TV money and big team bullies

Like a badly made ‘who dunnit’ the main culprit for football’s latest shambles of an idea is obvious but this time there are some big time co-conspirators.

The premise is simple, you take the best supported clubs in European football and guarantee them a place in the Champions League. This is the idea being toyed with by television companies and clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and AC Milan. The 2018 competition could see teams like this seasons high flying Leicester lose out to a so called ‘bigger’ club if they had the audacity to finish in the top four.

MUFC

Whilst these clubs have no right to decide the fate of who can qualify for the competition beyond their own performances, the offer could prove to be an attractive one to TV broadcasters who pay huge sums of money for coverage of Europe’s premier competition.

Clubs like Chelsea and Liverpool who have little chance of qualifying for this years competition would make the grade as a ‘big’ club if the rule change is ever allowed to pass. The whole idea leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and although it is a long way off from being agreed, the lure of TV money may once again win the day.

This cannot be allowed to happen. The idea goes against everything sport in general stands for. It is anti-competitive not only for the Champions League but for the Premier League too.

Drinkwater

There is little incentive, beyond money, to finish in the top four for clubs like Leicester if they know there is no chance of a European place. To make matters worse clubs with rich history and pedigree in the both competitions have little motivation to compete in The Premier League knowing European qualification is pre determined. Their best players could and probably would be rested in domestic fixtures thus diluting the quality.

Make no mistake Leicester City, and clubs like them, will see this as an act of bullying by the rich European elite. For the good of the game the ban on hunting clubs like the Foxes must be enforced.

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Does football need a Kerry Packer?

Kerry_Packer

In a time where much of Europe, the Americas and Australasia have had enough of football’s governing body is it time for a breakaway federation to be formed? And who will be brave enough to take on such a mammoth task?

Last week was a truly exceptional week for world football’s governing body FIFA not only were seven high ranking officials either arrested or indicted but the divisive  president Sepp Blatter was re-elected right in the middle of the FBI led storm.

It would be fair to say the re-election of Blatter for a fifth term was not well received here or in many other European nations where Blatter is seen as complicit in the corruption that has enveloped FIFA. It must be pointed out however that amongst much of the world’s football associations and confederations he is an immensely popular figure credited with spreading the message of the beautiful game far and wide. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa being the first to be held in the continent of Africa provided Blatter with huge support from CONCAF the African equivalent to UEFA European football’s governing body.

Whilst UEFA president Michel Platini openly called for Blatter to resign his national football association in France backed and voted for Blatter along with the Spanish. All of this would make a break away from FIFA a monumental task and it remains to be seen if anyone is brave enough to take the first step.

There have been vague threats of boycotting the next World Cup as a result of last week’s election from some in UEFA but this seems a very unlikely step given that not everyone is unhappy with Blatter at the helm.

In 1977 an Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer took on the world’s cricket boards which he saw as stuck in the mud and set up World Series Cricket. Whilst the venture did not last particularly long Packer managed to attract most of the games top players and Word Series Cricket two year revolution is credited with giving the game a much needed shake up.

Whilst a boycott of a World Cup might send a message to FIFA, the threat of a break away tournament would send shockwaves around the world of football. It may take someone like Packer who comes from outside the game to form such a tournament but if the world’s best teams and players could be attracted then FIFA would have to stand up and take notice.

As things stand no such person has stepped forward and the danger is that unless the FBI investigation goes much further the beautiful game’s name will remain tarnished by those at the top sweeping corruption under the carpet.

Someone with true entrepreneurial skill and foresight will be needed to take on FIFA and the pull of the World Cup but if history tells us anything nothing is impossible in sport. Football’s Kerry Packer may just be around the corner waiting to give the international game the lift it so desperately needs.

Qatar distracting focus from Russia 2018

No matter what your stance is on Qatar’s human rights record, the overriding sense of anger directed towards the 2022 FIFA world cup seems to be more about weather and timing than anything else. The furore surrounding the proposed season change is surely over the top when you consider this is a once in every four year event. Given that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already stated the award of the 2022 tournament in Qatar may have been a mistake, a change in season is likely to be a one off rather than a precedent setter.

Whilst this country’s army of football fans, pundits and journalists alike find every reason imaginable to be upset about the award, some consideration must be taken into whether this anger is misdirected. Ok so the tournament would much more convenient for a whole host of nations if it was held in this country but that was never an option. England and the FA failed with their 2018 bid not a 2022 bid. Furthermore with such an enormous amount of time to prepare for the event surely any overriding worries can be put to bed with adequate planning and foresight from the Premier League and Football Association. There is even an argument to say that playing in the winter will offer England’s players the opportunity to play at their peak and before they are burnt out at the end of a long domestic campaign.

If misgivings about the competition being held in Qatar are morally or ethically based then that is an entirely different discussion and one that needs to be put on the back burner considering who is next to host the tournament. With focus on the international game being, up to this point, centred on 2022 it would appear that many have forgotten about 2018s hosts Russia. This is a country currently in a state of conflict, whose economics are far from stable and whose relationship with the west is at its lowest since the ‘Cold War’. Again many hold moral objections to Russia being selected as hosts. There is even a remote possibility of the tournament being boycotted by certain countries after calls to do so were heard from current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Russian football is never too far away from controversy and Torpedo Moscow have just been ordered to play two games behind closed doors for racial abuse directed at Brazilian striker Hulk. This is just one incident in a long line of problems caused by racist chanting in Russian stadiums with neighbours CSKA Moscow’s conduct being called into question in 2013 when Yaya Toure suffered similar abuse in a Champions League tie. All of this will be worrying to many countries trying to qualify for 2018, none more so than the African nations.   

Whilst the England team, along with everyone else, are yet to qualify for the tournament in 2018 there are travel issues to consider. Here are some of the key issues highlighted by www.gov.uk:

To enter Russia you’ll need a visa before travel. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. From 10 December 2014 Russian diplomatic missions and the visa application centres in London and Edinburgh will collect scanned fingerprints from visa applicants above the age of 12.

Overstaying your visa without authorisation from the Federal Migration Authorities can result in a delay to your departure from Russia, fines, court hearings and possible deportation and a ban from re-entry. If you’re staying for more than 7 working days you must register with the local branch of the Federal Migration Service.

All foreign nationals entering Russia must sign a migration card, which is produced electronically at passport control in the major airports. You should keep the other part with your passport; you will need it when you leave Russia and if you are stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. There are many hotels and hostels that will not check in guests if they don’t have the stamped white immigration card with them. If you lose the second part of the card you will be fined.

So getting in and out of Russia is no simple task. Forget Qatar 2022, Russia 2018 is just three years away and provides more than enough food for thought for those thinking of going and television viewers alike.