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Volume 10 No. 23

International Football

An FA commission set up to investigate ways of improving the England side "wants to allow Premier League clubs to enter B teams in lower divisions" beginning in '16-17, according to Sam Holden of REUTERS. The FA also recommended "a reduction in the number of non-home grown players allowed in a top-flight squad" from 17 to 12 by '20-21. The commission was set up by FA Chair Greg Dyke and "features figures from across the game" including ManU and ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand, former England Manager Glenn Hoddle and current England Manager Roy Hodgson (REUTERS, 5/8). The BBC reported the commission's review sets an "ambitious but realistic" target of increasing the number of English players in the Premier League by 45% by '22. The report stated, "There should be 90 English players playing over 50% of minutes in the Premier League compared with 66 today -- of these 30 should be playing in the top six teams in the Premier League compared with the 18 today." The "most controversial proposal" would be establishing a new League Three in '16-17, made up of 10 Premier League B teams and 10 Football Conference sides (BBC, 5/8). On the B team issue, Dyke said, "We believe that the introduction of ‘B’ teams into the English footballing system would greatly enhance the development of our most talented youngsters, many of whom currently play in the Under 21 Premier League with limited prospect of breaking the vicious circle of insufficient experience to make the jump to the first team" (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). In London, Henry Winter reported Dyke "has the support of influential people within the game who have read the Commission’s proposals and back them fully." This includes Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre, ManU Exec Vice Chair Ed Woodward as well as officials at Man City, Tottenham and Stoke City. Hodgson, who was one of the commission’s members, backed "the findings and recommendations." The commission "attacked the number of foreigners in Premier League squads." Dyke: "We propose the maximum number of non-Home Grown Players allowed in a Premier League squad should be reduced over five years from 17 to 12" (TELEGRAPH, 5/8).

ENCOUNTERING RESISTANCE: Also in London, Owen Gibson reported Dyke "has potentially set himself on a collision course with the Premier League" by concluding that the recently introduced U21 league, due to be revamped into an under-23 league, and the £340M ($576M) invested in the elite player performance plan "is not sufficient to produce the level of change required." Organizations, including the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct, "have already said they will oppose the plans for B teams to play in the Football League" (GUARDIAN, 5/8). In London, Tom Vickers wrote plans to create a new division to accommodate B teams "have been roundly condemned as 'damaging' and a threat to 'years of tradition' by fans and clubs from the Football League and non-League." Peterborough Chair Darragh MacAnthony "appeared to criticise" Dyke. MacAnthony wrote on his Twitter account, “My thoughts on this B team scenario - It’s all about ME, ME & ME from the FA/Prem & to hell with the rest of you. Can’t be allowed to happen!" A petition "has been set up by angry supporters, attracting over 5,000 signatures," with the hashtag #SayNoToLeague3 "trending on Twitter." Lewis Horwell, who set up the petition, said, “Greg Dyke’s proposal for ‘B’ teams in the English Football Pyramid will ruin years of tradition and ruin English football for the real fans. Let’s be the voice for the real every day football fan.” Supporters Direct, a group that helps fans to set up democratic cooperatives to gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs, also "suggested there is a problem in terms of coaching." SD said that "needs focusing on rather than the B team concept -- which it believes will serve to reinforce the system of player development that currently results in the stockpiling of talent'' -- and called for broader distribution of wealth in the game (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). Also in London, Oliver Kay wrote the "greatest tension surrounds the League Three proposal." While Dyke did not "disclose a figure," it is understood he and the FA board have talked about an "annual fee of £2 million per club -- £20 million in total -- for fielding a B team in League Three." That cost "would be added to existing solidarity payments from the Premier League" (LONDON TIMES, 5/9).

FOOTBALL LEAGUE HITS BACK: SKY SPORTS reported the Football League called Dyke's team proposal "not acceptable at the current time." Dyke on Thursday "revealed the findings of a Commission formed eight months ago to address -- among other issues -- a lack of opportunity for young English players at elite domestic level." The Football League issued a statement in response to the findings, "urging continued dialogue with the FA but making clear it considers the initial plan unworkable." CEO Shaun Harvey said, "While the report may not contain a solution that is acceptable at the current time, we should continue to engage with the Commission to establish whether there is a solution that meets its stated objective but does not leave The Football League carrying a disproportionate or unreasonable burden" (SKY SPORTS, 5/8).

Spanish airline Iberia will "increase by 124% its offers on flights from Madrid to Lisbon to make available a total of 12,000 seats" for the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atlético, according to the EFE. For the final, which will take place on May 24, Iberia will offer 76 flights -- 22 of which will be additional -- from May 22-25 to "allow Iberia to bring not only Real Madrid to Lisbon, but also thousands of fans of both clubs." Of the 22 additional flights, "12 will be charter and the other 10 will be regular flights." Iberia "is also planning to use bigger planes for these flights" (EFE, 5/8). The EFE reported in a separate piece Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa "responded to complaints of hotel prices in Lisbon" the weekend of the match by saying, "We will all see in Lisbon a great city that happily welcomes whoever visits." For Atlético and Real fans "without tickets for the final," Costa indicated that "large TV screens will be installed in the city." Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said that she is "in contact with both clubs to offer opportunities to see the game in other ways without leaving the Spanish capital" (MARCA, 5/8).

Argentine FA President Julio Grondona said following meetings with Argentine government officials that "the subject of funding for the AFA's new 30-team format for the first division is 95% resolved and that it will be solved definitively by July 4, with Prode Bancado as a key element," according to LOS ANDES. Everything "is on track, with betting system Prode Bancado playing a fundamental role." The AFA is "continuing to evaluate various alternatives to polish final details" (LOS ANDES, 5/8).

Italy's sports court has ordered Serie A side Napoli to play two matches "behind closed doors," according to FOOTBALL ITALIA. The decision was made on Thursday "following the behavior of Azzurri ultras at the team’s Coppa Italia final meeting with Fiorentina on Saturday." Napoli has also been hit with a fine of €60,000 ($83,200) for the events that took place, but its opponent Fiorentina "did not escape punishment either." Fiorentina has been ordered to play one match behind a closed Curva Fiesole, "though it is suspended for the time being, for discriminatory chanting at the match." The club has also been issued a €20,000 ($27,700) penalty (FOOTBALL ITALIA, 5/7).