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Volume 10 No. 22

International Football

UEFA's Annual Benchmarking Report "confirmed what many suspected: the rich are getting richer and leaving the merely well-off far behind," according to Gabriele Marcotti of ESPN.com. If you are "even a little bit wonk-ish," the report makes a "fascinating read." But the "single biggest takeaway is confirmation" of what has been "known for a long time." The game "is fractured and polarized between the super-rich and everybody else." Most "are better off, but the 1 percenters are a lot better off." This "is happening both on a macro level across Europe and in individual leagues." Take wages, "which correlate to success" on the pitch. There are 10 clubs with wage bills of €221M ($270M) or above. Then there is a €60M ($73.3M) gap with the club in 11th place -- "AC Milan, as it happens." Go "further down the food chain and the picture gets worse." In Portugal, the top three spend, on average, "seven times as much on wages as those ranked fourth to sixth." The reason this disparity exists is not "rocket science." It is "down to revenue, mostly commercial revenue." Football "has always had its rich and poor." But "the reality is that more than ever," there is a "glass ceiling and the folks looking down on the plebs are flying around with Iron Man's jet pack while the plebs below press their noses longingly upwards." Frankly, "the impression is that between those who are happy to watch their superclub squash the rest of the league," those who support mid-sized teams and "make do with the scraps that fall to them (the odd cup run or home draw with a one-percenter)" and those who "came to the game in the past decade, think this is normal" and cannot imagine any other way, "it may well be a losing battle" (ESPN.com, 1/17).

A move to "overturn a controversial law" aimed at tackling sectarian behavior at football "has been backed by a Holyrood committee," according to Laura Paterson of the LONDON TIMES. A "slim majority" on the justice committee supported Labour MSP James Kelly’s bill to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Six opposition MSPs "backed the bill while five SNP MSPs withheld support." The majority of committee members "found existing laws generally already cover" behavior the act criminalizes. Margaret Mitchell, convener of the justice committee, said, "Whether the act is finally repealed or not, the message that came through from the vast majority of witnesses was that this legislation needs to be changed" (LONDON TIMES, 1/18). The BBC reported each of Holyrood's opposition parties "campaigned on manifesto pledges" to scrap the law in '16, and with the SNP now a minority government, have "moved to do so" via Kelly's members bill. The report said that the committee "unanimously condemns sectarianism, hate crime and offensive behaviour and considers it unacceptable." The committee said that should the Football Act be repealed, it would be "important that the Scottish government and relevant stakeholders clearly communicate that offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications can still be tackled and prosecuted using other legislation and common law" (BBC, 1/18).