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Volume 6 No. 192

International Football

The campaign to bring Premier League away tickets down to £20 ($32) "is on the brink of a major breakthrough," with Newcastle United preparing to announce a "reciprocal deal by which they will charge any club's away fans that price, if their own are given the same deal," according to Ian Herbert of the London INDEPENDENT. The "supporter-driven fight to force down exorbitant prices" faced by Premier League away fans led ManU to "announce that they have followed Liverpool and Arsenal's lead in knocking money off every away ticket bought by one of their own fans this season." ManU will reduce every away ticket price by £4 ($6), Arsenal will reduce theirs by £2.50 ($4), while Liverpool will bring down their own away ticket prices by between £2 ($3) and £4, "depending on the opposition." Newcastle's plan "is imaginative" -- but "dependent on others being willing to reciprocate." The clubs' moves follow the Premier League announcement that it has established a fund of £12M ($19M) over the next three seasons to ensure that each of the top division's 20 clubs set aside £200,000 ($319,000) per season to "make games more affordable for away fans." The fund "is a direct result" of the Football Supporters' Federation's "Twenty's Plenty" petition. The organization "lobbied the Premier League" and then met CEO Richard Scudamore four months ago "to demand action on prices." The "high costs" led to a 9.6% reduction in top-flight away attendances last year. The £12M "has come from the clubs' TV revenues and all were given until the end of last month to demonstrate how they were going to use it" (INDEPENDENT, 10/8).

ON THE ROAD: The BBC's Saj Chowdhury reported with this season's installments of £200,000, Arsenal, Liverpool, ManU, Swansea, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Sunderland "have all offered either discounts or deals on tickets." Meanwhile, free transport "has been made available by clubs" including Hull, Aston Villa and Stoke, with the latter "offering complimentary coach travel for all of their away matches this season." As a result, the Potters "took a club record number of fans to Liverpool on the opening weekend." Four clubs are "yet to say what they plan to do with the money." To see how each club is spending their money, click here (BBC, 10/9).

SOME STILL CYNICAL: In London, Herbert wrote it was "one of those relatively rare occasions" when ManU and Liverpool "carried a torch together." Their mutual commitment to "driving down the obscene costs" faced by fans travelling away to watch a team in the Premier League resulted in them being two of only three clubs who have used a £200,000 budget "to help all fans, by subsidising match tickets for every away game." Some will be "understandably cynical about these developments," at clubs that are the beneficiaries of a new £5.5B ($8.7B) TV deal. But this is "a step forward" -- and "will be a leap if a substantial club or two come forward to say that they will reciprocate" Newcastle United's commitment to £20 away tickets (INDEPENDENT, 10/9).

A "small group of protesters demanding more spending on health and education disrupted a visit by FIFA officials to the 2014 World Cup stadium under construction" in Cuiaba, Brazil on Tuesday, according to Andrew Downie of REUTERS. Dozens of demonstrators, many of them "striking teachers and postal workers, carried banners saying 'FIFA Go Home.'" Some made it into the Pantanal Arena and then "tried to invade a news conference" held by FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke. Security "pushed the protesters back and the event went ahead as planned" (REUTERS, 10/8). BLOOMBERG's Tariq Panja reported the protest came "a day after police used tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades in clashes with protesters" in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, venues for the opening and final games of the World Cup. Thousands "took to the streets in both cities to join striking teachers." Valcke: “Everybody has the right to demonstrate, but they should respect the rights of other people like the construction workers in the stadium” (BLOOMBERG, 10/8). ... The AP reported because of the demonstrators, Valcke "made a symbolic handover of tickets to workers at a different part of the site." In the southern city of Curitiba, a Brazilian labor judge "reversed a ruling that had halted construction at the Arena da Baixada for nearly a week because of workers’ safety concerns." Work resumed, but a new inspection "was scheduled for the end of the week." The Arena da Baixada was less than 80% completed by the end of August, "the lowest rate among the venues under construction" (AP, 10/9).

FIFA VP Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein "has criticised" FIFA for banning Iraq from "hosting home internationals and called upon the organisation to do more for supporters in the Middle East," according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. Iraq hosted friendlies against Syria and Liberia earlier this year after FIFA lifted a previous ban, but it "was reintroduced in July over security concerns in the war-torn country where two suicide bombers killed 60 people in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday." The '07 Asian champions "have long had to deal with the problem" and hosted a majority of their 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Qatar and take on Saudi Arabia in a ''home'' Asian Cup qualifying match in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Tuesday. In a statement, Al-Hussein, who is also the West Asian Football Federation president, said, "I would like to emphasize that Iraq should be able to host friendly matches, whether in the south or the north. There are other countries facing similar issues but are given the green light, there is no reason to exclude Iraq at this point." He was "also frustrated by the Swiss-based body's attitude to his region." Last month, Middle East media reported Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were unhappy and "seeking a rectification" after FIFA "changed how they described the Gulf region on their website, replacing 'Arabian' with 'Persian.'" Al-Hussein said, "Allow me to stress that it is crucial for FIFA, which comprises more than 200 richly diverse members, to be mindful and respectful of cultural sensitivities" (REUTERS, 10/9).

IRAQ PULLS OUT: REUTERS' Salman & Smith reported Iraq "has withdrawn" from the '14-15 Gulf Cup of Nations "in protest at a decision to move the tournament from the southern city of Basra to Saudi Arabia, in a spat highlighting the two countries’ worsening relations." The heads of FAs agreed unanimously on Tuesday "to switch the tournament" to the Saudi city of Jeddah, citing "incomplete infrastructure" and FIFA's ban on Iraq hosting int'l matches. Iraq was also due to host the '13 tournament, but this "was moved to Bahrain instead, and the Iraqi cabinet reacted furiously to the latest snub by withdrawing the country’s team" (REUTERS, 10/9).

HISTORY REPEATS: In Dubai, Ashley Hammond reported this is "the second time Iraq’s bid to host the event has been overruled." The 2013 Gulf Cup was moved "from Basra to Manama at short notice." A statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Youth and Sports said, "The decision to withdraw from the tournament was not taken lightly as some people believe. It was based on the knowledge about negative stances. Basra’s application to host the tournament was treated with stringent severity, unlike the case of Yemen, where everybody worked together to ensure the success of the tournament" (GULF NEWS, 10/9).

FIFA TMS will launch the first Domestic Transfer Matching System designed to facilitate domestic transfers for member associations and clubs acting in the same jurisdiction. DTMS is an online platform modeled after the Int'l Transfer Matching System which is provided to over 200 MAs and 6,500 clubs for cross-border player transfers. DTMS is fully integrated with ITMS with a single sign-on so that both the MA and its clubs can manage all of their domestic and int'l transfers in the same place. The key benefits of DTMS include strong governance, efficient management of transfers and effective data management (FIFA).

La Liga side Getafe President Angel Torres "has proposed a surprising possibility -- construction of a new stadium with a capacity of 32,000," according to Jaume Miserachs of MUNDO DEPORTIVO. The team's current stadium, Alfonso Pérez Coliseum, has a capacity of more than 17,000, but "average attendance rarely exceeds 10,000, and the team only has 6,000 season-ticket holders." Torres said that a new stadium would solve these problems. Torres: "I have lowered the prices by half and there are less season-ticket holders." According to a study by the London Guardian, La Liga has the "most expensive tickets for the common fan of the four major European leagues," which also include the EPL, the Bundesliga, and Italy's Serie A. The "cheapest average ticket in La Liga" costs €29.40 ($40), with only the EPL offering a higher price for its cheapest average ticket, at €33.70 ($45.50). The Bundesliga's "business model, which is recognized as a model for filling stadiums, can hardly be compared with any of Europe's major leagues." In the Bundesliga, the "average season-ticket price, cheapest season-ticket price, most expensive average individual ticket and cheapest average individual ticket all cost 'significantly less' than equivalent tickets in La Liga." Does "one need bigger stadiums?" This does not "seem to be the solution." It would "seem to be more rational to work on a price system better adjusted to reality" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 10/9).

A Home Office report revealed that the number of arrests made during the '12-13 season at domestic and int'l matches involving teams from England and Wales "increased by 4%," according to James Riach of the London GUARDIAN. The "total number of arrests made was 2,456," while 471 banning orders were issued to supporters during the period Nov. '12-Sept. '13. In the top flight, ManU supporters "received the most banning orders in that period with 17." Outside the Premier League, "Bristol City received 34, Scunthorpe United 27, Leeds United 24 and Millwall 23." There were 1,007 arrests made at Premier League matches last season, "with Newcastle United fans earning 175" (GUARDIAN, 10/9).

The World Anti-Doping Agency has hinted that "there may yet be time for the Rio de Janeiro doping control laboratory to win back its accreditation in time for it to handle samples collected at next year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 10/9). ... Malaysia welcomed Australia's plan to expand its domestic A-League into Asia "but other potential partners were more guarded on Wednesday." Singapore said that "it wanted to hear more details," while an Indonesian official said that "the country had had no contact with Australia over the proposal" (AFP, 10/9).