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Volume 6 No. 216

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Plans to form the Chinese American Football League, a new initiative to bring pro indoor football to major Chinese cities, were formally announced on Thursday. Arena Football League Philadelphia Soul Owner Marty Judge, who says he has two offices already opened in China with 30 employees, is spearheading the initiative. ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and former NFL coach Dick Vermeil both have equity in the league. The press release claims the league has formal Chinese government approval, a necessity with any initiative in the country. Judge said the Chinese Rugby Football Association, which oversees ball sports in China, has blessed the new league. Judge noted his AFL club is not involved in the Chinese venture. Judge: “The cities are locked in. We are playing in government arenas, the government owns the arenas, they are host and sponsor." American football is a rarity in China, with a few amateur teams currently playing in a country with a population of 1.3 billion. The NFL's efforts to date have been digital-focused and aimed at promoting flag football. It is from those flag football efforts that the new CAFL will draw. Judge said he chose to push indoor instead of outdoor football because of the dearth of stadiums in China. Air quality also is a concern with any outdoor activity in major Chinese cities. David Niu, a former rugby exec, will serve as CAFL Commissioner. The league plans to start with eight teams and sell them for a price of $10M each. It has begun approaching various potential buyers, although sources said that the WWE already has turned down an offer to buy a team (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).

MIX OF CHINESE, AMERICAN PLAYERS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote Judge said that the CAFL's 20-man rosters "will be divided evenly between Chinese and American players," with the American players coming from the AFL and colleges. Jaworski said, "What we’re finding in our research is that there are many Chinese players in the States, maybe not at Michigan or Ohio State but some high-caliber players at lower-level colleges who, as they hear about us, would like to play.” He added, "Like any endeavor, there is some risk involved. No one else has tried it. I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re highly confident this will work. I think we can find great passion for football in China.” Judge noted that he "expected the league to have 30 teams in five years" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14).

FOLLOWING THE MONEY: Judge noted there are "tons" of billionaires in China and they "don’t have enough soccer teams and sports teams to buy." Judge: "I'm going to solve that problem." CNBC's Joe Kernen asked, "So you're going to sell this to (NFL Commissioner Roger) Goodell in a couple of years for $2 billion?" Judge said Goodell "knows what I'm doing and he knows where I am." Meanwhile, Judge noted he is leading an effort to establish an NCAA-style association for universities in China to begin playing each other in football ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 8/14). BLOOMBERG's Erik Matuszewski wrote the CAFL "will kick off its professional season" in Sept. '15. In addition to a championship game, played at the home stadium of the team with the league’s best record, the CAFL "plans to have an All-Star game after the season in Macau." While the "fledgling league has a large potential fan base in China, it also has an uphill climb." American football just makes the top 20 of China’s most popular sports, according to CSM Media Research, "ranking far behind Olympic events such as ping pong, gymnastics, swimming and badminton." NFL China Managing Dir Richard Young said that growing interest in American football "has been a gradual process." Young said, "I’ve been based out in Asia for over 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of people rush in, look at China as the new big thing and expect returns to come quickly. That’s a very difficult thing, in any industry, but especially in sports. It’s a bit different over here. You don’t have the media base from which to draw revenues because television is state-controlled" (BLOOMBERG, 8/14).

A A$600,000 ($560,000) apartment in Ryde "has exposed connections" between National Rugby League side Parramatta Eels and the family of corrupt ex-Labor MP, Eddie Obeid, according to Massoud, Hooper & Wilson of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. An investigation "found prop Darcy Lussick bought the two-bedroom apartment in a new 400-unit complex at Top Ryde just over 12 months ago from a company solely controlled by one of Obeid’s five sons, Gerard Obeid." The A$600,000 purchase price was A$30,000 less than what Gerard Obeid’s company, Pope Property Holdings Pty Ltd. (Pope Property), "paid for the unit three-and-a-half months earlier." But Lussick’s Manager Wayne Beavis said that "the transaction was part of a legitimate Marquee Player Agreement" backed by appropriate paperwork (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 8/15). In Sydney, McClymont & Proszenko reported the NRL "will investigate whether there are any salary cap implications." The NRL "is in the process of conducting a mid-year review of each club's salary caps and the Eels matter will come under scrutiny as part of the audit." An NRL spokesperson said, ''We are not commenting on specifics about Parramatta. All clubs have regular mid-year salary reviews and Parramatta will be part of that process" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/15).

The Spanish Football League (LFP) released a statement on Thursday announcing a suspension of the start of second division play after a judge's "demand that the league allow Real Murcia to participate in the second division," according to AS. The LFP's statement "opposed the Madrid court's ruling" and followed a subsequent ruling on Thursday from the Spanish Sport Ministry's Administrative Court (TAD), which denied (for the second time) Murcia's request to "participate in the second division." The LFP said in its statement, "The LFP wants to respond to the court's demand and the decisions taken regarding Real Murcia's participation in the second division. ... The LFP's Delegate Committee will meet on Monday to address the Madrid court's ruling, which orders the inclusion of Real Murcia, and to also review the resolution from the TAD on Thursday, which rejected Real Murcia's request. ... On Monday, the board of the second division will meet to analyze the necessary agreements adopted by the Delegate Committee after reviewing the Madrid court's demand and the TAD's resolution" (AS, 8/14).

National Rugby League clubs "will be asked to hand over secret player training information" -- but it could cost the game’s governing body a "whopping" A$10M ($9.3M) in compensation, according to Dean Ritchie of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Some "angry clubs will refuse to pass over the GPS training data, despite the NRL claiming to want the information for player welfare." Clubs "are suspicious about the NRL’s motives." The NRL denied that "it would withhold funding from the annual grant should clubs fail to co-operate." Clubs claim that "the information won’t be handed over without some financial compensation." Clubs "will consider banding together on the issue" and seek about A$10M between them from the NRL (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 8/15).

The Spanish Basketball League (ACB) on Thursday published its second calendar for the upcoming season, "this time with Bilbao Basket, which was excluded from the first schedule released 10 days ago." Bilbao President Xabier Jon Davalillo visited ACB headquarters on Wednesday to "sign paperwork for his club's readmission" (AS, 8/14). ... Several former Taiwanese professional baseball players convicted of match-fixing "are expected to avoid prison terms by paying fines, after a controversial ruling on one of Taiwan's worst sport scandals." The high court said in a statement late Wednesday that "it had reduced the prison terms of six former players to up to three years in a final ruling." All except Tseng Han-chou -- who was convicted of extortion -- "can pay fines in exchange for imprisonment" (AFP, 8/14). ... National Rugby League side Brisbane Broncos "violated a long-standing Australian tradition of football clubs being apolitical by making two donations to the Liberal/National Party." Under “Disclosure Return -- Donor to Registered Political Party,” the Electoral Commission Queensland lists a donation of A$3,000 to the Liberal National Party on May 31 last year and A$1,200 to the lord mayor’s office in Feb. '12 (BRISBANE TIMES, 8/13). ... Int'l Cricket Council Chair N. Srinivasan indicated that Vizag, the cricketing nerve center of Andhra Cricket Association, "could be accorded Test status if it complied with the international specifications." Srinivasan: "It is a matter of time before Vizag hosted a Test" (MUMBAI MIRROR, 8/14). ... Rajasthan Cricket Association Deputy President Mahmoud M. Abdi said that the ad-hoc body set up by the Board of Control for Cricket in India "is illegal and it is only the Registrar of Co-operative Societies that can form a committee under the Rajasthan Sports Act, 2005 to run the affairs of cricket in the state." Abdi said that both the BCCI and RCA "are registered bodies under the Registrar of Co-operative Societies and it is only the registrar who is authorised to form an ad-hoc committee if needed" (IANS, 8/14). ... The 18-month long investigation into the "supplements program" at National Rugby League side Cronulla in '11 is "set to move a step closer to finalisation with players who were at the club three years ago told to be on standby" for a meeting with Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority investigators next week (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/14). ... A German court said that F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has made the $100M payment "he agreed to last week," meaning the bribery case is "formally closed" (AP, 8/13). ... The Australian Football League Players Association's hierarchy "could be revamped further" in light of acting AFLPA CEO Ian Prendergast's preference to "stay at the organisation and work alongside" incoming AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh, "despite missing out on the CEO's position." There is a "sense within the expanding organisation that a new and senior role focused on stakeholder engagement -- with current and retired players, clubs, coaches, the AFL and the AFLPA’s broader management team -- would be beneficial" (THE AGE, 8/14).