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Volume 6 No. 192

International Football

Some of the world's biggest broadcasters, including Fox Sports, Globo and Grupo Televisa SAB, were "implicated in corruption" of int'l football, with a former sports marketing exec telling a U.S. jury that they "paid bribes to win TV rights for tournaments," according to Patricia Hurtado of BLOOMBERG. Alejandro Burzaco, the former CEO of sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias SA, testified that companies he "partnered with, which also included Full Play Argentina and Traffic Group in Brazil, were involved in the bribery." Burzaco is testifying at a trial of three former FIFA execs charged in a "wide-ranging" int'l probe of corruption in the sport. Asked by assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Nitze what Fox Sports hoped to gain by winning the broadcasting rights, Burzaco said, "Using the TV rights to expand its Fox signal in all of the Americas from Argentina to the U.S.A." Fox Sports, Televisa in Mexico and Globo Comunicacao & Participacoes SA in Brazil did not immediately respond to requests for comment (BLOOMBERG, 11/14). REUTERS' Brendan Pierson reported Torneos y Competencias and Fox Sports jointly owned a sports marketing venture, T&T Sports Marketing Ltd. Fox, Televisa and Globo were not charged by U.S. prosecutors in the case. Burzaco said in court that Fox was "told about bribes" paid to football officials by T&T. Prosecutors also showed jurors a contract dated '08 between T&T and a Turks and Caicos-based entity called Somerton Corp, providing for a $3.7M payment to Somerton. Burzaco said that the contract was signed by James Ganley, former COO of Fox unit Fox Pan American Sports, and was a "sham meant to cover bribes" (REUTERS, 11/14).

MILLIONS IN BRIBES: In London, Ben Rumsby wrote Burzaco, who already pleaded guilty for his part in the case, testified that "he paid million of dollars in bribes," including to the three South American defendants (TELEGRAPH, 11/14). Also in London, Rob Crilly reported Burzaco told the court that senior officials at CONMEBOL received up to $1M a year "for their support." T&T extended its deal with CONMEBOL in '08 for rights to the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana. Nitze asked, "Did you pay bribes in connection with those contract extensions." Burzaco: "Yes sir." He added that those payments were in addition to the annual payments, calling them, "Special bribes for the extension of the contracts." He testified that then-CONMEBOL President Nicolás Leoz and former FIFA VP Julio Grondona received $1M, while three "more junior officials" got $500,000 "to ensure the contract was not put out to tender" (DAILY MAIL, 11/14). In London, Oliver Laughland wrote Burzaco testified that T&T "created a sham company to pay off the cash sums." The contract with Somerton was shown to the court. Burzaco: "It's not a real contract, sir" (GUARDIAN, 11/14).

LEOZ KEEPING HIS DISTANCE: The AFP reported when the trial kicked off in N.Y., Leoz was a "significant absentee, watching from the comfort of his home in Paraguay." Leoz, "one of the main suspects in the huge bribery and money laundering scandal" being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, "is where any 89-year old is content to be, albeit under house arrest." He is suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for marketing and TV rights for games, but "denies any wrongdoing and his legal team has so far frustrated all attempts to extradite him" (AFP, 11/14).

Italy "was in a state of shock, dismay and bitter recrimination" on Tuesday after the national football team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since '58, according to Nick Squires of the London TELEGRAPH. Italy was eliminated from next year’s tournament in Russia after a scoreless draw against Sweden in Milan on Monday "produced a 1-0 aggregate loss." Pulling "no punches, newspapers likened the humiliation to Caporetto, a disastrous battle in the First World War in which Italian forces were routed by the Austro-Hungarian army." One newspaper "declared" in its front-page headline, "We’re out of the World Cup, it’s the Caporetto of football." La Gazzetta dello Sport's headline was "The End," and the front page featured a photograph of Gianluigi Buffon, the team’s captain and goalkeeper, "throwing his hands up in despair at the final whistle." The publication's editor, Andrea Monti, wrote, "It's one of the darkest pages of our sporting history. A brutal slap beyond the incalculable harm for a country that lives and breathes soccer" (TELEGRAPH, 11/14).

PAYING THE PRICE: The AP's Andrew Dampf reported Rome daily Il Messaggero called it "A national shame," and Rome sports daily Corriere dello Sport said, "Everyone out." The Gazzetta gave Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura, who was "widely criticized" for his tactics, a "lowly three out of 10 in its famous report card" for the game. The report card read, "He will go down as one of the worst national team coaches of all time, if not the worst." Former Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Italian Olympic Committee President Franco Carraro estimated that the failed qualification will cost the country €500M-€600M ($590M-$708M). He said, "If you add the indirect impact, it will definitely exceed a billion." If Italy had qualified, the cost of domestic TV rights for the World Cup was estimated at €175M ($206M). Now "they could be worth half that." The national team’s contract with shirt supplier Puma, worth €18.7M ($22M) per season, "will also likely be revised" (AP, 11/14).'s Ben Gladwell compiled reactions from various publications. La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Italy are right back at the very beginning. Buffon's tears and the deafening silence of the San Siro seem like a gravestone, on which the verdict is unequivocally inscribed: goodbye Russia, we are not going to the World Cup for the first time since the distant 1958." Tuttosport: "The disgrace is not only down to Ventura. It's the whole football movement." La Repubblica: "It's an apocalypse with a gloomy shade of Azzurro. There is a bitter taste to Buffon's tears; heartbreaking because he will not be at his sixth World Cup, which would have made him a legend as the only player ever to achieve that." Il Tempo: "It was agony. In the game of their lives against a modest Sweden side were weak and without ideas. Everybody is to blame -- Ventura, [FIGC President Carlo] Tavecchio, the players -- it's year zero" (, 11/14). BITTER PILL: In London, James Politi wrote Italy "has been slowly fading as a football superpower" since the Azzurri’s last triumph in the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin against France. In both of the past two tournaments, the team was eliminated in the first round "amid lacklustre performances and suffering from a dearth of talent." But the realization that Italy "will not feature in Russia in 2018 will not be easy to accept for a country that is already suffering with a struggling economy." Buffon: "I am not sorry for myself but for the whole movement. We failed in something that could have meant something on a social level too." A commentator for state-owned TV channel Rai said, "Italian football is living through a true sporting humiliation. People speak of the apocalypse, a catastrophe: these are strong terms that we can leave aside. But without a doubt this is a dramatic situation from a sporting perspective" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/14).

PARTY CRASHERS: The ABC reported Sweden's players crashed a live TV broadcast "in the wake of their stunning World Cup qualification." Following the match, "delirious Swedish players stormed a Eurosport broadcast, mobbing the host" and panelists alike. Piling on to the "bemused presenters, the momentum of the player-crush saw the pitch-side studio table crack under the pressure, coming apart as Sweden's players partied on" (ABC, 11/14).

Members of the England women’s team have met with the Professional Footballers' Association to discuss the sacking of their former manager, Mark Sampson, and the "controversy surrounding allegations" made by teammate Eni Aluko, who was "again passed over for selection for the national side," according to Luke Edwards of the London TELEGRAPH. The players are considering releasing a joint statement to "address several concerns they have as a group." The meeting was held in Manchester and was attended by players based in the north of England, "with those in the south passing on observations." A source close to the talks said that the meeting took place on Monday and that "it was to discuss the Aluko affair." The Chelsea striker was left out of the England squad by interim Manager Mo Marley on Tuesday ahead of its forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia and Kazakhstan (TELEGRAPH, 11/14).

BRING HER IN: In London, Sean Ingle reported U.K. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch urged the FA to take up Aluko's offer to help it reform after agreeing its reputation had been "tarnished" by the way Aluko was treated. Crouch also warned the FA that it had to "quickly learn lessons" from the case and that the necessary changes to its culture had to come "right from the top." However, she "stopped short of saying the FA was not fit for purpose," and gave her "qualified backing" to "under-fire" Chair Greg Clarke, who she insisted was on a journey to improve the organization. Crouch said, "The FA handled the Eni Aluko case really badly. It was a mess and it has quite rightly taken the shine off the work the FA has done to reform. A cultural shift takes time. Eni Aluko has said that she wants to be part of that change. I hope they listen to her. I think she has a lot to offer. She would be a great asset in driving those culture reforms" (GUARDIAN, 11/14).

A charitable foundation funding medical research said that it will spend up to £1M ($1.3M) on a study of brain injuries in footballers. This follows a BBC documentary "highlighting the potential long term risks of repeated heading of a ball and the plight of retired professional players who have developed dementia." The Drake Foundation was set up in '14 with a commitment to "improve the understanding of concussion injuries in sport" (BBC, 11/13).

Honduras national football team coach Jorge Luis Pinto accused Australia of "espionage" in the build-up to the first leg of the side's World Cup playoff on Friday. Pinto said that "the Australians used a drone to film his team training" before the 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula -- and the Honduran FA "tweeted footage of the alleged incident." Pinto: "I think it is embarrassing for such an advanced country." Football Federation Australia "denied any involvement" (BBC, 11/14).

The Irish FA "is set to back the implementation of video assistant referees" in the wake of Northern Ireland's failure to reach the World Cup after a "controversial penalty." Manager Michael O'Neill's side lost its playoff with Switzerland 1-0 on aggregate after a "dubious first-leg penalty." The IFA "is one of the five members" of the Int'l FA Board (BBC, 11/13).

La Liga President Javier Tebas said that the league "plans to introduce video assistant referees" next season. Spain’s top flight "is the only one of Europe’s top five leagues which has so far shunned the use of goalline technology, much to the frustration of the teams." Tebas: "Next season there will be VAR in La Liga, without a doubt" (REUTERS, 11/14).

Hundreds of Hong Kong football fans booed and jeered the Chinese national anthem at an Asia Cup qualifier match on Tuesday "in defiance of Communist Party rulers in Beijing." The booing of the anthem, "The March of the Volunteers," has "become a fixture at football matches in the Chinese-ruled territory." Hong Kong is preparing to introduce a law that will penalize people who boo the anthem, but details "have yet to be set" (REUTERS, 11/14).

Uruguayan footballers
"were able to remove the execs of the Uruguayan footballers' association" during an assembly on Sunday. In October, players went on strike to force intervention (DPA, 11/14).