ManU and Liverpool "are in line to be invited to take part in a new 24-team Club World Cup" which could earn the clubs more than £100M ($135M), according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. FIFA is pushing ahead with plans for the new tournament to be held every four years, with the first to take place in June '21. China "is understood to have already expressed an interest in being the first host nation." There would be 12 clubs from Europe and FIFA's preferred option for the first edition of the tournament is to invite those clubs that have won "at least three Champions Leagues or European Cups." That would include Liverpool, ManU, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Inter Milan. Juventus "would also be invited on the basis of having won two European Cups and two Intercontinental titles." The three other European places would be selected by a "separate process, so far undetermined" (LONDON TIMES, 5/16).
'HUGE WINDFALL': In London, Massoudi & Ahmed reported FIFA is preparing to call a vote on a $25B proposal that promises a "huge windfall." The "radical plan" is being led by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who will in the "coming days" notify FIFA's ruling council of a "special meeting at which a decision can be made" before the World Cup in Russia, according to several people involved in the situation. In a private letter distributed in recent weeks to FIFA members, Infantino "spells out the proposal from the consortium," which has promised to inject $25B into a FIFA-controlled joint venture that would run a revamped Club World Cup and "Nations League" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/16).
'SERIOUS RESERVATIONS': REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported a UEFA council featuring representatives of players, leagues and clubs from across Europe complained on Wednesday that FIFA went over its head "in drawing up proposals for two ambitious new global competitions." The Professional Football Strategy Council said that it had "serious reservations" about the whole process and criticized "the hasty timing and lack of concrete information" from the sport's governing organization. Following a meeting in Lyon, the PFSC said that its members "had not been properly consulted" and added in a statement that it "unanimously expressed serious reservations about the process surrounding the FIFA Club World Cup and Global Nations League proposals" (REUTERS, 5/16).
Police will issue England fans with a guide to “sensitive sites” in Volgograd and warn them "not to sing inappropriate songs around them or to hang flags on them to avoid provoking a violent reaction from locals," according to Martha Kelner of the London GUARDIAN. Between 7,000 and 10,000 England supporters are expected to travel to Russia for the World Cup, around 2,000 of whom have tickets for the first group match against Tunisia in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad.Fans are being told "to modify their behaviour around historical monuments in the city," many of which honor the estimated 1.8m who died in the Battle of Stalingrad, "the bloodiest battle" of WWII. Police are "cautiously confident" the relatively high cost of traveling to Russia coupled with visa requirements and football banning orders will "avoid a repeat of the violent clashes which marred Euro 2016 in France and left two England fans seriously injured." A team led by Chief Inspector Joseph Stokoe traveled to Volgograd in February to "discuss security with local police." Stokoe said, "It's fine to hang flags in the stadium or in a pub where you are paying customers and the owner is OK with it" (GUARDIAN, 5/15).
LETTING HIM IN: DEUTSCHE WELLE reported Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced via Twitter that the Russian authorities "agreed to allow investigative sports journalist Hajo Seppelt into the country for the World Cup," which kicks off in June. Maas tweeted, "The Russian side has just told us that Hajo Seppelt can enter at least for the World Cup. We continue to work for free reporting." The reporter, who works for German public broadcaster ARD, initially had his visa application rejected, as Russia declared him "persona non grata" (DW, 5/15).
STATS TABLETS: Following approval by the Int'l FA Board for the use of small handheld technologies on the bench, FIFA will offer all the teams at the 2018 World Cup a technical setup for match analysts and coaches to interact. Each team will be offered two devices: one for the team analyst observing the match from the media tribune and another for the coaching staff on the bench (FIFA).
The Argentine FA was panned for including a chapter about "how to stand a chance with a Russian girl" in a "manual it handed to journalists travelling to the World Cup in Russia," according to the BBC. The manual recommended that journalists "look clean, smell nice and dress well" in order to impress Russian "girls." It "also urged them" to treat women as "someone of worth." The advice "caused an outcry on social media and the AFA has since removed it." The AFA apologized and said that an internal investigation found that part of the material was "printed by mistake." Argentine journalist Nacho Catullo said that he was among the dozens of reporters and football officials "attending a free course on Russian language and culture held by the AFA for those travelling to the World Cup in Russia." He tweeted photos of the chapter, "which started being shared and mocked on the internet as the course was still going on." According to Catullo, officials "then interrupted the course," collecting the manuals, "only to return them with the controversial pages torn out" (BBC, 5/16).
The Premier League was "urged" to formalize its promise that clubs "must provide minimum standards for disabled fans" by explicitly including it in its rule book, according to Jeremy Wilson of the London TELEGRAPH. Significant improvements have been made following the threat of legal action by the Equality & Human Rights Commission but, with some clubs still working toward a pledge that was due to be delivered last August, "it has been suggested that the Premier League makes it a formal requirement." A new EHRC report said, "When a club gets promoted to the Premier League, they are given two seasons to meet the Premier League pledge. At present, this commitment is not referred to in the Premier League handbook, which merely states that each club shall provide sufficient and adequate facilities." It was also suggested that the EPL "could insist that a proportion of relegation parachute payments are earmarked to improve disabled access" (TELEGRAPH, 5/16).
Portuguese club Sporting condemned "acts of vandalism and aggression" on Tuesday after forward Bas Dost was injured when "a group of hooded supporters, armed with sticks and belts, attacked players and staff at the club’s training complex," according to Mark Gleeson of REUTERS. Portuguese media published pictures of Dost with cuts on his head and reports said that assistant coaches Mario Monteiro and Raul Jose "suffered unspecified injuries." The attackers, numbering around 50, "also brandished weapons at coach Jorge Jesus and other players." The club said in a statement, "Sporting Club of Portugal vehemently repudiate the incidents registered today at the Sporting academy." The Portuguese league "also condemned the attacks." Last month, club President Bruno de Carvalho "threatened to suspend nearly the entire first-team squad after becoming involved in a public spat with the players" over their performance in a Europa League match against Atlético Madrid (REUTERS, 5/15). REUTERS' Andrei Khalip reported Portuguese police detained a top Sporting official and "three others linked to the club on suspicion of corruption, adding to Sporting’s troubles" a day after a group of fans attacked its players and coaches. Police said in a statement that the arrests were made over alleged "active corruption in sports" in an operation code-named Cashball, and officers "also searched the premises of one football club and various homes." The club was not identified, but local TV channels "showed police working at Sporting’s Alvalade stadium," and media outlets said that police "suspected some Sporting officials" of match-fixing, "mostly in handball matches but also in some football events, by allegedly bribing referees and players." One of those detained was Sporting Dir André Geraldes, the "right-hand man" of de Carvalho (REUTERS, 5/16).