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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

Arsenal is "determined to be at the heart of discussions about a possible European Super League" but insisted that it will not turn its back on the Premier League, according to Gary Jacob of the LONDON TIMES. It is "the first big English club to admit to being involved in secret talks about a breakaway format" in '16 that would have included the top clubs in Europe and would have replaced the Champions League from '21. The plan was revealed in documents released by Der Spiegel. Chelsea, Liverpool, ManU, Man City and Arsenal were among the 11 founder members named that would be guaranteed to be part of the league for the first 20 years. While the plan never materialized, Arsenal Dir of Football Raul Sanllehi "did not rule out the possibility of a Super League in the future" but said that he "did not believe it would happen in the short term." He said, "We need to make sure Arsenal is always in any driving seat of anything that may happen. We need to at least be aware and decide in a responsible way whether that is the direction to take or not. We need to be there." Arsenal was represented at the breakaway talks by then-CEO Ivan Gazidis, according to Sanllehi, who was then a Barcelona exec and "heavily involved in the concept" (LONDON TIMES, 11/17). In London, Luke Brown reported Sanllehi claimed that "nobody at Arsenal saw the document" leaked by Der Spiegel, while maintaining that there was "nothing secret" about the initial negotiations. Sanllehi said, "The way it was explained may have seemed as though we were doing secret things, but there is nothing secret. The document presented in that article has Arsenal’s name, it also has Barcelona’s. But there is no signature and I can assure you that at Arsenal and Barcelona we did not see the document" (INDEPENDENT, 11/17).

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: In London, Tom Morgan reported Man City is facing a one-year transfer ban from FIFA over the signing of eight players younger than 18 from overseas, according to the latest batch in the Football Leaks series. Man City is the second EPL club after Chelsea to "face detailed allegations of paying the families of youth players." FIFA investigators are calling for Man City to be banned from making any signings for two transfer windows, according to Danish newspaper Politiken. Relatives of Belgian defender Mathias Bossaerts were said to have been paid £190,000 by Man City. Documents in the hands of the European Investigative Collaborations show the club was willing to pay £10,000 relocation costs to the family of a young boy who was still playing U8 football (TELEGRAPH, 11/16).

The FA's plan to cap the number of overseas players at Premier League clubs "has run into opposition" from West Ham United and Watford, according to Simon Jennings of REUTERS. The FA proposed reducing the number of foreign players in each Premier League squad to 12 from 17 after Britain leaves the European Union in an "attempt to boost the number of homegrown players." FA CEO Martin Glenn explained the proposal at Thursday’s Premier League shareholders meeting, but West Ham co-Chair David Gold said that there was "no evidence to support the governing body’s view." Gold: "Why would you change it? We have to do some further investigation and make sure we have all of the details. There’s no evidence so to speak to support (Glenn’s) proposal. (The FA) are looking into it and we are looking into it. We are very supportive of English football ... but we don’t want to be doing things that isn’t going to work." Watford Operations Dir Glyn Evans, whose club is at the current maximum limit of 17 overseas players, "is also opposed to the idea." He said, "We want to keep the status quo. We want (the homegrown player quota) to stay as it is" (REUTERS, 11/16).

Southeast Victorian bid chiefs "believe they have the demographic ingredients to form an A-League super club, as expansion returns to the agenda for next season," according to David Davutovic of the HERALD SUN. Meanwhile, South Melbourne said that it will not cannibalize Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, declaring that its "ready-made stadium" gives it a "head start." Western Melbourne is plotting to become the first A-League club to "own its own matchday venue," insisting it will build a A$200M ($147M)-plus stadium in Tarneit. A-League expansion "looks set to be the first point of business" for the new Football Federation Australia board after Monday’s annual general meeting. While South Melbourne’s "rich" National Soccer League history is its "selling point," Team 11 said that a new professional pathway coupled with southeast Victoria’s "understated wealth and social challenges" -- with Dandenong, Frankston North, Doveton and Morwell among the state’s "most socially disadvantaged" -- are "recipes for sporting success." The Greater Dandenong and City of Casey Councils "have driven the bid," which now has millions of dollars in private backing (HERALD SUN, 11/17).

'HISTORIC CRESCENDO': In Sydney, Vince Rugari reported the race for the four open seats in the FFA boardroom "is essentially down to five," with weeks of politicking, campaigning and horse-trading "set to reach an historic crescendo" at Monday's election. There are 10 contenders left in the running after Craig Foster's withdrawal from the race on Friday night. Various factions "are taking different views of the situation" but the "one thing they all agree on is that five have pulled away from the rest of the pack." They are former Soccer Australia Chair Remo Nogarotto, PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Joseph Carrozzi, women's football pioneer Heather Reid, ex-Labor senator Stephen Conroy and former FFA Dir Chris Nikou (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/18).

The future of the leagues' partnership includes an annual tournament dubbed the Campeones Cup.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Mexican Football Federation (FMF) President Yon de Luisa during the SoccerEx convention on Thursday "spoke about their accomplishments and goals for the future of soccer in both countries," including the "budding partnership" between MLS and Liga MX, according to Alicia DelGallo of PRO SOCCER USA. De Luisa said that the future of the leagues' partnership includes having a "very good annual tournament" -- the new Campeones Cup -- as well as "working together to share sponsorships and partners across borders." He added that in the future, the way Mexico, the U.S. and Canada "share information will change drastically." He said that will "include hosting youth tournaments that not only benefit the players but also allow technical staffs from each country to stay with, study and learn from each other." That "focus on furthering partnerships across borders is essential leading up" to the 2026 World Cup. Both Garber and de Luisa believe that the eight-year timeline between now and then "presents obvious shared growth, marketing and promotional opportunities to raise the profile and quality of the sport in the region." Garber said that the opportunity should also provide "generational value" (PRO SOCCER USA, 11/15).

COMPETITIONS ABOUND: DelGallo also reported Garber said that he "has enough work to do evolving the league's schedule without including the Copa Libertadores." Teams from Liga MX have been "invited to participate in the tournament," and there have been reports in the last few years that MLS teams "could join the competition in the near future." However, Garber said that he does not "see it happening." He said, "We have been really focused on trying to think of ways in which we could have some sort of meaningful competition with Liga MX, and we've got a long way to go to figure out how that schedule will work." Garber: "In time, we'll be able to have an opportunity to play in different competitions than just our league competition and our federation's competition and our confederation's competition, but thinking about that being outside of our confederation, I don't see that happening any time soon" (PRO SOCCER USA, 11/15).

This year's Copa Libertadores -- with the second leg of the final between Boca Juniors and River Plate yet to be played -- "has already set records for total attendance and ticket revenue." The total to this point of 3,484,814 fans who have attended games exceeds the previous record of 3,029,746, which was set in '17. This year's games have also generated ticket revenue of $49.8M, while last year's games generated less than $43M (OLÉ, 11/18).

Richard Scudamore will receive £5M from the Premier League over the next three years.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Concerns that Richard Scudamore would take a job at La Liga or a rival sports organization, such as the NFL, were "decisive in pacifying" those clubs who opposed his £5M ($6.4M) payment. Scudamore will receive the money direct from the Premier League’s central fund over the next three years, rather than as a direct series of £250,000 ($321,000) payments from clubs (London TELEGRAPH, 11/18).

An open letter calling on Professional Footballers' Association CEO Gordon Taylor to step down was endorsed by more than 200 "high-profile" current and former players. It is understood the letter will call for the election of a new CEO to bring an end to Taylor's 37-year tenure and supports the call by PFA Chair Ben Purkiss for an independent review of the union (London GUARDIAN, 11/18).

A special prosecutor said that a top Swiss federal prosecutor was "cleared of wrongdoing after being suspended amid questions about his conduct" during investigations into suspected corruption surrounding FIFA. Olivier Thormann will "nevertheless leave his job" as head of the Office of the Attorney General's white-collar crimes unit, the OAG said. Ulrich Weder, a Zurich prosecutor who had been appointed to investigate, confirmed that his probe into Thormann’s behavior was dropped (REUTERS, 11/16).