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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

Belgian football was "thrown into turmoil after state prosecutors unleashed a wave of raids" across seven European countries "because of concerns of corruption in the country’s top league," according to Jim Brunsden of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The Belgian state prosecutor’s office said that the coordinated raids on Wednesday, which stretched from Belgium to Serbia and involved over 200 police officers, "were connected to evidence of backhanders paid to football agents and concerns over potential match-fixing." The probe centers on "commission payments to agents handling players" in the Jupiler Pro League. The raids took place at the grounds of several of the league’s member clubs "as well as at the homes and premises" of agents, lawyers, a coach, journalists and "potential accomplices," the state prosecutor’s office said, adding that "a large number of people" had been taken in for questioning. The fraud probe, which began in '17, concerns evidence that football agents hid "suspect financial transactions," concealing fees linked to "player transfers, player salaries" and the salaries of coaches. The announcement "sent a shockwave through Belgian football, revealing potential corruption problems on a previously unimaginable scale" (FT, 10/10). REUTERS' Philip Blenkinsop reported prosecutors "did not name any clubs or people." Belgian broadcasters VRT and RTBF said that searches "had taken place at leading teams" including Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liege. Prosecutors said that the searches were related to an investigation launched at the end of '17. The searches come after Belgium reached the World Cup semifinals in Russia. Most members of the national team squad "now play abroad but previously played" in Belgium's top flight, which is a "major feeder of players" for top European clubs (REUTERS, 10/10). The PA reported Club Brugge Chair Bart Verhaeghe said, "Club Brugge will give full cooperation to the investigation and has nothing to hide." Anderlecht also confirmed it was raided in a statement. Lokeren said that it is cooperating with the investigation after officers spent three-and-a-half hours with the club, "but nobody was needed for questioning" (PA, 10/10).

FA Head of Team Strategy & Performance Dave Reddin is accused of overseeing a "culture of fear."

One of the "key figures" behind England’s march to the World Cup semifinals this summer was reportedly accused of presiding over "a culture of fear and bullying" at the FA, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Dave Reddin, the FA’s head of team strategy and performance and one of its most senior figures, is said to have left colleagues "in tears, suffering with stress related illnesses and being forced to leave the organisation." An investigation "also uncovered evidence the FA failed" to properly address a written complaint about Reddin amid a suspected "cover-up" in a case with "echoes" of the one involving former England women's national team Manager Mark Sampson. The MP who led a "damning parliamentary probe" into the Sampson scandal, Damian Collins, called for an "independent" inquiry into the "latest controversy to engulf the FA," a year after it committed to a "full cultural review." The FA confirmed on Tuesday that it received an anonymous letter raising "certain concerns" about Reddin but said that it was "entirely satisfied" the complaint had been dealt with "appropriately" and "refused to disclose the outcome." The complaint, sent to FA CEO Martin Glenn and Human Resources Dir Rachel Brace, reportedly named nine of Reddin’s colleagues who allegedly "expressed concerns" about the "performance guru." The FA on Tuesday "admitted not contacting four of the nine but claimed it had approached the other five" and said that they had "all said they had never experienced any bullying by Reddin" (TELEGRAPH, 10/9).

UEFA announced it will increase Nations League payments for the current edition of the tournament, which started in September. There will be a 50% rise in solidarity fees given to all 55 national associations who are taking part. The group stage winners in Leagues A, B, C and D also all stand to benefit, with every country that finishes first in its pool receiving a 50% increase in bonus payments (UEFA).

Real Madrid reportedly "pressured Cristiano Ronaldo" to reach an agreement with his accuser Kathryn Mayorga. Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã "cited sources from Ronaldo's legal team." Real Madrid "was reportedly hoping to protect the image of its star signing" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 10/10).

UEFA revealed it awarded Scottish Premiership side Rangers special permission "not to give visiting European teams their full allocation of tickets" due to safety concerns expressed by the police. UEFA rules "state visiting teams must receive" around 5% of the capacity of the stadium, which means Rangers "should give up approximately 2,500 tickets to visiting teams" (Scotland DAILY RECORD, 10/10).

England women's national team head coach Phil Neville said that he is "concerned the standard of refereeing" at next year's Women's World Cup could "negatively impact the game's growth." England was on the "wrong end of some contentious decisions in a 1-1 draw against Australia on Tuesday." The Lionesses were denied two penalties "and had a goal wrongly disallowed." Neville: "Having VAR at the World Cup does not worry me, the standard of refereeing does" (BBC, 10/10).

The FA was accused of sexism after posting a picture of the women’s national team before its game against Australia along with the caption, "Scrub up well, don’t they?" The caption "has drawn scorn from social media users," with some asking whether the FA was making a "kitchen joke" and others "questioning what the team’s appearance had to do with football" (RT, 10/10).

A New Zealand Football board member resigned in the wake of the release of the Independent Review into NZF -- "and it could be the first of several departures." Exec council member Jon Ormond reportedly informed the rest of the committee of his decision to resign late last week. In a statement, Ormond said that it came down to a "conscience vote," given the findings of the review (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 10/10).