Computer experts have been hired to protect England national football team players and Manager Gareth Southgate's coaching team "from cyber spies at the World Cup in Russia," according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. The FA is "taking action to prevent hackers" from spying on team tactics, player data and confidential medical information that may be on the organization's computers and portable devices. FA officials are "acutely aware of the threat of cyberattacks" and last month's leak by Fancy Bears. The group, which is believed to be Russian, appeared to have hacked FIFA's doping records including recent correspondence with the FA about four English players, which "further highlighted that sports teams are a likely target." England's players, coaches and FA staff will be warned not to use public or hotel Wi-Fi networks, "which offer hackers easy access to computer networks." Firewalls have been "strengthened" and passwords encrypted. Players will also be given advice about protecting their social media logins (LONDON TIMES, 9/12). In London, Martha Kelner reported it is believed Fancy Bears are "seeking revenge" after Russia was banned from competing in athletics at the Rio Olympics when "systemic doping in the country was exposed." They had already breached WADA's database, releasing "hundreds of private medical files of mainly European and American Olympians," including Bradley Wiggins and Mo Farah. The FA has been "alert to potential breaches of security at major tournaments in the past, notably in relation to physical spying." At Euro 2016 in France, the team's training base in Chantilly was guarded by nine feet of tarpaulin and the squad "rejected the opportunity to train at match venues the day before games" (GUARDIAN, 9/11). The BBC's Zoe Kleinman wrote many cyber attacks are believed to originate in Russia -- and "sensitive data about upcoming matches would certainly be valuable as it could then be used to place bets on various outcomes." Once a hacker has access to a Wi-Fi router, he or she "can snoop on any of the data being shared on other devices that are connected to it." He or she "can also install a digital backdoor to guarantee re-entry" should access be blocked. It would be "easy to spoof a free Wi-Fi hotspot" so that the user might think he or she was logging on via an official platform but what he or she would actually be doing is opening the "entire device to a scammer" (BBC, 9/11).
EXPERT ADVICE: In London, David Conn reported Europe's top football clubs "have received expert advice on stepping up their counter-terrorism and security operations" before the start of group matches this week in the Champions League and Europa League. Safety and security officials from all of Britain's competing clubs and FAs met their European counterparts last week in Munich at an annual stadium and security conference jointly organized by UEFA and the EU "to consider the latest strategies for preventing terrorist attacks." The EU-UEFA conference followed a briefing held by UEFA in June in Amsterdam at which clubs' security staff were advised to watch outside stadiums on non-matchdays as well as matchdays for potential terrorists planning attacks carrying out "hostile reconnaissance" (GUARDIAN, 9/12).
England's football clubs "already face higher costs for star players because of the pound's plunge" since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, according to David Hellier of BLOOMBERG. The "bigger financial threat to the Premier League from Brexit, though, lies in tighter immigration rules" sought by PM Theresa May’s government. The league is lobbying May’s government to "allow an open system, where any club could sign 17 players of its choosing for its first team squad," which could have 25 players overall and thus would have at least eight homegrown players. Stoke City Chair Peter Coates said, "Brexit is certainly a concern. As with everything with Brexit, nobody knows anything. I have had no personal feedback from the government though the Premier League is keen to get its message across." The EPL said that, under current rules that apply to athletes from outside the EU, two French players who were "crucial to Leicester City winning the championship" in '16, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante, would not have gained admittance to the U.K. in a "post-Brexit world." A government spokesperson said that the goal is an immigration system that is "in the best interest of the whole of the U.K., and plans to make initial proposals for a new policy later in the autumn." The government said in a statement, "We recognize the importance of sport to the nation and within that the contribution that international talent makes. We are in discussions with key representatives from the sport sector, including the Premier League, regarding the challenges and opportunities that our EU exit brings." Mainly because of the TV cash, England "remains attractive for European stars, who are still likely to be paid higher wages" than they would have attracted elsewhere, "even with sterling's depreciation." But a "massive uncertainty is the future of the employment market after Brexit, with tighter controls on footballers likely" (BLOOMBERG, 9/12).
Arsenal is "braced for a mass invasion" by thousands of "fanatical" Bundesliga side Cologne supporters. The German club has an allocation of 3,000 tickets for the Europa League opener at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday. But "there have been reports that as many as 20,000 are preparing to travel to London." Arsenal has "tried to close down opportunities for Germans to acquire tickets in the home end" (London DAILY MAIL, 9/12).
South African football execs agreed that a 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Senegal should be replayed "on ethical and moral grounds." FIFA ordered the replay after the referee for the original game, Joseph Lamptey, was banned for manipulating the match. The South African FA "had been considering an appeal but now says it agrees" with FIFA (BBC, 9/12).
As Miguel Maduro, who was "axed as head of FIFA's governance committee last May during a purge of senior ethics watchdogs," prepared for his appearance before a British parliamentary committee on Tuesday, "it has come to light that both of FIFA's former ethics chiefs are also set to go public" to discuss their time at the organization and the "controversial circumstances of their removal." Maduro will be joined by Cornel Borbély and Hans-Joachim Eckert, the former heads of FIFA's ethics investigatory and adjudication bodies (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 9/12).
Tickets for the 2018 World Cup will go on sale on Thursday and will be sold in two phases, the first of which has an application period which runs from Sept. 14-Oct. 12. Fans can apply for individual match tickets, tickets for a specific venue or "ticket strips to follow the national team of their choice in this phase." The first phase then concludes with a period between Nov. 16 and Nov. 28 during which tickets "will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis." The second phase has also been split. The first runs from Dec. 5-Jan. 31. From March 13 to April 3, tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis (REUTERS, 9/12).