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Volume 6 No. 234

International Football

The future of Australian football "now rests in the hands" of FIFA after an ¬≠extraordinary day that left the sport "embarrassed and in turmoil," according to Ray Gatt of THE AUSTRALIAN. In a "stunning day of farce and backstabbing," the warring parties involved in a "long-running dispute" over the make-up of the sport’s governing congress on Thursday failed to reach an agreement. The parties remain at odds despite numerous meetings that involved deals being finalized, only to be "twice derailed after alleged interventions" by Football Federation Australia Chair Steven Lowy. Failing any "highly unlikely" last-minute deals or interventions, it will "now be left to FIFA to determine what happens next." And it is not "going to be good." A-League club chairs were "left stunned and angry" with Thursday’s turn of events after it appeared they had "twice won the battle to get a greater say in the running of the sport." It is believed the agreements would have "secured the clubs five seats on the congress, an increase of four under a revamped 9-5-1 set-up" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/11). In Sydney, Dominic Bossi reported the first agreement was "all but reached late on Wednesday night at a private meeting" between the clubs, Professional Footballers Australia and the state federations at a hotel near Hyde Park. Sources alleged that after hearing news of the deal, Lowy called the state chairs into his Westfield office, "where a heated exchange is said to have taken place." The next morning, the deal between the clubs and the states "was off." Talks between all parties resumed at 10am on Thursday. The clubs, states and players "held private discussions again" during the lunch break and returned to FFA HQ in unison, having again reached consensus, agreeing on specific terms surrounding the 9-5-1 model. Upon their return, Lowy is understood to have "requested another private meeting with the state federations, sidelining FIFA, the clubs and the PFA out of the room." More than two hours later, the doors were opened and the clubs, the PFA and FIFA were "allowed back into the room, where it was announced the deal was once again off" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/10).

FA execs hope that a successful England bid to host Women's Euro 2021 "will help to persuade" ManU to launch a women’s team, according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. ManU is the "only Premier League side not to have a women's team playing at some level," and the FA believes that "the growth of the game" will make the club change its mind. The bid for Euro 2021 was announced at Wembley on Wednesday. FA CEO Martin Glenn said that a successful '21 bid may convince ManU that the time is "right to launch a women's team." Glenn: "Half the population is female and they like football. Getting them on board is a good commercial thing to do, as well as the right thing to do. We think the Women's Super League is going to continue to attract clubs into it" (LONDON TIMES, 8/10). In London, Jack Austin reported the FA "denied suggestions" it is bidding to host Euro 2021 "as part of a grander plan" to host a men's major tournament. The organization instead hopes that the move will inspire ManU to "finally form a women's team." Women's football is "already expected to overtake netball in popularity by next year and it is that buzz" that the FA wants to capitalize on. Glenn: "Women's football is one of the FA's priorities and in terms of things we could have bid for, this is the one that seemed to make the most sense. It's not part of a bigger game plan, it just made sense. We'd love to stage a World Cup and a Euros in future, every big country would, but this is not a stepping stone, this is an objective in its own right to drive the women's game." Glenn hopes that a winning English bid for Euro 2021 will open ManU's eyes to "the plethora of commercial opportunities available in the women's game" (INDEPENDENT, 8/10). In London, Ben Rumsby reported Glenn revealed the FA "would submit a nationwide bid" for the '21 event, "pledging to hold matches at Wembley," with an intention for other fixtures to be played at Premier League grounds. He said of ManU, "They're a smart organization and I think the incentives for competing in the Super League are going to continue to grow. So, I think they will, in time, figure out it's in their interest to do it" (TELEGRAPH, 8/9).

West Ham is "the most expensive club for an adult and two children to watch" in the Premier League, costing £150 ($194.69) for the three-person outing, according to Paul Nicholson of INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL. In contrast, the same outing to Bournemouth would cost £44 ($57.11), and £47 ($61) at Newcastle. With Premier League clubs "generally operating at full capacity," it seems the economic law of price being dictated by supply and demand is "only operating in London," where West Ham is followed by Arsenal as the second-most expensive at £113.50 ($147.31) and Chelsea at £100 ($129.79). The analysis of the cost of attending football matches in the EPL by Liverpool University football finance expert Kieran Maguire "looked at prices being charged by clubs for the forthcoming season to see different strategies being employed." Maguire said that clubs have "different strategies depending upon the extent of the fanbase, and how tolerant fans are of paying different prices to watch different opposition." He added, "We have therefore contrasted prices charged when the opposition is a glamour club (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, etc.) or a small club, such as Crystal Palace. Some clubs (Liverpool, Burnley, Bournemouth, Huddersfield for example) charge identical prices regardless of the opposing team." Maguire also pointed to the "large and growing market for football tourism" as a factor in changing the matchday ticketing landscape (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 8/10).

The FA conceded that it "may be forced to change the FA Cup to a mainly midweek tournament" with replays scrapped from the fourth round onward as "part of moves to reduce fixture congestion and allow a winter break." FA CEO Martin Glenn confirmed that talks about "reducing the fixture pile-up" and having a midseason break have been revived, but "any change would have to wait" until '22 (LONDON TIMES, 8/10).

Almost two-thirds of football fans believe the sport is corrupt, with "more than half believing it to be riddled with cover-ups and scandals." According to a Populus survey, football was "labelled the least trustworthy of 12 sports on issues such as match-fixing, doping, and financial corruption." Eighty percent of athletics fans believe it has a "major problem with performance-enhancing drugs." Darts and golf, in contrast, were "perceived to be the most honest pursuits" among the 2,000 people questioned (HERALD SCOTLAND, 8/10).

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy in NFL players, is convinced that "scores of British footballers are also suffering from the devastating disease." He warned that association football "cannot survive as the world's most popular sport if it fails to address the dangers of catastrophic brain injury among its players." Omalu is calling for the "most comprehensive overhaul ever of the rules governing youth football" (London TELEGRAPH, 8/9).

The Senegalese Professional Football League handed a seven-year ban to US Ouakam "following the crowd trouble which left eight people dead" during the League Cup final against Stade de Mbour last month. The LSFP's disciplinary committee said that it holds US Ouakam "exclusively responsible" for the tragedy at the Stade Demba Diop on July 15 (BBC, 8/10).