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Volume 10 No. 22

International Football

The "controversial planned Christmas Eve match between Arsenal and Liverpool" could now kick off at 12:30pm -- and be the only Premier League fixture that day, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. It is understood a "lunchtime start" for a game that would be shown live by Sky Sports is being discussed "amid the logistical problems of staging it" on Dec. 24 and "supporter opposition to the scheduling." Negotiations are "ongoing" about what would be the second-ever Premier League Christmas Eve match and "the first for 22 years." Other fixtures have also been considered for a Dec. 24 broadcast, including ManU's trip to Leicester City and Chelsea's game at Everton. But these look "increasingly likely" to be played on the evening of Dec. 22 "and the following lunchtime." The clubs are against the idea of Christmas Eve games for "a number of reasons" but also recognize they have an obligation to honor a £4.25B ($5.64B), three-year deal with Sky, which paid, on average, £11M ($14.6M) per game for its rights (TELEGRAPH, 10/12).

Paris St. Germain Chair and beIN Media Group CEO Nasser al-Khelaifi was accused Thursday by the Swiss authorities of bribing former FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke in return for "lucrative" World Cup contracts, according to Tariq Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. Swiss authorities accuse Doha-based beIN Media Group of bribing Valcke, who is currently serving a 10-year ban from world football. In its statement, the Swiss attorney general's office said that it opened a case in March against al-Khelaifi, Valcke and an unnamed businessman "on suspicion of bribery, fraud and criminal mismanagement." The statement said, "It is suspected that Jérôme Valcke accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030." A spokesperson for beIN Media Group "did not imediately reply to a request for comment" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). The AP reported Valcke was questioned on Thursday and "properties were searched in France, Greece, Italy and Spain." Swiss prosecutors said that the action "was carried out with Eurojust, a European Union agency for cooperation in criminal matters." Eurojust said in a statement, "Multiple premises were searched, assets were seized and interviews were conducted as a result of this joint operation" (AP, 10/12). 

'WHY SUCH HATE?': The AP reported Valcke defended his record at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday. He "spent more than six hours in a CAS hearing to challenge his 10-year ban." He said, "I tried to show that I never acted against the interests of FIFA, that I always did my job in the best possible manner. ... I ask the question to myself many, many times, 'Why such hate?' Why such a desire from FIFA to destroy not only what has been done in the past but what has been done by myself?" (AP, 10/11).

FIFA revealed a 43% decrease in ticket requests for the 2018 World Cup in Russia compared to the '14 event in Brazil. FIFA confirmed a total of 3,496,204 tickets had been requested for the '18 tournament when the first sale period ended. A total of 6,164,682 requests for tickets for the 2014 WC had been received "when the initial application period for that event ended just over four years ago" (SKY SPORTS, 10/12).

The Chinese FA will "bring in foreign referees to officiate selected Super League games starting this weekend and will later introduce the use of video replay in response to recent controversies." Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson will oversee Saturday's game between Tianjin Quanjian and Shandong Luneng. French referee Tony Chapron will officiate Sunday's game between Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Teda (AFP, 10/12).

Bringing a temporary end to the S.League "would be disastrous for Singapore football," according to former Tampines Rovers Chair Krishna Ramachandra. The S.League is set to see its S$16M ($11.8M) annual funding from the Tote Board "cut in half" for '18. But Krishna said that "pausing" Singapore's only professional sports competition is not the answer (, 10/11).

Colombia captain Radamel Falcao said that he spoke to Peru players "as the two sides played out a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw that sent his country to Russia" and ensured a playoff place for Peru. Falcao was criticized by South American media "for approaching three Peru players" during the match in Lima with the score at 1-1 and five minutes remaining. It has been alleged that Peru "did not push for a winning goal after his intervention" because even though a win would have given the country direct qualification, a loss would have seen it miss the playoffs (, 10/12).

The Celtic fan who tried to kick Paris St. Germain's Kylian Mbappé during last month's Champions League clash at Celtic Park "will not be jailed." John Hatton, from Belfast, was sentenced to a 160-hour community payback order at Glasgow Sheriff Court and "banned from attending football matches for the next four years" (, 10/12).