CHANGE: The AP reported Estonia FA President Aivar Pohlak said UEFA had "quite clear" support for the switch in Qatar. Pohlak said, "As an exception and that is it. As a one-time problem, it can be handled." UEFA President Michel Platini "will announce UEFA's position" after meetings with his strategy council and exec committee end Friday. Nearly three years after Qatar was awarded '22 hosting rights by the "much-criticized" FIFA board, "it appears there's momentum for changing the World Cup plan." Belgium Football Federation President Francois de Keersmaecker said, "It seems the 2022 World Cup can't be played in the months of June and July." Scotland FA CEO Stewart Regan said, "There is a belief that playing it in summer would not be proper for players, for spectators and for broadcasters and media partners" (AP, 9/18). REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann wrote FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Wednesday that "top European politicians pressured" FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Qatar "was awarded the World Cup three years ago in a surprise decision which Blatter said was partly because of European politicians urging FIFA members to vote for it." Blatter: "European heads of governments advised voting FIFA members to vote for Qatar because of the wide financial interests linked with that country" (REUTERS, 9/19). In London, Oliver Kay wrote when asked if he felt that some members of the FIFA exec committee had voted for Qatar for reasons other than sport, Blatter said, “Yes, there was definitely direct political influence" (LONDON TIMES, 9/19).

GOOD OF THE REGION: WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER's James Corbett wrote FIFA VP Prince Ali Bin Hussein has called on FIFA and the organizers of the 2022 World Cup "to begin delivering legacy projects with immediate effect." Speaking at a joint AFC/Asian Football Development Project seminar in Amman, Jordan, Prince Ali "called on the two parties to deliver on bid promises" that the tournament "would be for the benefit of the whole region." Qatar's winning bid "was based on the premise of a World Cup for the entire Middle East with lavish pledges of grassroots engagement." Prince Ali said, "One thing that I desire with the Qataris and FIFA is that the legacy projects should begin now and not after the World Cup, as has happened after other World Cups" (WORLD FOOTBALL INSIDER, 9/18).

IOC ISSUES WARNING: The PA's Martyn Ziegler reported the IOC "has warned FIFA that any switch of the 2022 World Cup from the summer must not affect the winter Olympics in that year." Playing the World Cup in January and February "would have a direct impact on the Winter Olympics -- and the IOC would stand in the way of any such move, with the organisation having the ultimate sanction of kicking football out of the Summer Olympics." The IOC said "it was confident that FIFA would hold talks with them to avoid a clash" (PA, 9/19).

Brazilian anti-doping exec Marco Aurelio Klein said that his country will not "be able to handle the drug-testing programme" for the 2014 World Cup alone and Klein "is looking overseas for help," according to the AP. Klein said that a new drug-testing lab in Brazil will not be ready in time for the World Cup next year. Last month, the World Anti-Doping Agency "revoked the accreditation of Brazil's existing lab in Rio de Janeiro, citing 'repeated failures.'" Klein called that decision a "disaster." Klein said Brazil is "proposing that accredited labs elsewhere set up branches in the country to oversee the testing of World Cup blood and urine samples" (AP, 9/19). The AP reported in a separate piece that Klein said, "In reality, it's a problem with the new building. It will be ready at the end of April or at the beginning of May. But of course it will not be ready for the World Cup because you have to move the equipment and personnel. But we will not have a problem for the 2016 Olympics." Klein proposed that the WADA lab in Lausanne, Switzerland "supervise the blood tests" (AP, 9/19).

Former FIFA head of security Chris Eaton said that football "needs a global body to deal with match-fixing because the game is in 'crisis,'" according to the BBC. Eaton said a "global intelligence system" would see information "shared more easily and action taken quicker." Eaton: "Football is in crisis, undoubtedly in lower leagues. It doesn't mean it will always be in the lower leagues or that it is not going to return to international friendlies or competitions." This month, Singapore and Australian police -- in two separate investigations -- "have made arrests relating to match-fixing." However, while Eaton, who is now Int'l Centre for Sports Security CEO, believes the arrests in Singapore and Australia are "very significant," he said that "there is more to do" (BBC, 9/19).

TAN ARRESTED: The AFP reported an alleged mastermind of a global football match-fixing syndicate "is among 14 people held in a crackdown in Singapore." Singaporean businessman Dan Tan is the "suspected leader" mentioned in a police statement announcing the arrests. Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble had previously called on Singapore to arrest Tan, who is wanted by Italian authorities over the "calcioscommesse" betting scandal. In May, Singapore police said Tan was "assisting investigators in Singapore." In the same month, he was charged in Hungary "over the alleged manipulation of 32 games in three countries." That development came after Europol in February said that a five-country probe "had identified 380 suspicious matches targeted by Singapore-based betting cartels, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials worldwide" (AFP, 9/19).

MORE MATCH-FIXING: THE STAR reported Malaysia club Johor Manager On Jabbar "has rubbished allegations that several of his players threw a match and welcomed investigations into the matter." His players "are alleged to have thrown away the Malaysia Cup Group A match against Sime Darby FC." Jabbar: "This is football ... we cannot always get the result that we want but to make allegations about my players being involved with bookies is uncalled for" (THE STAR, 9/19).

The Qatar FA launched a new tournament Tuesday, "declaring it to be another step forward in the development of football in the country," according to GULF TIMES. QFA Dir of Competitions Hamad al-Mannai said, "The introduction of the 'Q League' creates another competitive opportunity for young players of the nation, which can enhance and support what we're doing with the Qatar Stars League." The competition "will comprise 18 clubs, including 14 from the Reserve League and four from the Second Division." The competition "will be played on league format with the top two promoted to the QSL, while the 13th and 14th placed teams in the QSL will be relegated to the Q League" (GULF TIMES, 9/18).

Japan's 20-year-old J.League will revert to a two-stage season in '15, hoping to lure back spectators and sponsors, despite protests from fans and some club owners. The J.League's board of directors formally approved a new two-stage format Wednesday (J.League). ... The "rainbow laces" campaign to kick homophobia out of football "has come under fire from another gay rights group who have criticised its slogan 'Right Behind Gay Players' for being a 'sexualised innuendo.'" The campaign "is being run by gay rights charity Stonewall and bookmakers Paddy Power who have sent sets of multi-coloured laces to all professional clubs in England and Scotland asking players to wear them in support this weekend." However, the group "Football v Homophobia" said that "it withdrew support for the campaign after the bookmaker refused to change the tag line" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/19).