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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

Australian sport could have its "first club representative of an Indigenous nation" if Southern Expansion "wins the race" for an A-League license on Dec. 12, according to Bossi & Rugari of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The Dhawaral country is "set to heavily influence the identity of the football club and could even be included in the name of the franchise, should it be granted entry into the competition." Based in the Sutherland Shire region and "drawing support" from St. George and Illawarra regions, the bid's catchment area is "almost identical to the boundaries of the Dharawal nation." That observation has not gone "unnoticed" by Southern Expansion's directors, who have "already engaged a marketing firm to establish" the club's colors, logo and brand in anticipation of being awarded the A-League license. Southern Expansion is "only the working title of the bid and will be dropped" in favor of a club name after consultation with the community. However, Southern Expansion Chair Morris Iemma confirmed the bid's proposal to be put forward to the community will "heavily draw" upon colors "representing the region and influences from the Dharawal nation, which could be included in the club's name." Dharawal community elders have "already been consulted" over images and names that "could be respectfully used for the club" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/29).

SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND: In Sydney, Smithies & Kemp reported the "unintended consequence of expansion" causing A-League execs a "serious headache" is how many rounds to play when two new teams are added, "probably next season." Assuming expansion goes ahead, Fox Sports will inform Football Federation Australia its preference is to broadcast a 22-round regular season, with every club playing each other home and away, followed by the finals series. That adds up to "almost exactly the same number of games being broadcast" -- 137 in a 22-round competition plus finals, as opposed to 140 this year with 10 teams -- but it will mean "between two and three fewer home games for each club in terms of revenue." Some had assumed the league would "expand to 33 rounds," but at roughly A$80,000 ($58,400) in production costs per game, that would cost Fox an extra A$2.5M ($1.8M) -- "money the broadcaster has made clear it cannot afford." However, a 22-round league puts FFA "on a collision course with the Asian Football Confederation," whose rules around which countries can take part in the Asian Champions League state a minimum of 27 games for the top division (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/29).

NOT ALL ABOUT MONEY: In Sydney, Michael Lynch reported Former Australian Professional Football Clubs Association Chair and former Adelaide United Owner Greg Griffin, who "led the campaign to oust" former FFA Chair Steven Lowy, said that any plan to give new A-League licenses to the highest bidders would "be an afront to the principles of governance those who opposed Lowy sought to bring to the game." As rumors "circulate that the always cash-hungry FFA might be tempted to consider handing" the new expansion licenses to those that offer the highest fee, Griffin "bridled at the idea." Griffin said that he wants expansion to be "approved quickly -- but in the right locations, and for the right reasons." He said, "It needs to be judged on the correct metrics. Location, population, support, demographics, not just on who pays the most. I would be appalled if it was whoever pays the most gets the license. That is just not the way to do business" (THE AGE, 11/29).

French Professional Football League (LFP) Dir General Didier Quillot spoke to Victory Sports Marketing Founder Gordon Kane at Wednesday’s Sports Business Journal Dealmakers in Sports conference in N.Y. about the latest regarding Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. Quillot answered 20 questions from Kane in 20 minutes, covering everything from the league’s DNCG, which regulates French clubs’ finances and ensures transparency to recent overseas investments by the likes of former MLB L.A. Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt, who bought Olympique de Marseille in ’16, and the recent takeover of Bordeaux by U.S. investment fund GACP.

Because its clubs cost far less than those in the Premier League, Quillot called France “the place to be” for int’l buyers hoping to get involved in European football. He said that while a team toward the bottom of the Premier League table like Newcastle United is worth a reported $350M, for that price, an investor could acquire a top-tier French club and have $200M left to invest. He claimed that this has not gone unnoticed, saying that two clubs located in well-known French cities are open to takeover talks.

When asked why French clubs currently appeal to investors, Quillot cited the talent France is producing, among other reasons. He pointed out that of the five most expensive player transfers in the last two years, three involved French footballers: Paris St. Germain’s Kylian Mbappé, ManU’s Paul Pogba and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé.

Other signs of the growing value of the LFP are the fact that league wide, stadium attendance is improving, ticket prices and sponsorship value are on the rise and TV viewership figures are growing. All of those factors helped contribute to the landmark domestic TV rights deal the league signed in May for the ’20-24 cycle. Mediapro acquired the majority of the rights in a deal worth €1.15B ($1.31B) per season, which marked a 60% increase on the league’s previous domestic agreement.

When asked what he would say to a potential suitor for a Ligue 1 club, Quillot mentioned that over the next six years, France will host the Women’s World Cup in ’19, the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

“Come with us,” he said. “France is a place to invest. On top of Ligue 1’s momentum, France as a country is really the next place to be.”

La Liga has taken legal action against the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) "in an effort to get approval" for a regular-season match in the U.S. A Madrid commercial court said that the league filed a lawsuit accusing the RFEF of "unfair competition." The court said that a decision is expected in two weeks, in time for the planned January match between Barcelona and Girona near Miami (AP, 11/29).

Former U.K. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch backed the Premier League's opposition to quota changes. She claimed that the existing system was "working for the England national team." The EPL and FA are "sharply divided over what should happen after Brexit." The clubs want a free global market with any player given an EPL contract also getting a visa but the FA will "only go along with that if an increase in the minimum number of homegrown players in each squad, from eight to 12, is agreed" (LONDON TIMES, 11/29).

Former Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou and Secretary General Hicham El Amrani were fined $27.9M each by the Egyptian Economic Court. The EEC ruled that the pair "flouted local Egyptian law" when signing a billion-dollar deal between CAF and French media company Lagardère in '15. The deal was not open to free and fair tender as required by Egyptian law, the EEC claimed. Hayatou and El Amrani will both appeal (BBC, 11/28).

FIFPro called for an "urgent inquiry into medical treatment given to players at several top-tier clubs in Cyprus." The demand from the world footballers’ union follows reports in the Cypriot media that "at least four clubs have been giving injections of unidentified substances to players, three of whom have been forced to retire with serious heart problems" (PA, 11/29).

Cameroon’s hosting of the upcoming African Nations Cup is "back in the balance after the north African grouping of football nations called for the tournament to be switched to Morocco." The North African Football Union (UNAF) is reportedly "putting pressure" on CAF to strip Cameroon of hosting rights to make sure that the expanded 24-team tournament is "not held in half-finished stadiums amid growing concerns the country would not be able to cope" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 11/29).

The Belgian FA (KBVB) said that three players from Belgium’s U16 women’s team were approached in a match-fixing attempt during an int'l tournament this year. FA Integrity Officer Thibault De Gendt confirmed rumors while speaking to the Flemish parliament about fraud in the game. He said, "It concerns three girls of 15. After a training (session) they were approached by a Turkish man who offered them $50,000 each to influence a game" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 11/29).