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Volume 10 No. 22

International Football

France's professional football clubs "have welcomed President Francois Hollande's decision to sit down and discuss his proposal to levy a potentially crippling" 75% tax on all income over €1M ($1.4M), according to Ian Holyman of ESPN. The measure, which will apply to revenue in '13 and '14, will bring the state an estimated extra €44M ($61M) from France's clubs, "with some 15 directly affected." The professional club's union, the UCPF, argues that "the measure will prove catastrophic for the sport in the country as a whole and having announced they will go on strike during the weekend of Nov. 30 if the proposal is not modified." Hollande has agreed to meet representatives of clubs on Thursday, and UCPF President Jean-Pierre Louvel said that "the head of state's offer of talks was a positive step." Louvel said, "I think if he is willing to see us it's because there is a desire to try and discuss. If it's to try and fully understand football's current problems and try to find solutions, then we're open to discussion. We didn't say that we rejected the tax, we said that we reject it in its current form" (ESPN, 10/28). SOCCEREX reported Hollande has insisted that "no sectors will be exempt from the new regulations." Hollande: "When the tax law is voted, the law will be the same for all companies regardless of what they are. This does not stop us from having a dialogue on the difficulties facing professional clubs, but everyone needs to be aware of the rules" (SOCCEREX, 10/28). INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Andrew Warshaw wrote UEFA President Michel Platini "has warned that a planned strike by French clubs over the government's proposed supertax could backfire." Platini: "Players who go on strike, with the salaries they earn, that's really going to go down well, isn't it? I'm pretty sure it's going to set some tongues' wagging. There are not many strikes which are understood by the public. Is that good or bad? I've no idea" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 10/28).

UEFA President Michel Platini "wants to expand the World Cup finals from 32 to 40 teams in the most significant change to the tournament’s format in two decades," according to Matt Dickinson of the LONDON TIMES. Platini said that he is "confident his proposal will be voted through" by FIFA. Platini: "It’s good for everybody." Platini has "already conducted a study into the expansion which, he says, shows that the tournament would need only an extra three days from the present 31 to accommodate an additional group game." His "unexpected move is a direct response to pressure" from FIFA President Sepp Blatter to cut the number of European teams "in favour of Africa and Asia." Blatter "recently spoke of Africa, which has five finalists from 54 nations, being 'woefully under-represented' compared with Europe, which has 13 finalists out of 53." With what he "regards as a neat political sidestep," Platini expects Blatter to find it impossible to "resist his idea to ­increase the representation from every continent, starting at the 2018 World Cup in Russia." Platini said, "I totally agree with Mr. Blatter that we need more African and Asian [countries]. But instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams in the World Cup. We can add two African, two Asiatic, two American, one Oceania and one from Europe. I support this idea totally." Platini added that FIFA had "grown by more than 60 associations between 1975 and 2002 and increasing the size of the World Cup would better reflect the number of nations." Platini's plan is "to be set against a political backdrop of growing tension between Blatter and Platini, former allies who could be rivals" for the FIFA presidency in '15. Platini: "Mr. Blatter speaks against Europe always. Why? Because we are beautiful, because we are rich, I don't know" (LONDON TIMES, 10/28). In London, Rory Smith wrote that Platini's expansion plan has been greeted with "cautious enthusiasm" by FIFA's executive committee, "with the emphasis firmly on the cautious." FIFA VP Jim Boyce said he would be “very interested” to hear the plan, but history "will teach Platini that there is a long road ahead if his grand vision is to become reality." Boyce said, “I would be very interested to hear what he has to say. It is not something I have heard mentioned but it is certainly something I would give my full ­consideration to, once I have the full ­details of Platini’s proposal.” There is, though, "a degree of scepticism about the Frenchman’s motives," inside and outside of FIFA. At the Zurich headquarters, there is a belief that the plan "is a rather transparent attempt to curry votes ahead of a potential election for president in 2015." From the outside, the plan has been greeted "largely as a ­further example that FIFA’s primary concern is not the good of the game, but its own bottom line" (LONDON TIMES, 10/29).

A football fan in Colombia died during a fight between supporters of Colombian clubs Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín. This marked "the fifth football-related death in the country since September." The authorities "have not identified which team the deceased fan supported" (OLE, 10/28). ... An agreement with a seat supplier for the "Brazil 2014 World Cup stadium in Cuiaba has been reached, reducing the risk of missing December’s deadline" (ISPORTCONNECT, 10/28). ... Former Scottish League 1 Rangers Dir Dave King has "reiterated that he has not held discussions with the Scottish Football Association over the governing body's fit-and-proper person criteria, although he is confident he would pass the test." SFA CEO Stewart Regan said on Saturday that King's position "would only be considered if a formal request is made to accept his appointment to the Rangers board" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 10/28). ... Germany's sports court said on Monday that Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen's 2-1 win over Hoffenheim last week, which was helped by a phantom goal, "will not be replayed despite the ball going in through a hole in the netting." In a decision which the court admitted may not be satisfactory to fans, "the Hoffenheim appeal was rejected because there was at no point a violation of the rules by the referee" (REUTERS, 10/28).