Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 10 No. 22

Leagues and Governing Bodies

UEFA President Michel Platini "will not take on" FIFA President Sepp Blatter for the leadership of FIFA, according to the BBC. The 59-year-old former France player "had considered running as a candidate in next year's presidential election." But he told a meeting of 54 European football associations in Monte Carlo on Thursday that "he wants to concentrate on leading the European administrative body instead." He said on Thursday that "he will now push for Europe to be allocated more World Cup places" -- from 13 to 15 -- for Russia 2018. Following his decision, Platini said, "What matters here is not me or my feelings. What matters is the future of UEFA, and of football." FIFA Exec Committee Member Michel D'Hooghe said of Platini's latest stance, "It was a very positive message -- he said he would like to continue as UEFA president and I am pleased that it means that this time there will be no battle between FIFA and UEFA" (BBC, 8/28). In London, Ben Rumsby wrote Platini immediately denied he was "afraid" of entering an unwinnable contest. He said, "In 2007, I ran against Lennart Johansson, the standing [UEFA] president. It wasn’t a mean feat to beat him. I can’t be accused of being afraid of Mr. Blatter, because I proved my stuff in 2007." He also said that no decision had been taken on whether UEFA would put up another candidate next year, "amid concerns Blatter could run without credible opposition for the second successive election." Platini "is still seething at his former ally’s reneging on a promise that the current term would be his last and the Frenchman publicly withdrew his backing for the 78-year-old just before the World Cup." Platini promised to fight Blatter’s plan "to cut Europe’s 13 places at the World Cup finals." He said, "I have no intention of losing one place, one seat at the World Cup. But I have the intention to ask for one more, because we are world champion" (TELEGRAPH, 8/28).

NO VIABLE CHALLENGER: ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti wrote Platini's decision almost certainly means Blatter "will run the world game for another four years, right through his 83rd birthday." The supposition "had been that Platini would stand against Blatter if he believed he had a chance of defeating him." The fact that he will, instead, seek another term at the helm of UEFA suggests "Blatter's grip on FIFA and the bulk of its 209 member nations is as strong as ever." The problem is that "someone" either does not exist or, like Platini, is not "coming forward to challenge Blatter." Further, if he or she did, it is "hard to see how he or she could win, given the current FIFA boss' stranglehold, particularly among certain confederations" (ESPN, 8/28). BLOOMBERG's Tariq Panja wrote Platini’s withdrawal leaves former FIFA Deputy Secretary-General Jerome Champagne "as the only declared challenger." Platini, who is on FIFA’s exec committee, called on the panel’s members to challenge Blatter more in future rather than be "lambs that always say yes." Platini: "They must not always let Mr. Blatter be omnipresent and omnipotent. The executive committee needs to find its courage to be a counterbalance to Mr. Blatter" (BLOOMBERG, 8/28).

The Indian Super League, "the first of its kind" football league in India, was launched Thursday by team owners Sachin Tendulkar, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and brand ambassador Varun Dhawan, according to the PTI. The promoters of ISL, IMG-Reliance and Star India, "unveiled all eight team owners." The league's logo "was also unveiled during the ceremony." The inaugural season of the ISL "will be played" from Oct. 12-Dec. 20 in eight Indian cities. The ISL "promises to revolutionise the country's football scene like never before" but the All India Football Federation maintained that "its poorer and older cousin, I-League, continues to be the mainstay of the sport." AIFF President Praful Patel said at the logo launch, "This is the first tournament of this nature approved by FIFA" (PTI, 8/28). The AFP reported Tendulkar on Thursday "threw his weight" behind the upcoming ISL. Tendulkar said, "There is a lot of sporting talent in the country, but no platform to showcase the talent. Perhaps ISL is the answer." Tendulkar "is co-owner of the Kochi franchise." Tendulkar said, "My vision for India is sport for all. It is not about being professional but staying healthy and fit" (AFP, 8/28). INDIAN TELEVISION reported Star India COO Sanjay Gupta said, "This is the birth of a footballing nation. This is something that has never been attempted before and marks a historic turning point for the future of football in India." Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan "was declared as the new team owner of the Chennai franchise" (INDIAN TELEVISION, 8/28).

DEL PIERO SIGNS ON: The AFP reported Italian World Cup winner and former A-League club Sydney FC player Alessandro Del Piero was unveiled as the latest ISL marquee signing on Thursday. Reports said that the 39-year-old "had agreed to play for the Delhi Dynamos in the 10-week tournament." Although some top Indian players "have agreed to ISL deals, national captain Sunil Chhetri is among several internationals who have so far declined to join the league." Although the eight-month I-League has suspended matches during the ISL, several owners are opposed to the new tournament, saying that "it risks undermining grassroots football" (AFP, 8/28). ZEE NEWS reported "the latest to jump into the Indian bandwagon" is former EPL side West Bromwich Albion Manager Steve Clarke. The Scottish manager "expressed his desire to join the league." Talking about a possible move to India, he said, "It’s definitely something I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to and I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand" (ZEE NEWS, 8/28). FIRST POST's Pulasta Dhar wrote "What do you think?" was the "most common question journalist fired to journalist after the official launch." There was a common answer too: "Tamasha (theater)." Good tamasha or bad tamasha "is something that we will have to wait and see, but tamasha it is." And "why not?" In a country where cricket rules, "if another sport wants to steal the spotlight, it has to have an element of tamasha." To write off the ISL before it has begun "would be unfair." Yes, it does "promise a lot of things that we can look at sceptically: stadium renovations, top-class production value on television and mobile and development of grassroots football -- the last of which will be the toughest to achieve." But it has also kept most of its promises: "launching a league on a big scale with well-known players who were world class in their heyday" (FIRST POST, 8/28).

THE INSPIRATION: In Mumbai, Mergulhao & Kumar wrote the ISL "not only hopes to rekindle the country's love for football but also to motivate millions of youngsters to take to the beautiful game." As the IMG-Reliance League is set for launch, "the inspiration behind it," IMG-Reliance Chair Nita Ambani, spoke about her dreams for Indian football.

Q: Your interest and passion in sport may have started almost by default with the Mumbai Indians team. The Indian Super League takes it to a different level altogether.
Nita Ambani: Indeed. The Indian Super League is an initiative that aims to revolutionize football in our country. It's the beginning of a new journey and we hope to inspire and motivate millions of youth to play this beautiful game.

Q: It must have been a tough haul, putting something as big as this in place. What kind of hurdles did you face?
Ambani: Hurdles are only in our mind, isn't it? I look at the other side of the coin and only see abundant opportunities in every challenge.

Q: What is your vision for the game, for the future of football in India?
Ambani: We are a nation of billion-plus, but today most Indian fans, including my own two sons, only talk of EPL, La Liga or the Arsenals of the world. We are hoping to build a system to nurture talent and make our own national football heroes. There is no doubt in my mind on the immense potential India possesses. We have tried our best with our hearts. As the founding chairperson of Football Sports Development, my key area of focus would be on creating an eco-system for the grassroots programme on a national scale.

Q: How far are you, personally, and as a powerful conglomerate, going to go to make this a far out success?
Ambani: We need to look at both ends of the pyramid. Other than the marketability aspect of Indian football at the top, we equally felt the need to build the sport with a "bottoms-up approach," with a strong grassroots program. ... I would like to see millions of children just having fun with the ball. They should be able to run with the ball, dribble and just enjoy themselves. If we can introduce football to our little kids with an appropriate training curriculum, I think we will be heralding a new generation of footballers (TIMES OF INDIA, 8/28).

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has "promised to get even with critics who predicted his downfall from a bribery trial, which he settled earlier this month," according to Christian Sylt for the London INDEPENDENT. He paid $100M to prosecutors in Germany to "put the brakes on charges that he paid a bribe to steer the sale of Formula One" to his preferred buyer, CVC. Ecclestone: "Now I am in a position where I have got a little bit more time and I shall follow my old idea in life: 'Don’t get mad, get even.' I haven't got mad but I’m going to get even." He said that "high on his list is Dieter Hahn, a German businessman on the board of media rights company Constantin Medien." The settlement "paves the way" for CVC to sell its 35% stake in the sport. According to recent reports, "possible buyers include Virgin Media's owner Liberty Global, Disney" and Ecclestone himself. He said, "Disney is a nice company. Nice people. Lots of people have looked at buying Formula One. Until they start looking at what they have got to pay, it is coffee-shop talk" (INDEPENDENT, 8/28).

National Rugby League coaches have "hit out at a proposal to add a third whistleblower to the field" from '16, believing the move "would lead to more mistakes and inconsistency," according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The NRL is in the process of "undertaking a sweeping review of the refereeing ranks." Though most coaches said that the "mooted video bunker system could lead to greater consistency, they were scathing about the prospect of throwing another referee into the fray." Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter said, "It will finish up turning into gridiron when you get those flags thrown in all the time because there's been an infringement somewhere. You'd lose the flow of the game." Manly coach Geoff Toovey has been one of the "most vocal proponents for going back to a one-referee system," as is the case with int'l fixtures. Toovey said of the prospect of three refs, "with tongue firmly planted" in cheek, "I think they should probably put five or six on. Give us someone else to yell at and complain about. Bring it on" (SMH, 8/28).

Round 25 of the First Utility Super League "is being dedicated to the charity State of Mind in an attempt to raise awareness of psychological problems in the sport." More than 1,000 players, coaches and support staff from Super League and the Championships have attended sessions organized by State of Mind, which was established in '11 "in response to the tragic death" of the former Wigan and England player Terry Newton (PA, 8/27). ... The Australian Football League pressured the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Association to "name and shame Essendon staff who received injections" during the '12 season in a report ­subsequently used to "dump the Bombers from last year's finals series, ban James Hird from coaching for a year and sanction other club officials." Documents published on Thursday detailed a meeting between AFL Integrity Manager Brett Clothier and former ASADA acting CEO Trevor Burgess in which Clothier "pressed the anti-doping body" to identify in its report "any staff who took part in the supplements regime" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/29).