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Volume 6 No. 196

International Football

No Premier League games will take place on Christmas Eve after none of the scheduled Dec. 23 games were "moved there" for live TV coverage, according to the BBC. It had been thought that Liverpool's trip to Arsenal was "under consideration to be moved" from Dec. 23 to 24. Instead, it will be played on Dec. 22, with a 7:45pm kickoff. Three other fixtures have been moved from the 3pm slot on Dec. 24 -- Everton vs. Chelsea, Burnley vs. Tottenham and Leicester City vs. ManU. Chelsea's trip to Goodison Park will be a 12:30pm kickoff on Dec. 23 and the other two games will take place that evening, with Burnley kicking off at 5:30pm and Leicester City at 7:45pm. EPL Exec Chair Richard Scudamore praised the "flexibility" of U.K. TV broadcasters Sky and BT. He said, "With matches scheduled on Christmas weekend for the first time in 11 years, the process of selecting games for live broadcast has been a more complex one than usual and I would like to thank our broadcast partners and clubs for their cooperation and flexibility." The last Premier League game to take place on Christmas Eve was in '95, when Leeds United beat ManU 3-1 (BBC, 10/19). In London, Jack Austin reported Liverpool fans "still face having to leave" at halftime "if they are to make it back to Merseyside that evening." Despite it "appearing like common sense prevailed" so Liverpool fans did not face traveling on Christmas Eve, they will still face "similar transport chaos" with the game due to kick off at 7:45pm that Friday. If Liverpool fans are to make it home that night, they must leave Emirates Stadium by halftime "at the very latest" to make the last direct train back to Liverpool Lime Street from London Euston. Unless Liverpool arranges buses for its traveling support -- which it "may do" -- fans face "forking out yet more money on a hotel to stay overnight in the capital" (INDEPENDENT, 10/19).

Pressure is "mounting" on FA execs to "step down over their handling of the Eniola Aluko racism row," according to Matt Majendie of the London EVENING STANDARD. Damian Collins, chair of the U.K. Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee which "grilled" FA Chair Greg Clarke and CEO Martin Glenn on Wednesday, questioned whether they were the "right people" to lead the organization. Collins also called on the FA to "immediately pay" the £40,000 ($52,600) owed to former England striker Aluko, who was "damning in her evidence" on Wednesday about her case’s handling by the FA. Collins: "You have to question whether they are the right people to lead forward the FA. It’s up to them right now. They have to recognize their failings and demonstrate they’re willing to change. If they can’t do that, they can’t move forward with that. At present, there’s a massive reluctance to put their hands up and admit they got things wrong." Glenn was accused by Aluko of actions "bordering on blackmail" amid allegations he suggested she would get the rest of her money, which was to compensate her for loss of future earnings, if she put out a statement saying the FA was not "inherently racist." When the suggestion of institutionalized racism within the FA was put to Clarke on Wednesday, he described that as "fluff." Collins "reacted angrily" and said, "These are very important issues and to dismiss them as fluff is incredible. Do they understand how serious these issues are and what needs to be done? This is not fluff. They need to get on top of some seriously fundamental issues." Aluko revealed that her second half of the £80,000 ($105,200) settlement agreed to "avoid going to an employment tribunal" over her allegations against former England women's team Manager Mark Sampson had been withheld for an "apparent breach of contract" relating to a tweet she "put out." Glenn denied he suggested she change her statement to say the FA was not a racist organization but refused to say that the remaining £40,000 would be paid. Collins: "They should pay up. Eni has been through a very tough process and for the FA to come out at the end of it and be so heavy-handed about a tweet, saying they're withholding the money. That shows their total disregard for her." There is "not thought to be pressure" from U.K. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to replace the current FA hierarchy, although she is said to be "watching their response in the coming weeks before making any further statement" (EVENING STANDARD, 10/19).

HITTING BACK: The BBC reported the FA was accused of "ignoring issues" raised by discriminatory race remarks made by Sampson. Professional Footballers' Association CEO Gordon Taylor made the comments after his own organization was criticized by Clarke. Taylor said, "They didn't listen to her then. They're still not listening." Clarke said, "The PFA spends millions of pounds a year on the CEO's salary and pension and they are walking way from alcoholics, from addicted gamblers. I will never look up to their governance, though I respect their people." Taylor said that was an attempt to deflect criticism and "was so unprofessional it was amazing" (BBC, 10/19).

PICKED APART: In London, Matt Dickinson wrote this was "never going to be a good day for the FA" but by the time Glenn was fending off an accusation from Aluko of "blackmail" and Clarke was backtracking for describing issues of institutional racism as "fluff," the leadership was "piling up fresh problems." And "they were already up to their necks." Clarke's pitch as a "straight shooter" and Glenn's as an assured and experienced operator were "looking as wobbly" as an England defense (LONDON TIMES, 10/19).

Kaliningrad, Russia, Mayor Alexander Yaroshuk is reportedly "urging residents" to clean up their yards, avoid fights and leave the city before 2018 World Cup matches are held there, according to the MOSCOW TIMES. Leaving Kaliningrad "is voluntary, but strongly encouraged, since city roads will be congested and almost entirely limited to official transport during the competition," Yaroshuk said in an interview to a local radio station. He said, "One of the four games that take place in Kaliningrad will surely feature a top European team. The city will receive 70,000 to 100,000 tourists. Of course, all of them will not be able to get in the stadium, so residents should clean up in their yards. Even better, they should plan to leave the city and relax in the countryside." Residents who remain are "asked to help foreign visitors and avoid fights with the large groups of fans watching the games in bars." City officials are now conducting talks with local employers to "give Kaliningrad residents time off from work during match days" (MOSCOW TIMES, 10/19). 

FIFA will pay $600,000 to help teams travel to two intercontinental World Cup playoffs next month. It will contribute $150,000 each toward travel costs for the football federations of Australia, Honduras, New Zealand and Peru. There are "no direct flights" to get the All Whites team from the first leg in Wellington on Nov. 11 to the return game in Lima on Nov. 15. Honduras hosts Australia in San Pedro Sula on Nov. 10, and the second leg is Nov. 15 in Sydney (AP, 10/19).

New Zealand Football expects to put up the "full house" sign at Westpac Stadium "by the end of the weekend." By Thursday afternoon, more than 30,000 tickets "had been sold for the first leg" of the team's World Cup playoff. A sellout "would see 38,000 fans attend the match, which would surpass the previous highest attendance for a football match in New Zealand" (STUFF, 10/19).

The FA of Wales
announced a two-year partnership with sports website company Pitchero, which will serve as the FAW’s official grassroots partner. Pitchero will also be listed as a partner of the organization’s coaching education level one and two programs. All FAW member clubs will be given access to Pitchero’s suite of new mobile apps, including Pitchero Play, which will allow teams to "record, upload and share match highlights within 60 seconds of play occurring" (SOCCEREX, 10/19).