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Volume 6 No. 215

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The Champions Hockey League is in discussions with the Russia-based KHL to join the new European club competition as early as next year. Int’l Ice Hockey Federation President René Fasel said, “While the KHL is not part of [the inaugural] season, we are in discussions for their participation as of the 2015-16 season.” The exact reasons why the KHL is not participating in the inaugural season of the revived CHL remain a mystery, but KHL President Alexander Medvedev expressed his frustration in an interview with SBD Global in December. He said, “We showed flexibility and were ready to make compromise and correct our league’s schedule so that it didn’t conflict with Champions League match days. The decision of the board [of the Champions League] is surprising. In addition, no reasonable explanations for that decision were voiced.” Kicking off a premier European club competition without participation from the continent’s biggest and arguably best league could hurt the CHL, even if the KHL’s exclusion lasts only for a year.

MADE TO LAST: The CHL, which will start in August and run through February, will feature the reigning national champions and the regular season winners from each of the six founding leagues (Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland), as well as 26 founding clubs. The CHL is the IIHF’s latest attempt at a European club competition. Fasel said that the new competition will fill the gap that was left by its predecessor, which operated under the same name. The old CHL lasted only for one season between ’08-09 and fell victim to the global economic crisis, among other factors. Despite this bad omen, Fasel believes that the new competition will be a success as it has a fundamentally different structure. “It’s a club-driven venture. Owned in majority by the clubs, further by the leagues and only to a minor part by the IIHF,” he said. “It gives the clubs the deserved ownership, but also the necessary responsibility and accountability to invest into this project. I believe this is the true key to success.”

After an "underwhelming start to the season, and faced with simmering supporter discontent," the Australian Football League acknowledged that "it has not adequately gazetted and explained its new variable price ticketing system," according to Greg Baum of THE AGE. But it does not accept that the system is to blame for mediocre attendances, saying that "has more to do with a calculated decision to make a soft start" -- since none of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Sydney Cricket Ground or Adelaide Oval were available for round one -- and to experiment with Thursday and Sunday nights. The AFL said that "some ticket prices have fallen" -- from A$36 ($33) to A$25 on the top deck of the MCG, for instance, even for blockbusters. It says nearly all tickets were sold in the first two rounds, even to matches in which crowds failed to meet expectations. The few unsold tickets generally were the cheapest, belying the idea that price was the issue. AFL Commercial Operations Manager Darren Birch said, "Is there confusion in the marketplace? Yes, there probably is. It is complicated. It is new. It is a difficult model for people to get their heads around. It is a significant change after a long, long time." But Birch foreshadowed further change. He said that "the AFL hoped later this year to test dynamic ticketing, as used by some professional American sports" (THE AGE, 4/2).

German Football Federation (DFB) General Secretary Helmut Sandrock "has denied the reported overhaul of the DFB-Pokal (German Cup)," according to the SID. Sandrock said, "There are a good deal of internal notes and ideas that circulate inside the DFB because we are constantly thinking of improments. However, when it comes to the DFB-Pokal we have a clear stance. We don't see a reason to change our succesful, established format" (SID, 4/1).

While the "so-far fruitless peace talks hang by a thread, the effort to delegitimize Israel by Palestinian authorities continues relentlessly, even in sports," according to Allon Sinai of the JERUSALEM POST. Since the FIFA Congress in Mauritius last summer, the Palestinian FA, headed by Chair Jibril Rajoub, "has threatened to seek the expulsion of Israel from world football’s governing body." The PFA "is demanding that Israeli security forces ease the travel restrictions on players and officials, with a recent incident in the West Bank bringing to the forefront the plight of Palestinian players, or their involvement in terrorist activity, depending on who you choose to believe." There "is no argument regarding the fact that Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot in the feet by Border Police troops." The Border Police spokesperson said that "they were seen just seconds before, throwing bombs at security forces." The fact that the two were football players "was exploited by Rajoub." The Israel FA "has done its very best to remain diplomatic on the matter and refused to comment on whether FIFA has handed it an ultimatum." The IFA said, “The Israel Football Association is adamant that there is no place to mix politics and sport. The Israel Football Association is working continually, professionally and in cooperation with FIFA on this subject" (JERUSALEM POST, 4/2).

Tennis player Laura Robson "was among several top players not to have been given an out-of-competition drugs test by the International Tennis Federation last year," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. The news "may come as a surprise" to many following calls from the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for more rigorous testing in tennis. Men’s player Juan Martin Del Potro and women’s player Jelena Jankovic "were also not tested by the ITF out of competition," according to figures it released on tests conducted on individual players. Those figures show Murray, Djokovic and Serena Williams "were tested between four and six times out of competition," while Federer and Rafael Nadal "were tested seven or more times each." It is also "highly unlikely the ITF made no attempt to test them outside of tournaments." Had it tried to do so during the one-hour period in which players are obliged to make themselves available for testing every day, their failure to attend "would be classed as a missed test" (TELEGRAPH, 4/2). In Bangalore, Pragya Tiwari reported the Int'l Association of Athletics Federation, "in a surprise move, has removed all the Indian athletes from its current Registered Testing Pool (RTP) despite the country sharing the top spot with Russia in the list of dope offenders." Both India and Russia have 53 athletes who are serving bans for doping offenses. This is the first time since Oct. '10 that the Indians have been left out of the IAAF’s RTP. The RTP "allows an international federation to keep tabs on top-level athletes or those with abnormal improvement graph to test them unannounced at their training bases and residences anywhere in the world" (DECCAN HERALD, 4/1).

April 10 "looms as D-Day for the central figure in the most scandalous drugs probe in Australian sport." The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's decision-making body will be "set to make a critical ruling on Stephen Dank." This follows ASADA's move last month "to issue the biochemist who has worked with footballers" from several Australian Football League and National Rugby League clubs with a ''show cause" letter for 34 alleged anti-doping rule breaches understood to focus almost entirely on his work at AFL club Essendon. Dank "did not respond to the show-cause letter within the 10-day window allowed, and does not intend to co-operate with ASADA under any circumstances" (THE AGE, 4/2). ... The New Zealand Rugby Union's integrity unit has made its first statement "issuing a directive for all players and administrators involved in the professional game to sign a pledge against corruption." Close to 2,000 people involved in the pro and semi-pro game, including players, coaches and managers, "have been warned against betting on rugby, regardless of whether it is played here, or overseas" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 4/2). ... Just days after members of Korea’s female curling team resigned, citing verbal abuse and sexual harassment by coaches, women of the short track speed skating team of Hwaseong city government "reported to police that their former coach, surnamed Lee, sexually harassed them during training." In response, the coach "filed a countercharge accusing the skaters of libel" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 4/2).