Praying – A Touchy Subject

When sports administrators start justifying decisions that cause a public outcry you know they are in trouble.

This was very much the case in the NFL in America.

Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night. After scoring he did what many other NFL players do to celebrate, he paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.

There was however a difference to the much witnessed player crossing himself or putting his hands together in prayer, you see Abdullah is a devout Muslim, and he knelt down and bowed down in the end zone. He then found that his religious display saw him penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. All because he slid to the ground, and knelt in the end zone.

The NFL to be fair were quick to come out and say “Abdullah should not have been penalized,” Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. “Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”

The rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although many players including Tim Tebow have been allowed to kneel. The penalty Abdullah received came under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook, which states that “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.” This was inserted as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations.

Apparently there is an exception to the rule and that is going to ground in prayer. However the technical issue was according to many that Abdullah sliding into position to give thanks.

There was talk that Abdullah may be fined for his gesture, but the backlash of public opinion and the reaction on social media will probably see the NFL send a memo to all its officials to let such issues slide!

October 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same.

There will be disappointment in the Western Australian Football community this week when once again the aim of the structures recommended in the Crawford Report will be shown as being ignored.

The State League Standing Committee which has in the past been criticised for a lack of unity and also leadership put together a detailed document as to how they believed the NPL and integration with the State Leagues should work in the future. The State League Standing Committee did not reach these conclusions on their own. They should be commended for creating a survey and inviting interested fans, players coaches and club officials to share their thoughts on a number of options which had been tabled.

They are also to be commended for their transparency, as the results of this survey were published and broken down for all to see.

In the Crawford report the Standing Committees were suggested, so that the game could be more self governed. They were to be created to give the stakeholders a say in how the game was run. In recent times the standing committees have many times let the stakeholders down, but not in this instant, where they followed a true consultive process and put forward a balanced and well thought out pathway forward.

Sadly the powers that be have opted once again not to listen to what the clubs and many of the stakeholders want, and it is apparently the Football West Board who have voted some of these recommendations down. Some are questioning why this is in fact a board decision. The Board employs staff to run the competitions at Football West and also staff to administer the game as a whole. Surely therefore the final call should have been negotiated between the Standing Committee and Football West Staff?  The Board’s role is to ensure that goals they set for Football West are met and that due diligence exists in the way the organisation is run and the game administered. Interference in the day to day running of competitions is surely stepping outside of their remit?

Whatever your view, they have decided that only one club will be promoted and one relegated in the 12 team leagues. However this will be dependent on the promoted club meeting the all criteria to be in the NPL. A criteria that needs to be made very clear now, so that clubs with ambitions to be promoted can make sure that come the seasons end they have everything in place. This criteria also needs to currently be in place with every current NPL club, or it will make the NPL look like a closed shop, in which only the chosen few can play.

Hopefully all clubs will receive a copy of the criteria required to take their place in a higher league in the next few weeks. This criteria has to be in place before the start of the season and cannot be altered once the whistle sounds for the first game.

For some reason the Board has also stipulated that if the first placed team does not meet the NPL criteria then only if the second placed team was second by a margin of five points or less will they be considered for promotion. Quite why such a rule is being implemented is hard to fathom. Sadly once again accusations of the Board protecting the hand-picked NPL teams is bound to arise because of it.

There will be no play-off between the second bottom club in the division above and the clubs in second place in the divisions below as recommended. One of the three reasons given in a document sent to clubs was:

“it will affect and disrupt too many junior NPL players causing considerable movement of those affected and disrupted players between NPL and non-NPL clubs thus destabilising the competition and defeating many of the aims of the NPL. The relegation of each NPL club affects about 100 players;”

However this would only be the case if the Junior teams are “coupled” with the senior sides.

One thing the NPL has done is force its clubs to have teams at all junior age levels. Ever since that was announced warning bells have sounded as to what would happen when relegation and promotion were brought in. Despite having a year to think about it and make a decision, no one is any the wiser on what will happen when relegation comes in in 2015. According to the document sent out this week “The Board of Directors has deferred a decision on this matter and has instructed Football West staff to do further work in relation to the issue of “coupling”. This will be undertaken in the coming weeks in consultation with all relevant parties including FFA and other Member Federations.” As stated previously this should have been thought through and a decision made before the NPL was created.”

The fact that this was not addressed by the former Technical Director at the FFA Han Berger as he went around the country extolling how great the NPL would be for Australian football is a bit of a mystery. As a similar system was introduced in Mr Berger’s home country The Netherlands, and teams were “coupled” and when relegation occurred all the junior teams of the relegated teams collapsed, because the parents had been told – just as they have with the NPL – if little Jimmy wants to make it as a professional he has to be playing for an NPL team. Based on this knowledge it should have been a no-brainer for Mr Berger that teams should definitely not be “Coupled.” Quite why he failed to make a call on this is baffling

For those who believe promotion and relegation is assured in season 2015, there is a rider in the document sent out and it reads “It is important to note that while the issue of promotion and relegation has been agreed to by the Football West Board, the mechanics and consequences are, to a certain extent, dependent on the resolution of the issue of this “coupling” investigation and deliberation.”

October 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm 1 comment

Re-Cycling Players and Ideas – A Bad Pathway.

As The Hyundai A-League celebrates its 10th Anniversary, the success of Tony Popovic’s Western Sydney Wanderers overnight reaching the Asian Champions League finals has many sitting back and claiming that all is well with the game.

Western Sydney Wanderers achievement is truly remarkable and a credit to Popovic, his back up team and the players. For a team that is about to enter its third year in existence to make it through to a final to decide the best club team in Asia at the first time of asking is astounding. They become only the second Australian side to make it to the final following Aurelio Vidmar’s Adeliade United in 2008, who lost the final 2-0 to Gamba Oskaka.

They say one swallow does not make a summer, and neither does the success of one team make a League. Football Leagues around the World are littered with competitions that are ultimately between only three or four teams. That is not great news for fans in a league with 24 teams, let alone one with only ten.

Many will tell you that the A-League is in the best position it has ever been in, Others well tell you that the product started to lose its way after the fifth season. There is also now a groundswell of support claiming that the standard is inferior to its predecessor the NSL. Everyone has and is entitled to an opinion.

The interesting thing to do is make a short comparison between the two leagues, and mistakes made.

The National Soccer League was launched in 1977. Fourteen teams contested the first season, all on the East coast of Australia. Sydney Hakoah were the first Champions shading Marconi on gaol difference.

At the end of the first season Mooroolbark were replaced by Newcastle KB United. It took two seasons of the A-League before the first side dropped out, The New Zealand Knights; and this was in an 8 team league.

By the fourth year of the NSL with crowds steady but not growing to expected levels, discussions were held as to how the game could gain a bigger place in the consciousness of the Australian sporting public. Suggestions were to move to a Summer competition, which the A-League is. Another idea was to adopt a Franchise model and ease the financial pressure on the clubs. The A-League is a Franchise model, yet the financial pressures still exist. Many will argue that the Franchise model chosen was flawed, as it saw the clubs in the hands of private owners rather than clubs being owned by Corporations and businesses. There is also no chance of input from the fans. The financial losses eventually becoming too much for individual owners; hence so many changes of ownership around the league in ten years.

Just as the NSL had done in its early years the A-League looked to try and attract media attention by bringing in big name imported stars. It added a bit of glamour to the league and the success of Dwight Yorke at Sydney FC and Fred at Melbourne Victory overshadowed the not so successful other signings from Europe, of which there were far too many. It almost seems that clubs feel obliged to fill their foreign quota of players even though a great number hardly play.

By the ’80’s the performance of these imported stars in the NSL was in the main fleeting. They grabbed the attention for a few weeks, but their performances at the ends of their careers failed to keep the attention.

The same is true today, but now the cost of these stars on the wane is far greater. The spin is the big name players will bring in the crowds, the statistics say otherwise.

For Sydney FC’s first home game after signing Juventus and Italy legend Alessandro del Piero an amazing 35,419 went through the turnstiles. Yet in round 4 against the Glory – their next home game – a large number did not return, and only 22,128 took their seats. The following weekend the figure went down again to 21,531 against arch rivals Melbourne Victory. A drop of 13,291. This was never given any media coverage. Not mentioned by the club or the FFA, as obviously it exposed a flaw in their promotional strategy.

Sydney FC were not alone in these crowd drop-offs, the Marquee effect on crowds shows a definite trend. Perth Glory went from 16,019 to 12, 031 in their first two games with Robbie Fowler their highest two crowds that season. Melbourne Victory had 40,351 to Harry Kewell’s first game in their colours. There was only a small drop in the next game, most likely because they played cross town rivals the then Melbourne Heart (39,309), but more telling was their next home game when only 24,820 turned up!

Alessandro Del Piero has been hailed as a huge success for the A-League, but was he really? Sydney FC won nothing while he was there, and during his time he ended up seeing two coaches shown the door.

Many would challenge that the signing of del Piero was purely and simply aimed at trying to keep the A-League profile up when it was starting to wane, the same tactic Chairman of the FFA Frank Lowy used when he was involved in the NSL.

Del Piero’s salary is believed to have been a shade over AUD$4 million per annum. Sydney FC were not left to pay all of this with the FFA lending a hand – which in itself raises a myriad of questions of conflicts of interest – as well as a few other parties. However Not the Footy Show has been advised that accommodation for the family was paid for by the club and that did not come cheaply.

Sydney FC boast about the number of replica shirts they sold with del Piero’s name on, however they do not reveal that their star import also received sizeable royalties on those shirts and any other apparel sold with his name on.

Although Sydney FC did not have to pay for their trip to Italy on a pre season tour Mr del Piero was still making money, as the income that was generated by charging fans to watch del Piero train with his new club was levied and kept by Del Piero and his staff; this is explained as payback for them arranging the tour.

When one analyses the cost of signing a waning start such as del Piero the figures do not stack up. Sure he still had great vision and could pass a ball exquisitely, but he could not run and if anything hampered the structure of the team. Brisbane Roar have shown that signing a lesser known, but still talented players such as Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha is a far better investment. Yet the FFA still seem to want superstars to try and the reason is to keep the brand of the A-League in the public eye.

After ten years it is time the A-League stood on its own as a League. That it promoted and marketed itself for what it is, and stopped trying to be the English Premier League, because it is not and never will be. It is also time that new marketing techniques were used rather than repeating the mistakes of the NSL. The money blown on players who can no longer perform should be invested in young Australian players, you may be surprised, but fans of the game in this country want to see home grown talent thrive. They may take a few years to mature as was evident with the players given a chance at Brisbane Roar, but when they do the football is worth the entry fee.

October 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm 1 comment

Family Feud

On the 18th of September the CEO of the Football Federation of Australia, David Gallop, addressed the media at a press conference that was streamed via SBS on the “State of The Game.” He wore a badge on the lapel of his suit stating “We are Football,” and in the opening minute of his address he referred to the “Football Family.”

These two phrases are becoming cliches in Australian football as they are simply words that are not backed up with actions from the game’s governing body.

There are several interpretations for the word “family,” but most involved with the game envisaged the FFA’s usage to embrace the meaning that says in the Oxford Dictionary, a ‘group of related peoples or of objects having a common cause.’ Sadly the longer the phrase is bandied about at will by the game’s administrators, the further the meaning moves from such an interpretation.

Not The Footy Show ran a piece on this site (Football Cleansing a Step Too Far) in July about how the FFA’s National Club Identity Policy flew in the face of Australian Race law; advice having been sought by a lawyer in that field. This policy like many others introduced by the FFA are far removed from a family feel; there is little love or nurturing involved. They are the policies of a dictatorial head of the family.

Never was this more apparent than in the last 24 hours when the FFA threatened the Melbourne Knights football club, who have challenged them on this very policy, that they face the possibility of not being permitted to play in sanctioned competitions such as the Victorian Premier League, National Premier League and FFA Cup.

This is if the club opts to breach the identity policy, which prohibits registered football clubs from adding ethnic, religious, political or broad geographic symbols, words or imagery to their name, logo or jersey.

The Melbourne Knights are heading to the Australian Human Rights Commission where they have lodged a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. It is believed the FFA are still questioning the validity of the complaint, and are standing by their dubious policy. What caused the two to go head to head was the FFA chosing to ban the Melbourne Knights’ sponsorship deal with two Croatian community clubs for their FFA Cup match against Olympic FC on July 29.

Rather than sit around the table and try and sort the problem out as most ‘families’ would do, the FFA have threatened to expel the ‘child’ for standing up to the ‘father.’ They refused to even enter mediation on the matter.

This should be a warning sign to all clubs around the country, especially those with any links to a foreign past. All of these clubs, if they wish to hang onto that history and tradition should stand alongside Melbourne Knights. Just to make it clear how wrong this policy is an Aboriginal team could not be created and give itself a traditional name and play under the FFA’s new rules!

The Melbourne Knights should be commended for stating that they will not back down, and that they will pursue the matter through the Federal Court system if the need arises.

There will be some who will sneer at their stance, just as many players did when Jean Marc Bosman challenged the transfer system in 1995. Bosman was playing for RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division and his contract had expired in 1990. He wanted to move to Dunkerque, in France. However, the move fell through when Dunkerque refused to meet his Belgian club’s demand for a transfer fee, so Liège refused to let him go. His wages were reduced and he was no longer a first-team player. He took his case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and sued for restraint of trade citing FIFA’s rules regarding football, specifically Article 17. The decision went in his favour and banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid. One man changed the game for the best for others. Will it be the case of one club doing the same in Australia?

Sadly Bosman paid a heavy price. After winning his case, which took five years, he has allegedly now lost the money he won from the hearing and has descended into alcoholism and depression whilst living on social benefits. In fact in April last year he was sentenced to a year in prison for an alcohol related incident.

Bosman stood alone, just as it appears the Melbourne Knights are. Where are all the members of the family? Are they too afraid to stand as one against the father figure? Can the FFA ban every club that decides to stand up and be counted with the Melbourne Knights and defend what is fair and right in a truly ethnically diverse country?

Once again football clubs around the country have a chance to make their voice heard, once again they have the chance to stand as one and stop something that is simply wrong, and could destroy the history of the game as we know it. Yet those same clubs who suddenly have gone mute will continue to bemoan their lot, the lack of support from the FFA, the lack of funding, FFA Cup games being moved etcetera. Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right and with one small victory others will follow.

When the Melbourne Knights are victorious let us see how many then suddenly find their voices.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure it is time to bin those “We are Football” badges because they are simply the sort of tack that comes out during US elections. They are a slogan not backed by actions. A five minute conversation with most of the people who wear them and you realise they are new to the game, and have absolutely no feel for its history or its passion. As for the “Football Family,” families have arguments, where both sides shout at each other and voice their opinions, but the lucky ones still sit down and eat at the same table when the dust has settled. The FFA do not appear to want to break bread, so this is no family. Where there is no respect there can be no love, no encouragement, no understanding, or forgiveness. So let us stop hiding behind slogans with no feeling or meaning. No one believes them anymore, except for maybe those who wear the badges and spout the words; who knows maybe this is how they justify what they are saying and doing is in fact right.

October 1, 2014 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

All Teams Need A Place to Call Home.

There is no doubt that there are many sports fans who have a bucket list. A list that will undoubtedly include attending an F1, go to a Melbourne Cup, watch Manchester United at Old Trafford, Liverpool at Anfield, but these fans achieving their goals should not be impacting on sporting events too heavily. Yet something is, and few want to accept that it could in fact be the economy.

For the past 10-15 years sport has been all about money. Clubs from various codes have looked to increase the capacity of their stadia so that they can squeeze more fans into the live atmosphere and cash in on fans wanting to ‘be there.’ However the cost ob that experience has slowly risen, and unfortunately these prices have become the benchmark for pricing.

Arsenal FC were a prime example of a club needing to have more fans inside their stadium in order to compete with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United. In 1997 they were looking to expand their old home ground of Highbury, their plan would have seen them have to demolish 25 neighbouring houses, and this was why it never went ahead.

After bidding to use Wembley, they left that idea in 1998. Eventually they found a new home in Islington. Yet before building Emirates Stadium they agreed to build a new modern waste plant for the council, two developments of “affordable housing” as well as pay for improvements to roads and the tube station to accommodate the increase in traffic on match days. That was not all, they also agreed to build four health centres and replace a children’s play a era with a new playground. This was so they could build a new stadium and have the surrounding land that they could develop  and make money from. The hard truth being that it would be a long time before they had paid of the cost of the stadium and it was making money for them.

In 2003 Arsenal borrowed UKP357million to build the stadium alone; Loans repayable for this money due in 14 years!

The good news though is despite that cost Arsenal own their ground. In Australia very few if any major sporting associations own their grounds. They therefore have to pay a rental fee in order to use the ground on a match day and then have the ancillary costs of security on a match day which continue to drive the price of using the ground up. Which in turn drives the price of a ticket to watch the game up.

This is why the crowds are beginning to fall away at many sporting events, cost. Fans have an ideas as to what they are prepared to pay for the standard of sport they are going to watch. In rugby they will pay more to watch the All Blacks play Australia than they will to see them play Argentina. There is history, there is rivalry, there is the ‘being there’ experience from an All Blacks Test that simply isn’t there yet against Argentina. People will pay a little bit more for that experience.

A case in point was the recent F1 Grand Prix in Singapore. No Stadium issues here, but the crowds were well down on previous years, in fact many locals left town that weekend. Tourist numbers of diehard supporters were also down, and were very much in the range of 30-55 age group. The attendance by locals was also well down and seats were unsold in the grandstands, the reason being according to those who stayed being that it was an event once you have been to it, there is no real desire to go again, and… the cost is too much.

Australia faces a major challenge in the coming years. Stadium managers are going be continually asked to turn a profit on the venue that they manage. They will try and squeeze more money out of those sporting clubs that use the venue, but these clubs are walking a tightrope as to how much they can charge to their supporters before they turn around and say that they cannot justify the cost. Many feel that the price of watching professional sport in Australia is at a level where it cannot go any higher.

If the fans stop coming through the gate, and crowds start to dwindle sponsors start to question their investment, and it is a downward spiral from there. It is an incredibly fine line which is being trod at this present time.

The major issue is the fact that the clubs are unable to control their own destiny, by owning the venues that they play at. Imagine if Perth Glory and Rugby WA – who own and manage the Western Force – were able to broker a partnership where they owned the stadium that they played at, and both were able to create new revenue streams for themselves by having the stadium host concerts, expos etc. in the off season? This may well be a pipe dream, but it is something that both organisations will need to give due consideration to down the track.

The new mutli-purpose stadium in Perth will not benefit these codes, and they need to start looking at how they can ensure their own long term futures. The only way is to own the grounds at which they play, and determine their own ticket prices based on either the appeal of the game, the success of the team, or the general economy.

Rest assured the only the die hard fans will continue to empty their wallets and click through the turnstiles for non-international competition. Every fan has a price which they feel is acceptable and one that is too expensive. Sport was always about giving entertainment to the man on the street, and escape at the weekend from the drudgery of work. While the top end of town may have the money, it is the regular ticket holders who create the atmosphere and who will stay with the club and the team through thick and thin, hence these are the people who need to be looked after. Slowly they are becoming excluded and the ownership of the stadia and costs accrued by not owning them is one of the many reasons why.

September 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Champagne On Ice

If football wants to be taken seriously again it is definitely time for change at the top. Sepp Blatter’s continual inappropriate comments and unwillingness for transparency in FIFA can no longer be tolerated, as it is holding the game back. He has thus far withstood calls from outside of the walls of power to be open and honest with the game’s governing bodies dealings but now pressure is mounting from within.

It is believed that FIFA is under huge pressure from within to allow its investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be published on Wednesday.  Chief investigator Michael Garcia and members of FIFA’s own executive committee broke ranks this week over plans to bury the report.

Michael Garcia as the the head of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee, along with its British vice-president, Jim Boyce, and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan has called for his 350-page report on alleged corruption during the bid process to be made public.

It is believed that Garcia wants an altered copy of his report made public, removing the names of whistleblowers and other sensitive information.

The comments of Prince Ali bin Al Hussein will be music to the ears of many, FIFA’s Asian vice-president, whose region happens to include Qatar, posted on Twitter: “In the interest of full transparency, I believe it is important that the much-anticipated report on the ethics investigation that is crucial to ensuring good governance at FIFA is fully disclosed and open to the public.This will only help the football community move ahead in reforming our institutions in the best interest of the sport. The entire football family as well as its sponsors and those who follow the game worldwide have a full right to know the contents of the report in the spirit of complete openness.”

Hopefully he will look to enforce the same standards throughout Asia.

His colleague Jim Boyce is quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying : “If people have nothing to fear, they should not worry about information being published.”

Boyce and Prince Ali, who both joined FIFA’s executive committee after the controversial 2010 vote do not have everyone onside, and are expected face a wave of internal opposition from colleagues who were there in 2010, and remain on the Executive Committee that voted for Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Some of these representatives tried and failed to shut down Garcia’s report.

The report which is said to include 200,000 pages of evidence, was submitted to FIFA almost three weeks ago. FIFA’s chief judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, explained in the Daily Telegraph that “It is likely that at the beginning of November, we will be able to give the first public statement of our position with regard to this general report. Our primary task for now is to examine whether the investigatory chamber has followed all the correct procedures and whether, in our assessment, more detailed information is required in certain areas. However, it is up to the investigatory chamber, under the chairmanship of Michael Garcia, to decide whether – and if so against whom – specific ethics proceedings should be opened.”

Despite initially wanting the report to stay “in-house,” FIFA President Blatter has been remarkably quiet in the past few days. Then again it may be for the best after he announced at the start of the month that he intended to run for a fifth term as President. The reason he said was because “my mission is not finished.” With the bad publicity he has brought the game one wonders how much more he can bring.

The secret ballot for the head position is scheduled for 29 May 2015 in Zurich and at the present time former FIFA international relations director Jerome Champagne is the only other person to say he will stand. UEFA president Michel Platini opting not to run.

Blatter has butted heads with the English FA, and there is no doubt that Champagne will receive their vote. With UEFA giving Wembley the final stages of the 2020 European Championships they are bound to be more disposed to voting for a fellow European.

The saddest thing is that Blatter will not acknowledge that after 16 years at the helm the organisation would benefit from a new leader and a fresh approach. He is banking on support from South America and Africa to see him over the line, the two Confederations that broke Europe’s domination in the role when Blatter’s mentor Joao Havelange replaced Sir Stanley Rous as FIFA President in 1974. Although many believe that Blatter faith in the support of these nations is misplaced. However money talks.

Blatter is seen in Africa and other poorer parts of the football world as a generous patron. Like Havelange did, he too issues huge handouts from the World Cup profits to every national association. This money, $750,000,  which is supposed to be “for football development”is the lifeblood to many of the poorer nations and is the only reason they are able to continue to be one of the 209 member nations of FIFA. In addition to these hand outs, FIFA under Blatter also came up with the “Goal” project which enables them to dispense even more cash on an as-needed basis to developing countries; Australia deemed a developing nation having just received $500,000 under this very project. Will this mean Australia will now be expected to support Mr Blatter?

Ever since he was installed as Havelange’s lieutenant, FIFA has been Blatter’s life, and he has enjoyed the benefits to the full. He is sadly like many men in their twilight years, unwilling or unable to give up power.

Champagne is 23 years Blatter’s junior aged 56, as he says “the next ten years will be crucial for football and particularly for FIFA which is at a crossroads and in need of sweeping changes.” The same could apply to Australian football where the leader of the game is in fact four years older than Blatter.

Champagne has all the credentials to be the man who would be president. He served in the French embassies or consulates in Cuba, California, Oman and Brazil before joining FIFA for the 1998 World Cup in France.

He then became an ambassador, or as some have said, a diplomatic adviser to Blatter, and worked in a variety of roles, including director of international relations for FIFA.

In 2010 Blatter removed him. Those inside FIFA circles maintain that Blatter believed that Champagne was building aspirations to succeed him. Maybe his fears have now been realised.

Blatter continues to say that he is the best man to cleanse FIFA of any corruption is himself. He is able to keep making such a claim as thus far has not been personally implicated in any wrongdoing. There is no doubt he is tainted by the fact that he has been leader during the time that most of the corruption has occurred, but his view is, innocent until proven guilty.

Champagne may talk the talk, he may even be the best candidate, but Blatter will not be easy to dislodge as the solid bloc of support that Havelange, and subsequently he has received for four decades from the 50-plus African nations, who are likely to remain loyal. Blatter has already started campaigning in the region knowing this to be the case.

As for Asia and the Americas these confederations can be divided with their votes. Even Europe who one would expect to be united are unlikely to vote as one in the FIFA election as some of the smaller nations feel they are ‘bullied’ by the more established football nations in UEFA.

The way Blatter and the Executive Committee handle Garcia’s report and the decisions they make on Qatar’s hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup could in fact be the issues on which the whole Presidential election hinges. So until that time Champagne will have to wait.

September 25, 2014 at 10:39 am 1 comment

Easier To Enter an Event than a Country.

Some people are more forgiving than others, and this would appear to be the case when it comes to Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was recently convicted for the culpable homicide of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) last week indicated that if he is not imprisoned  he would not necessarily be barred from competing again. They said that under certain conditions such as qualifying times, and the South African selection process, Pistorius “would be free to compete again”.

Since then Sir Philip Craven, has revised that comment when speaking to the Daily Telegraph on the IPC celebrating 25 years since it was founded. He is quoted as saying “Is there a possibility that legally Oscar Pistorius could come back and compete at the Paralympic Games? Yes, of course, there is a legal possibility of that.Whether it will happen or not, is highly hypothetical. We don’t even know the sentence yet.”

If the IPC do allow Pistorius to compete the chances of him competing in the United Kingdom may be a different matter

The British Immigration authorities have taken a much stronger line. Reports state the Home Office sources have said that such a serious offence is likely to see him denied entry to the United Kingdom, no matter what sentence is handed down. This is part of their toughening of their immigration laws.

One sports personality who has already been on the receiving end of this tough line approach is former World Boxing Champion Mike Tyson who was refused entry due to his criminal past, when trying to gain entry to promote his autobiography last year.

September 24, 2014 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

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