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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

Football’s authorities are planning a formal announcement before the end of the season that "there will be a winter break for clubs," after the FA’s agreement to play the entire FA Cup fifth round in midweek, according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. The FA’s council was updated with the plans at its meeting on Wednesday. It follows an agreement by the FA with the Premier League and the English Football League. A joint announcement is expected within the next four weeks. The two-week break will be introduced for the '19-20 season -- the first year of the new EPL TV contract -- and will be held in late January and early February. It will be "staggered," however, so that not all of the clubs will have the same 13 days off, "in order to keep some matches available for broadcasters on all weekends." The agreement will not affect the Christmas schedule, "which is viewed as an historic part of the English game" (LONDON TIMES, 4/17).

Wolverhampton will have to show its relationship with Jorge Mendes (bottom right) does not breach FA rules.

League Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers "will have to satisfy the Premier League" that its relationship with agent Jorge Mendes does not break league or FA rules "following a promotion secured with a manager and key players connected" to the agent, according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. The club’s ownership structure and details of Mendes’ "influence" must be fully disclosed during the regulatory process of accepting Wolverhampton into the top flight, which will begin shortly. The FA rules on clubs’ relationships with agents, now called “intermediaries,” aimed at guarding against conflicts of interest, "prohibit owners also owning a stake or having an interest in an agency." Similarly, agents are prohibited from having “a material influence” over the affairs of a club. Last summer, Wolverhampton confirmed that club owner Fosun owns a stake in Mendes' company, Gestifute. That "would appear to put Wolves in breach of the FA's regulation." The same rule prohibits an agent from having an interest in a club and defines "interest" as owning a 5% stake or more (GUARDIAN, 4/17).

The Association of Football Agents warned its members that "they face an unprecedented crisis" that will “flush their livelihoods down the drain” as the sport’s governing bodies attempt to "curb the rising influence of agents in football." The AFA called an emergency meeting of intermediaries based in the U.K. and Europe, saying that changes to regulations will prevent them from “earning a living.” Clubs, leagues and governing bodies have grown "increasingly unhappy with the rising amount of money that is being paid to intermediaries who represent players" (London TELEGRAPH, 4/18).

Aleksander Ceferin has concerns about the use of VAR at this summer's World Cup.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin "expressed concernover the decision to employ VAR at the 2018 World Cup, saying that the technology "still needed more testing" before it can be considered for use in the Champions League. Ceferin said, "I have some fear for the World Cup, where we will have referees who have never officiated with the VAR. I hope there are no scandals or problems." Ceferin has already said that VAR "would not be used in the Champions League next season." He added, "The Champions League is like a Ferrari or a Porsche: you cannot drive it right away, you need training, offline testing" (REUTERS, 4/18).

The Premier League launched a new end-of-season award -- and Man City's Kevin De Bruyne is the "clear favourite to win it." From this season, league execs will honor the season's "most creative talent" with the Playmaker award. To be awarded in conjunction with the Golden Boot (for top goalscorer) and Golden Glove (most clean sheets), the Playmaker award will be handed to the person who ends the season with the most assists (London MIRROR, 4/18).

Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said that law enforcement agencies "thwarted" an alleged plot by right-wing football fans to "derail events at the World Cup." Chaika's report to the upper house of parliament said that the suspected organizers envisaged engaging members of "radical" fan group TOYS to "disrupt World Cup events in the city of Samara on the Volga River" (AP, 4/17).

After terminating the contract with Goal Control following “several hiccups with its Goal Line Technology during the Ligue 1 season,” the French Professional Football League will announce a successor on Thursday. The new provider will manage Ligue 1’s VAR next season. VAR company Hawk Eye is reportedly in the “best position” to be chosen (L’ÉQUIPE, 4/18).