The leader of the review into child sex abuse in football and his investigative team are "receiving counselling to cope with the harrowing evidence that they have uncovered," according to Matt Dickinson of the LONDON TIMES. Their inquiry looks to be extended until at least Easter. QC Clive Sheldon and his staff are at what one source called the "deep dive" phase of the review, including interviewing dozens of abuse victims. They are using an expert psychologist provided by the FA to "help them to cope with hours spent listening to traumatic testimony." While the inquiry has "yet to run into any wilful obstruction," according to sources, investigations have not been helped by the "inertia of a number of county FAs." Sheldon approached the 46 county associations on May 11 with a deadline to respond by June 1. Four still have yet to respond and two "did so only last week after Sheldon contacted the governing body to ask for help." The scale of the task has "led to two of Sheldon’s staff working almost full-time on the inquiry," which is expected to cost more than £1M ($1.3M) by the time that he submits his full report. He hopes to do that by April 1, although publication "could be complicated by a number of criminal trials due early next year," including that of Bob Higgins, the former Southampton youth coach who has been charged with 65 counts of indecent assault against 23 boys aged under 17 between '70 and '96. A trial date has been set for April 9. Sheldon "plans to focus on about a dozen case studies." A key question to answer is how the game handled any complaints at the time, "although many victims have already recorded that they did not tell anyone, even their parents" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17). In London, Martha Kelner reported the latest police figures, from June 30, showed 741 alleged victims had come forward and 276 suspects identified. Operation Hydrant, the specialist police unit in charge of the operation, received 1,886 referrals. Sheldon is also believed to have contacted people involved with the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall in the '80s and '90s, "where some of the alleged abuse victims trained" (GUARDIAN, 10/16). The PA reported Sheldon and his colleagues have interviewed 15 former players who survived abuse and 35 non-survivors, "mainly former or current FA officials and senior figures from other sports, in order to compare their approach to safeguarding with football's." The "vast majority of their time has been taken up by sifting through the 9,000 boxes of documents the FA keeps in a storage facility in Essex." With much of this pre-digital age archive "poorly indexed," Sheldon's team has checked 1,266 of these boxes and believes it needs to "look through another 2,092" to make sure it does not "miss any letters, memos or reports related to abuse claims" (PA, 10/17).
Greg Clarke's position as chair of the FA is "likely to come under severe scrutiny" after new revelations about his handling of the alleged racism scandal that led to his organization being summoned to a parliamentary inquiry to explain the Mark Sampson affair, according to Daniel Taylor of the London GUARDIAN. Two weeks after Clarke "publicly praised Eni Aluko" for reporting alleged racism within the England women's football setup, his 14-word reply to claims that the FA put together an internal inquiry that was "not a genuine search for the truth" and "designed to close down the complaint and absolve Mark Sampson" has been revealed. Clarke was one of four senior execs to receive a six-page document from the Professional Footballers' Association that accused the governing body of "deliberately sabotaging" Aluko's 11-year int'l career "to protect Sampson." Clarke's response came in the form of a "curt email that threatens to be hugely embarrassing" for his organization and "leaves questions about his ability to run a body" that purports to be a leader in the fight against racism. Clarke is "under intense pressure to explain why he responded within 30 minutes," sending the PFA an email saying, "I've no idea why you are sending me this. Perhaps you could enlighten me?" The one-line response "shocked a number of people who are working on the case and opened him to allegations that he completely misunderstood the seriousness of the matter" (GUARDIAN, 10/16).
RESULTS ARE IN: In London, Martyn Ziegler reported the results of an investigation into allegations by Aluko of "racism and bullying" will be released before a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday. Barrister Katharine Newton has spoken to Aluko and another witness, Drew Spence. Aluko had previously chosen not to speak to Newton, whose first investigation cleared Sampson of wrongdoing. The outcome of the new inquiry, including a decision on whether Sampson was guilty of discrimination, will be disclosed to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, who will take evidence from Aluko and senior FA figures as "part of their investigation into claims of bullying and harassment" (LONDON TIMES, 10/17).
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said Tuesday that she "hoped the criminal investigations into the sale of World Cup rights to the Qatari-owned beIN Media group" will not "disrupt" Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, according to Kieran Canning of the AFP. Swiss prosecutors said last week that they had launched a "criminal corruption probe" targeting Paris St. Germain Chair and beIN Media Group CEO Nasser al-Khelaifi and former FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke over the sale of media rights for World Cups from '18-30. Samoura: "I hope that the ongoing investigations will not disrupt the organization of this World Cup." Samoura, from Senegal, took over the role previously held by Valcke as part of FIFA President Gianni Infantino's team tasked with "cleaning up the battered image" of world football's governing body after a series of corruption scandals. She said, "The World Cups, as you know, are the jewels of FIFA competition. Now that our structure has become much more credible, we cannot afford to jeopardize these competitions. The same goes for Qatar" (AFP, 10/17).
RED FLAG: REUTERS' Cornwell & Phillips reported a Qatar-hosted football tournament for Arab nations "should not go ahead unless Kuwait’s FIFA ban is lifted," UAE FA President Marwan bin Ghalaita said, "denying that his country's boycott was related to the crisis between Gulf states." Qatar is hosting the Gulf Nations Cup in December, a tournament that "usually involves" Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen. Bin Ghalaita said that his federation informed organizers that "the Gulf Cup cannot be played without Kuwait," adding that the request was "nothing political" (REUTERS, 10/17).
New Zealand Football hopes to charter a plane to get the All Whites from Wellington to Lima next month -- and it approached FIFA "to underwrite the costs." The "most likely scenario" is that New Zealand and Peru would share the private flight after the first leg (Nov. 11) of the World Cup playoff. But it could cost up to $1M, which is why NZF and the Peru Football Federation have approached FIFA for financial assistance (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 10/17).
Honduras national men's football team Manager Jorge Luis Pinto said that FIFA's decision to schedule the World Cup qualifier between Australia and his team with five days in between the two matches was "inhumane." The first match in the intercontinental playoff is "scheduled to take place in Central America on Nov. 10, with the second leg in Sydney five days later" (REUTERS, 10/16).
The Oman FA signed a five-year cooperation deal with the Qatar FA, "with a top Omani official describing it as beneficial for the sport in the country." The agreement is aimed at mutual cooperation and the development of football in both countries (TIMES OF OMAN, 10/16).
Qatar 2022 Organizing Committee Assistant General Secretary Nasser al-Khater said of his expectations for the tournament, “We expect to be able to attract between 1.1 and 1.5 million fans. This would be more than in Brazil (600,000 in ’14) and South Africa (500,000 in ’10) and would be a record. We have to keep in mind that Qatar is four hours from various Indian cities with more than 2 million inhabitants, and also from China” (AS, 10/17).
IN SPAIN: Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) President Juan Luis Larrea on Tuesday inaugurated the “Ceuta City of Football” in the autonomous Spanish city on the north coast of Africa. The RFEF invested €3.6M ($4.2M) in the facility, which covers 5,045 square meters (EFE, 10/17).
Barcelona's place in La Liga "should not be affected by any moves toward Catalan independence," according to Mediapro President Jaume Roures, whose company holds the int'l rights to the Spanish league. With recent events having "seriously focused minds on the possibility of Catalonia breaking away from Spain," the issue of where Catalan teams, including Espanyol and Girona, "would then play their football has been hotly debated" (ESPN.com, 10/17).
The Spanish Football League (LFP) canceled its annual Gala Awards Ceremony that honors the top players and coaches in Spain and "will instead create a new format that ensures better attendance." A La Liga statement said, "With the aim of defining a new format and adapting it to the La Liga new strategy, we have taken the decision not to celebrate the Gala Awards for the 2016-17 campaign (ESPN.com, 10/17).