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Volume 7 No. 129

International Football

As "tempting as a billionaire backer would be," Canberra's A-League bid team does not want one, according to Eamonn Tiernan of the CANBERRA TIMES. Canberra was one of 15 prospective A-League expansion teams that made "expression of interest submissions" to Football Federation Australia on Thursday. A-League clubs cost between A$10M ($7.6M) and A$12M ($9M) to operate annually. A Canberra team "would receive the majority of its funding from the ACT government," the competition's broadcast deal and matchday revenue. Canberra bid leader Michael Caggiano said, "Deep pockets is not the way to go for longevity of a club because they won't be around forever, you need a club that can stand on it's own two feet without an individual chipping in gratuity money" (CANBERRA TIMES, 5/24).

U.S. BACKING: The AAP reported Gold Coast United's case for an A-League return "has been bolstered after securing in-principle backing from two American investors with links to clubs around the world." The reformed franchise "submitted its expression of interest" and will be supported in the next part of the process by Brett Johnson and Jordan Gardner. Johnson is co-Chair of second-tier U.S. club Phoenix Rising, while Gardner is a shareholder in recently relegated EPL club Swansea City and co-owner of Irish side Dundalk. The pair made contact with Gold Coast through an intermediary "after following A-League expansion developments and have long been keen on the competition." Johnson: "We think it is a prime opportunity to get involved with Australian football leveraging our track record in global football investments and feel there are fantastic opportunities with Gold Coast United" (AAP, 5/25).

Former Barcelona player Andrés Iniesta signs with J.League side Vissel Kobe.
Photo: getty images

Andrés Iniesta said that he dismissed offers from elsewhere to join J.League side Vissel Kobe because the club showed it had "trust and confidence" in him, according to the BBC. The 34-year-old completed his move to the Japanese side after leaving Barça, where he spent 22 years. He reportedly signed a "three-year deal with an annual salary of $30 million." Iniesta: "I had a lot of offers, other clubs showed an interest in me. I chose Vissel Kobe because it was an interesting project." Kobe Owner Hiroshi Mikitani said that Iniesta can "help the next generation of players." He said, "I am confident Iniesta's philosophy, leadership and DNA will be a terrific inspiration, not only for Kobe but Japanese football society" (BBC, 5/24). The AP reported Iniesta said, "For me, this is a very special day. This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased." Mikitani is also CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer (AP, 5/24).

J.LEAGUE BOOST:'s John Duerden wrote the J.League had "lost a little of its lustre in recent years." The level of imports, both coaching staff and players, has dropped compared to the early mid-'90s. There was a "feeling of staleness," that the league had "plateaued," along with the attendance figures. The fact that, at the start of the decade, Chinese teams "started buying famous stars" to make the Chinese Super League the "most-talked about and popular in Asia went down badly in Tokyo." Kobe may want to become "the best team on the continent," but league officials are "keen to have a club able to help the competition back to its former status." Money was "always going to be needed in order to do so and it is increasingly there." Rakuten's "bankrolling" of Vissel Kobe is one example and Mikitani, the seventh-richest man in Japan with a reported net worth of $4.5B, is not just the chair of the club but the founder of the company (, 5/24).

Fans of European clubs "will soon be given details of how much their teams are spending" on players' wages and fees to agents under changes to UEFA’s control system, according to Simon Evans of REUTERS. UEFA’s Exec Committee on Thursday passed changes to the Financial Fair Play rules after what it called a "complete and comprehensive review" of the system. Making public a club’s finances "will become part of the process" of clubs receiving their licenses. UEFA hopes this will "increase transparency about the game’s finances." Some clubs "are already obliged by stock market rules or national league requirements to publish their financial details," but the change of rules by UEFA will force many clubs to "go public for the first time." UEFA Head of Club Licensing & FFP Andrea Traverso said that it "remained to be seen whether the move would lead to a reduction in payments." He said, "It is about enhancing transparency -- from next season clubs will have to publish their financial information including compensation and agents fees. Whether this will put some pressure on those ... we will have to see" (REUTERS, 5/24). Evans also reported UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said that he wants the European Union to revisit its rules on free movement of labor and "the issue of whether football -- and sport in general -- should be given an exemption." Ceferin said that free movement for players, "which rules out the chance for limits on imported talent, is contributing to the lack of balance in European football." He asked, "There are some things that we said should be done or at least discussed. For example, the free movement of the workforce -- is it the time to say that not just footballers but athletes are an exemption? They should think about it because it harms the competitive balance" (REUTERS, 5/24).

Russians will be "banned from entering drug-testing rooms" in stadiums at the World Cup to "reassure teams that samples cannot be tampered with," FIFA Medical Committee Chair Michel D'Hooghe said. Chaperones who guide players from the pitch to the testing room will be designated by FIFA and will not be from the host nation. Two FIFA doctors will be in the room, "neither of whom will be Russian," and players can also bring a member of staff from their own team with them to witness the samples being provided (LONDON TIMES, 5/24).

Scottish Premiership side Rangers Chair Dave King called for the Scottish FA to suspend Independent Dir Gary Hughes over comments "he allegedly made about Rangers supporters." The "spotlight has been turned on Hughes" after he labeled Rangers fans "the great unwashed" in a magazine interview 12 years ago (HERALD SCOTLAND, 5/24).