Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 6 No. 213

International Football

UEFA President Michel Platini "gave his backing to a European revolt" against FIFA President Sepp Blatter as the pressure on Blatter intensified on the eve of the World Cup finals, according to James Ducker of the LONDON TIMES. FA Chair Greg Dyke "was at the forefront of the co-ordinated attack over Blatter’s U-turn on his promise to stand down" in '15. He branded as "offensive" and "totally unacceptable" Blatter’s claims that the allegations of corruption surrounding the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid were driven by the "racism and discrimination" of the British media. Dyke’s attack on Blatter "was publicly supported" by FA vice-Chair and UEFA Exec Committee Member David Gill and Dutch FA President Michael van Praag. When asked about the response to Blatter, Platini replied, "I was very proud of the Europeans" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11). The PA's Martyn Ziegler wrote Dyke added that it was important to clarify whether FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia "has had access to the files of documents obtained by the Sunday Times alleging corruption in World Cup bidding" (PA, 6/11).

START THE FESTIVITIES: The AFP reported Blatter officially opened FIFA’s annual congress at a gala in Sao Paulo on Tuesday night "without mentioning the attacks or corruption controversy." Blatter: "Tonight we are in a festive mood because let’s say the discussions and all of what’s linked with FIFA and is so important nowadays." Platini "has been touted as a possible rival to Blatter "when the FIFA vote is held in May next year. Platini said that "he will only decide his candidacy in September" (AFP, 6/11). BEIN SPORTS reported Blatter "has hit back at calls for him to step down next year, and called for focus on the upcoming World Cup instead." Blatter: "What we need in this perturbed world, and through this World Cup and during the 32 days it is our wish, at least with our footballs, with our organization of the institution that all belligerent activities should stop in this day. And beyond then should stop and then all would be focused on football connecting people and constructing bridges" (BEIN SPORTS, 6/11).

'MAFIA FAMILY': In London, Tom Farmery reported former FA Chair David Triesman said FIFA is a "mafia family" and its president acts like Don Corleone. Triesman made his comments on the same day that Blatter delivered a speech in São Paulo, "which, rather than addressing allegations of corruption, instead praised his organisation’s integrity." Triesman said that FIFA “behaves like a mafia family” and “has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption." He said, “Don Corleone, I believe, would have recognized the tactics and he probably would have admired them. About half of its executive committee who voted on the last World Cup have had to go. Even its past president Joao Havelange has been removed from his honorary life presidency in his 90s." Triesman "was speaking during a debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords." Meanwhile in Brazil, Blatter "was delivering a speech" to the 64th FIFA Congress. Blatter: "We must carry the flame of honesty and responsibility and always with respect. If we do not we will betray the true spirit of this game we all love. Ladies and gentleman we must lead by example and we must listen to all voices" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11).

QATAR TO KEEP CUP? REUTERS' Mike Collett reported some FIFA insiders, who were not willing to speak on the record, said that "they believed events in Sao Paulo pointed to the increasing likelihood that Qatar would not have the World Cup taken away from it." To do so "would be a huge blow to the organisation's reputation, not to mention that of its president." A senior FIFA official said, "Mr. Blatter knows there is an election next year and there is little doubt he is going to stand for another term. If he controls the (African and Asian) confederations' votes, and stands by Qatar, there is very little chance of him losing this vote." A member of FIFA's exec committee added, "If he wants to be president and keep faith with the delegates who are clearly backing him, the World Cup will be in Qatar. It will not be moved" (REUTERS, 6/11). In London, David Conn wrote fair play, to coin a phrase, to Dyke, Gill, Platini and other senior figures of European football "for standing up to the global game’s tarnished chief," Blatter, and his "bare-faced plan to stand for another four years" as FIFA president. Yet "now they have to show they mean it." That "they really do want to see the end of the hideous dishonesty disfiguring a great sport, that they have the stomach for an actual fight, that they will work on a credible plan to overthrow Blatter and fumigate Fifa." Platini "is considered unlikely to stand." He "has looked at the prospect, of taking on a man whose power has been entrenched by the corrupt, unaccountable system itself, and balked." Platini is said to believe he will do better staying at UEFA and continuing work "which can at least achieve something, rather than take on a probable losing battle with Blatter" (GUARDIAN, 6/11).

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: In London, John Gapper wrote the contrast between FIFA’s "cronyism, managerial entrenchment and corruption," and its achievement in spreading the British version of football around the world "is striking." It demonstrates that FIFA "has enormous strengths as well as egregious weaknesses." The intriguing thing about FIFA is that a Swiss non-governmental organization, "which has operated in an unaccountable way, with a highly conflicted (and in some cases corrupt) relationship between its leaders and the football associations that are its closest equivalent to shareholders, has done so well." FIFA has "has two competitive advantages" over U.S. sporting bodies. The first is that football is integrated -- "amateur and professional games are unified through associations." FIFA’s second advantage is that "it is truly multinational" -- it launched a sustained push into emerging markets before U.S. and European multinationals such as Coca-Cola and adidas, two of the big World Cup sponsors. It "adjusted early to the shift in the global economy." FIFA’s advantages has given football strength in depth and reach, "and transformed the World Cup into a global tournament on a par with the Olympic Games." All of this "could be undermined" by FIFA’s flaws (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/11). In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote "it is a festival many do not want, but most of Brazil still desperately wants to win." FIFA can go home -- "but we'll keep that gold trophy, thanks very much." For all the negativity surrounding this World Cup --- from tear gas being used to quell striking rail workers in Sao Paulo on Monday to unfinished stadiums -- "it does not stop the pressure mounting on Brazil to win it." Neymar: "The goal is to win the World Cup. We know that there is a tremendous amount of pressure, it's almost an obligation" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/11).

FIFA "has voted down" attempts to consider age and term limits for its executives, in a move that could allow President Sepp Blatter "to continue as president indefinitely," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The referendum "required a simple majority" to take the proposals forward to next year’s FIFA congress, where they would have "needed the backing of 75% of members to be adopted." Both "were rejected out of hand," meaning the 78-year-old Blatter -- preparing to stand in '15 for another term "despite earlier promising this would be his last -- could theoretically carry on forever." The introduction of age or term limits "was one of seven outstanding reforms listed" by former chairman of FIFA Independent Governance Committee Chair Mark Pieth, "when it was disbanded" (GUARDIAN, 6/11). REUTERS' Andrew Downie reported FIFA "did not give an exact vote count." UEFA "was the only one of the six regional confederations to support the proposals but several delegates called the ideas unfair and restrictive." Haitian FA President Yves Jean Bart said, “We are completely against these changes. We are working in a democratic system and that is the system that needs to prevail” (REUTERS, 6/11). The PA's Martyn Ziegler noted Blatter "faced calls" from FA Chair Greg Dyke and a number of senior European members on Tuesday to keep to his '11 pledge and step down next year, but "he has made it clear to FIFA's 209 member nations that he intends to stand again" (PA, 6/11).

In a "potentially revolutionary move," FIFA President Sepp Blatter "has proposed introducing video technology to allow managers to challenge two decisions per match," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Blatter: “We could do something more on the field of play.” Blatter "had been a longstanding opponent of goalline technology before being converted by Frank Lampard’s 'ghost goal' at the 2010 World Cup." Blatter added, “Why don’t we give team managers the possibility of two challenges for refereeing during a match? If a manager disagrees with a decision, he could ask for an immediate TV review with a referee.” After lengthy debate, the Int'l FA Board introduced goal-line technology last season, but the move to subjective video challenges "would be a significant departure." Scottish FA CEO Stewart Regan, who sits on the IFAB board, said that Blatter’s comments "had come out of the blue and it would take at least 20 months of technical work before any vote could be held." Regan: “It would be a complete departure from what we’ve said so far in that goalline technology is black and white. If a manager has an appeal and that results in the game being stopped, that interferes with how you and I understand football operates” (GUARDIAN, 6/11). BLOOMBERG's Tariq Panja noted football "is using goal-line technology for the first time at the World Cup." While sports, including tennis, have used video reviews to ensure the accuracy of rulings, football "has resisted because of the free-flowing nature of the game" (BLOOMBERG, 6/11).

FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia has asked the Sunday Times "to provide him with all the evidence from its investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Garcia "is willing to examine any material obtained by the media in recent weeks, despite having announced that his inquiry had concluded on Monday." It is also understood that former exec committee member Franz Beckenbauer "was not the only former member" who chose the location for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups "not to co-operate with Garcia" (TELEGRAPH, 6/11). The AP's Graham Dunbar reported Garcia "has already seen most of the evidence" published by the Sunday Times. Garcia told FIFA's congress on Wednesday "the vast majority of that material has been available to us for some time" (AP, 6/11). In London, Joe Leahy reported Brazil President Dilma Rousseff’s chances of re-election for a second term in October "are hanging in the balance" as Brazil prepares for the World Cup. The center-left president "staged an impassioned plea" on TV late Tuesday for Brazilians "to abandon their scepticism about the expense of the tournament but polls showed her approval ratings sliding." While most still see Rousseff "as a favourite to win," Nomura economist Tony Volpon said that the odds "were tipping against the incumbent." Volpon: “We now think Dilma is likely to lose to Aécio Neves in a closely-contested second round” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/11).

FIFA "plans to pay out" $200M in total bonuses to its national members and confederations from its World Cup revenue of an estimated $4.5B, according to the AP. FIFA Finance Dir Markus Kattner said that each of the 209 member countries will get $250,000 this month and should get a further $500,000 early next year. The planned bonuses are a $200,000 raise "compared to the payments made after the 2010 World Cup" (AP, 6/11). REUTERS' Anthony Boadle wrote FIFA defended itself on Tuesday from criticism that "it is making big bucks from the most costly World Cup in history at the expense of the Brazilian people." FIFA said in a statement that it has covered the entire $2B operational costs of the World Cup "with money from the sale of World Cup TV and marketing rights, and not a cent will be footed by Brazilian taxpayers." The tournament will cost Brazil 25.8B reais ($11.5B) "in investments in stadiums, airports, urban transport and other infrastructure improvements." FIFA said that "it was Brazil's choice to build 12 stadiums instead of opting for eight or 10, and investments include infrastructure not directly linked to the World Cup that will benefit the country for years to come" (REUTERS, 6/10). WILTSHIRE BUSINESS reported PricewaterhouseCoopers has turned to "econometrics" in a bid to determine success and failure at the FIFA World Cup. PwC economist Dan Broadfield said, “In previous analyses of the Olympic Games, we found a strong link between medal totals and the size of the economy. But no such relationship has been found for the World Cup.” The result of analysing all the key variables is a "PwC World Cup Index." This clearly indicates that Brazil is favorite this year, "due to footballing tradition and home advantage; but Germany, Argentina and Spain will push them hard" (WILTSHIRE BUSINESS, 6/11). CBC's Pete Evans wrote College of the Holy Cross Economics Professor Victor Matheson said that although some countries and cities have managed to profit from well-run major sports events such as the World Cup and the Olympics, they are "far from the norm." Matheson: "The economic benefit is typically zero." Matheson said even when there is a modest gain, "it's not enough to justify the price tag" (CBC, 6/10).

World Cup workers "have been advised to keep a low profile in Brazilian cities amid growing fears of protests when the tournament kicks off." FIFA and other tournament agencies "have advised staff on security measures, including the wearing of non-branded clothing, to avoid being targeted by protesters." After violent demonstrations at the Confederations Cup last summer, FIFA "is worried that anyone associated with the World Cup could be vulnerable." It has "reduced the branding on many staff vehicles in Brazil." Workers at the tournament "have been advised on avoiding trouble and measures to take if they are caught up in riots." Police "are planning large exclusion zones around the stadiums to ensure that the tournament is not disrupted, but demonstrations are still expected in many city centres" (LONDON TIMES, 6/11). ... Authorities in western Bangladesh "pleaded with football fans Tuesday to remove tens of thousands of Brazilian and Argentinian flags from their rooftops as World Cup fever grips the normally cricket-mad nation." Mustafizur Rahman, government administrator of Jessore district, which is home to 2.7 million people, said that "the mass display of support for the tournament’s two favourites was disrespectful to Bangladesh’s own flag" (PAKISTAN TODAY, 6/10). ... A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll "showed that just under three in 10 people consider themselves to be fans" of professional football in the U.S. A similar number said that "they planned to watch World Cup matches." But a natural fan base born out of the country's popular youth football programs "could change that." Perhaps "the biggest sign" that football has made it in the U.S. was the $250M, three-year rights deal struck by U.S. broadcaster NBC with the EPL in '12. At the time, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said the league was "on the cusp of exponential popularity growth" in the U.S. (AFP, 6/11). ... In Thailand, local broadcast-rights holder RS "struck a deal with TrueVisions, meaning many subscribers will now be able to watch the games without paying extra." But that still leaves the majority of fans with a dilemma: fork out 1,590 baht ($49) for an RS World Cup set-top box to ensure they do not miss a single game in the once-every-four-years event, "or stick with free TV where only 22 of the 64 matches will be broadcast." It is "not just fans in Thailand." Across the globe, viewers "are having to pay extra for the satellite and cable TV feeds of the tournament." Fans in Hong Kong "have to sign up for two years of cable service" at the equivalent of 160 baht ($5) per month, while U.S.-based pay-TV subscribers "need to cough up" an extra $10 (THE NATION, 6/11). ... FIFA President Sepp Blatter "suggested that football could one day be played on other planets when he made his opening address to delegates at the start of its 64th Congress on Wednesday." Blatter: "From north to west to east and south ... and we shall wonder if one day our game is played on other planets and then one day we won’t have the World Cup, we will have interplanetary contests." Blatter's "light-hearted remarks came at the start of what is likely to be a hugely important Congress" (REUTERS, 6/12).

Wales will play its opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Andorra "on a 3G artificial pitch." The FA of Wales had previously said that the Andorran FA "wanted the game to be played at the new national stadium, which is being built" (BBC, 6/11). ... Cambodia-Vietnam Investment Association President and BIDC Bank representative Chin Pak Hour donated $100,000 to the Football Federation of Cambodia "during a ceremony held at the FFC headquarters on Monday." Chin Pak Hour "also promised identical grants from the bank for the next four years" (PHNOM PENH POST, 6/11).