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Volume 7 No. 109

International Football

Germany's top football teams are discussing plans to "sweep away rules prohibiting foreign investors from owning Bundesliga clubs," amid concerns they "lack the financial firepower to compete against rivals" in the Premier League and La Liga, according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. German Football League (DFL) CEO Christian Seifert said that his organization "opened a debate" about changing the "50+1" ownership rule that means club members must hold the majority of voting rights. In effect, the rule bars commercial entities from owning more than 49% of German clubs "in most circumstances." The regulation, "unique to German football," has contributed to a "fan-focused culture, helping to ensure low ticket prices and the highest average match day attendances in world football." Yet, there has been "frustration at boardroom level," as the rule has "dissuaded wealthy individuals and corporations from investing in German clubs because they cannot gain a controlling stake." Seifert said, "We need to start an honest discussion ... about the 50+1 rule. We need at least to figure out if between radical positions -- keep the market as it is, or blow it away and open up the market completely -- there is a way in between." Ben Marlow, an exec at football consultancy 21st Club, said, “When I’ve had conversations with potential investors, the 50+1 rule has been something that has clearly prevented them looking at Germany. [If the rule changed], I would expect to see a few takeovers in the reasonably short term” (FT, 2/15).

Human Rights Watch said that FIFA "must tackle rights abuses in Russia’s Chechnya region" now that one of the teams in this year’s World Cup has chosen Chechnya as the location for its base camp, according to Reshetnikov & Salem of REUTERS. Rights groups and Western governments allege that the authorities in Chechnya "repress their political opponents, discriminate against women and persecute sexual minorities," all allegations that Chechnya’s leaders deny. The region is not hosting any World Cup matches but FIFA said that the Egyptian national team will use the Chechen capital, Grozny, as its base between matches. Human Rights Watch Russia Program Dir Tatyana Lokshina said, "This suddenly makes Chechnya, which was not on the list of Russia's World Cup regions, one of the World Cup sites. Chechnya has been run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a ruthless strongman who with the blessing of the Kremlin has been ruling it with an iron fist through brutal repression for over a decade" (REUTERS, 2/14).

England could play a friendly against Qatar after the FA signed a partnership agreement with the 2022 World Cup host nation, according to the BBC. FA Chair Greg Clarke signed the "knowledge-sharing" deal with the Qatar FA in Doha on Wednesday. In '15, his predecessor Greg Dyke said that awarding Qatar the World Cup was "the worst moment in FIFA's history." Clarke said, "We have a long history of collaboration with various national associations." The agreement will see the countries "share ideas on football development, grassroots football, youth development, women's football, player performance and management and administration." The FA also confirmed that the countries would "look at the possibility of organising friendly matches across the different age groups" (BBC, 2/14).