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Volume 7 No. 149

International Football

The fire that killed 10 young footballers at Brasileiro side Flamengo’s training ground in Rio de Janeiro "was caused by a spike of electricity that led to a fire in an air conditioning unit," club CEO Reinaldo Belotti said on Saturday, according to Andrew Downie of REUTERS. The fire started in the early hours of Friday morning, a day after a "devastating storm struck Rio and killed at least six people." Belotti said that the adverse weather conditions "caused energy spikes that could have caused the fire" at the Ninho do Urubu, Flamengo’s training center on the outskirts of the city. Belotti: "It was succession of events after a catastrophic day for Rio that led to this even greater catastrophe." One of the 13 young players to escape the blaze "had previously said he fled the building after waking up and seeing his air conditioning unit on fire." Three teenagers were taken to hospital with injuries, one of them in serious condition (REUTERS, 2/9). In London, Sam Jones reported Rio de Janeiro declared three days of mourning following the fatal fire. The city said in a statement that the area burned "was registered for parking, not as a dormitory," and that an investigation into the licensing process was underway. Flamengo President Rodolfo Landim said, "We are distraught. This is the worst tragedy to happen to the club in its 123 years. The most important thing right now is to minimize the suffering of these families." Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella ordered three days of mourning, while Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro lamented the fire taking "the young lives at the beginning of pursuing their professional dreams" (GUARDIAN, 2/9).

PELÉ, NEYMAR PAY TRIBUTE: The BBC reported Pelé described the club as "a place where young people pursue their dreams." He tweeted, "It's a very sad day for Brazilian football." Neymar posted the Flamengo crest on Instagram, writing, "My sentiments" (BBC, 2/8).

The EPL "has been forced to seriously consider" U.S. candidates to fill its vacant CEO post for the first time after "the top British choices turned down the job," according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The search for a successor to Richard Scudamore "is being taken across the Atlantic following a series of embarrassing setbacks" during the eight-month "hunt for a new leader." During a meeting of the league’s 20 club chairs last week, there was reportedly "an acceptance" that both U.S. and U.K. candidates "would be in the running for the post." Chelsea Chair Bruce Buck is leading the five-person panel responsible for finding a new CEO in conjunction with headhunters Spencer Stuart. U.S. execs have previously had discussions over the role, "according to a person close to the panel’s deliberations." But many clubs had believed an overseas exec would "not fit" with the significant U.K. public profile that comes with the job, "and only Britons were placed on the original shortlist." The U.S. has "a number of wealthy sports leagues," franchises and media organizations, providing a "deep pool of talent" for the EPL's search. But attracting an experienced, high-profile U.S. exec "may require a change of tack." Buck has "resisted demands from leading clubs that more money should be offered to attract bigger names" (FT, 2/9).

Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby offered to work on a campaign to cancel the 2022 Qatar World Cup and "get it awarded to another country" in return for £5.5M, according to Jim Waterson of the London GUARDIAN. His offer was revealed in a "leaked plan that gives a rare insight into the activities of one of the world’s best-known political operatives." The detailed pitch document -- "a proposal for a campaign to expose the truth of the Qatar regime and bring about the termination of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar" -- was written in April '18 and personally signed by Crosby. He said that if engaged, his lobbying firm, CTF Partners, would require £300,000 a month for 18 months to focus on efforts to delegitimize the Qatari government and "put pressure on" FIFA to "restart the bidding process" and award the World Cup to another country. As part of the pitch document, named "Project Ball," Crosby said that CTF Partners could set up "full-time war rooms around the world to spread negative stories about Qatar in the mainstream media," run fake grassroots campaigns on social media, and "lobby potentially friendly politicians, journalists and academics." The pitch offers a glimpse into the "secretive services offered" by Crosby. He is close to former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly described Crosby’s use of the "dead cat" media strategy to distract journalists. Crosby’s potential client for Project Ball was a "self-styled Qatari opposition leader based in London named Khalid Al-Hail," who says he fled the Gulf country after being detained and tortured. Crosby’s lawyers said that no contract with Al-Hail "was ever entered into and none of the work outlined in the proposal was undertaken." They insisted that the proposed work was "hardly controversial" given widespread criticism of the Qatar World Cup bid and human rights in the Gulf country (GUARDIAN, 2/10).

The English Football League delayed a decision on the League Championship side Leeds United "spygate" controversy on Friday as it continues to investigate and "seek clarification in a number of areas." Leeds Manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted last month that his coaching staff had "watched all of their opponents in training this season" after one of them was removed from Derby County’s training ground the day before their Championship match (REUTERS, 2/8).

Police detained two EPL side Southampton fans who "appeared to mock the death" of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala. Two men were filmed "apparently making plane gestures" during Southampton’s loss to Cardiff. Southampton later confirmed police had detained two men, adding, “Such behavior has no place in our game and will not be tolerated at St Mary’s. The club will ban those supporters identified" (London GUARDIAN, 2/9).

Spanish football club Platges de Calvia reportedly inquired about whether it can claim a "training compensation fee" as a percentage of the £15M ($19.4M) Cardiff City paid Nantes for Sala. The Argentine played as a youth for Soledat -- a club that was taken over by Platges in '16 (THE SUN, 2/8).