Keeping it in the family
The long-awaited Swiss court report on the collapse of the ISL has finally been published, and to no one’s great surprise, we learn that João Havelange, the former president of football’s world governing body, FIFA, and his former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, a senior FIFA executive committee member, were up to their necks in it.
Between them the pair received £27 million in bribes by the ISL, the company which FIFA awarded the 2002 and 2006 World Cup TV rights. Some of that money was repaid in May 2010, a move which resulted in an internal FIFA prosecution being stopped.
Havelange, now 96, has managed to elude the accusations almost to his death bed, while the younger Teixeira relocated to Florida last year, thus taking himself and his assets beyond the scope of and diligent Brazilian prosecutors interested in delving deeper into his murky past.
FIFA has officially welcomed the release of the court ruling, which is interesting given that they spent years trying to prevent its publication. The Swiss prosecutor recounts over several pages intensive efforts made by a lawyer, acting on behalf of FIFA while Blatter was the president, to have the prosecutions stopped.
Moreover, the fact that one of the bribes (for 1 million Swiss francs) was inadvertently paid into FIFA accounts rather than the personal accounts of the individuals does tend to infer that one or two people in the upper echelons of the organisation knew what was going on, but decided to turn a blind eye to it. No names were mentioned, but if there was anyone with any sense of responsibility within football’s governing body, then somebody, at or near the very top of the structure, would be handing in their resignation today.
As World Soccer’s Keir Radnedge argues here, the revelations undermine the credibility of FIFA and in particular, their claim to be regarded as upholders of the game’s ethics.
Good time to bury bad news
Claus Lundekvam’s former Southampton team-mates have denied claims by the Norwegian defender that they were involved in spot-fixing.
Lundekvam, who played for Southampton between 1996 and 2008, told Norwegian the radio station NRK that he, fellow players and opposition captains made money by betting on and influencing in-game events such as first throw-in or first corner.
FIFA, perhaps sensing that now was a good time to bury some of their own bad news, have announced they will look into Lundekvam’s claims.
Southampton legend Matthew Le Tissier, who did admit to one isolated incident of attempted spot-fixing in his autobiography, Tweeted: “Aside from that one incident in my book I’ve never been involved in any betting scams and have no idea of Claus Lundekvam’s claims.”
Francis Benali, who preceded Lundekvam as the Southampton captain, dismissed the claims.
“I can say categorically I have no knowledge of the betting allegations made by Claus. Dressing rooms are very tight environments and if something was widespread, even if you weren’t part of it, you would hear it being discussed and talked about,” he told BBC Radio Solent.
“It is widely known Claus has had quite a few personal problems in recent times and I wonder if that is why he has come out with this story. The way it has come across, it’s like all of us were at it and all in on the betting scam and everyone had knowledge of it. That wasn’t the case.
“No club wants a story like this associated with them, nor do the city or the players involved at the time. It’s a smear on your character and not nice, especially when it’s not true.”
Lundekvam’s travails since he’s stopped playing offer a cautionary tale to any professional footballer. The Norwegian recently gave an interview in which he detailed the post-playing career drink and drug problems he had experienced and the relative ease with which young players can fall into similar traps.
The battle of who could care less
FIFA risks damaging world football by reducing regulation of players’ agents, the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore.
FIFA’s has generally adopted a laissez-faire attitude to football agents, arguing that it is a matter for individual clubs and players for the behaviour of the agents they employ.
“I think in some ways they have decided that it’s too hard … on an international basis to regulate these things,” Scudamore told a British parliamentary committee.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to players but that is probably not their core competence. There is an abdication really which is not good for the game.”
The head of the Premier League lecturing FIFA about its ethical responsibilities? Isn’t that a bit like Pol Pot lecturing Stalin about his treatment of political opponents?
Scudamore also revealed how the Premier League vetted prospective buyers of clubs within the 20-team league.
He said: “We actually employ a business intelligence company, a covert business intelligence company, to go in at multiple levels within foreign jurisdictions and within our own jurisdictions.”
Which sounds impressive, until you remember that someone like Thaksin Shinawatra slipped through the net, and sundry other owners arrived to saddle huge debts upon their clubs.
Here we go again
Just when you thought it was safe to attend another clasico match, Barcelona have renewed hostilities by criticising the Spanish football federation’s decision to lift Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho’s two-match ban for poking then-Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye.
“We are angry, we do not agree with the Spanish federation’s decision,” Barca spokesman Toni Freixa said yesterday. “We believe that an aggression like Mourinho’s should not go unpunished,” adding that the Portuguese’s actions were “treacherous”, “very serious” and had been “witnessed by the whole world”.
Barca believe the federation’s decision damages the image of Spanish football and can only encourage further aggression. Although, as we know, when it comes to aggression, Mourinho is a natural and requires no encouragement.
Mourinho was initially banned after attacking Vilanova, who has since taken over as first-team coach from Pep Guardiola, from behind during a Super Cup match last August.
His punishment was rescinded by football federation (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar, who traditionally forgives some players and coaches after sealing re-election. To be fair to the RFEF, the amnesty also applied to Vilanova, who received a one-match ban for his role in the fracas. His role, incidentally, was to stand there while Mourinho poked him in the eye.
The sides will next meet when they contest this season’s Super Cup in a matter of weeks. I bet you can’t wait.
Won’t take no for an answer
Most coaches, when sacked, pack their bags, bid farewell to the playing staff, and issue a statement to the effect that they had enjoyed their time at the club and wished their previous employers all the best in the future. Diego Maradona is not most coaches, though. A day after being fired by UAE club, Al Wasl, the Argentinian has declared his desire to continue working with the club.
“I would like to say that it has always been my wish to remain in this wonderful country which has always received me very well, and I am completely grateful to the Sheik for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to coach an Emirati club,” a statement released by Maradona reads.
“The fact is that in the last days, we had been talking to try to come to an agreement regarding the purchase of new players, which is a requirement to be able to win the league with great results.
“I will always be grateful to him and I would like to make it clear that I was always happy at the club and happy with their support. Regrettably, the club issued a statement that I do not support because my wish was and is to coach Al Wasl.
“If it is impossible for the club to buy new players because they lack the funds to do it, there will always be the possibility to discuss this together with the board to try to find solutions. I hope that I will soon have a meeting with them to address these matters. I am sure they are willing to discuss them and that we will reach an amicable agreement.”
It’s difficult to know how to respond to that statement. When an employee simply refuses to accept that they have been sacked, what can an employer do?
The ball’s in your court, Al Wasl.
If the Capello fits
Russian sport minister Vitaly Mutko has confirmed to Russia 1 Tv that Fabio Capello is in Moscow talking with the country’s football federation, about the possibility of becoming the coach of the Russia national team.
Previous coach Dick Advocaat left the role after his side’s elimination at the group stages of Euro 2012, and Mutko believes Capello is a good candidate to revive the fortunes of the national team.
“I think he would be a good option,” Mutko said to reporters. “He knows how to win. When we decided on Guus Hiddink [former coach], the first thing we looked at was the coach’s ability to win.”
Russia are reportedly offering as much as £6million a season and are prepared to hand the successful candidate a six-year contract, taking the new man up until the 2018 World Cup, which Russia is hosting. At £6million a year and given Capello’s penchant for la dolce vita, this could be the shortest interview in the history of football. If it gets beyond: “Where do I sign?” I’ll be amazed.
By 2018 Capello would be 72, not an unprecedented age for a coach, especially given the part-time nature of international management, but it’s an age when most people are looking to slow down a little.
Rangers are expected to find out within the next 24 hours which division they will be in next season.
In the meantime, the actual cost of them entering administration has been revealed. An interim creditors report from joint administrators at Duff and Phelps has revealed trading losses at the Ibrox club of £3,956,375.
The administrators fees from 14 February up to the 29 June 2012 came to just over £2.8m. Nice work if you can get it.
The report also reveals that the Charles Green Consortium, the group that bought the club, paid just over £2.7m for Rangers player contracts and registrations. Now that’s a significant detail, because it is being used by the new owners to prove that the players must transfer to the newco rather than – as several already have – move to other clubs, claiming they are free agents.
Green rejects the claim that the players are free agents and has sent letters to clubs across the UK warning them that the players who objected to the switch to his new company were in breach of contract. Like most things connected to Rangers in recent months, this will inevitably end up in court.
On the move?
Paris Saint Germain sporting director Leonardo has confirmed that talks are under way with Milan over a huge deal for both Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the total cost reported to be anywhere between £47-£51million.
Thiago Silva, 27, came close to joining the Paris-based side in June, but Milan backed away from the deal. However, now, with the prospect of a significant fee for striker Ibrahimovic thrown in, it seems that the two parties have struck a deal.
Leonardo told Gazzetta dello Sport: “Yes, negotiations are underway and we have spoken in Sweden. At the moment everything is possible, because the transfer marker is like this, it is always open.
“Soon we meet with Mino Raiola, and see what can be done. This business can only be considered closed when things are finalised.”
Ibrahimovic is believed to be willing to move for an increase on his €12 million annual salary, while Thiago Silva struck terms with PSG over a €7.5 million-a-year contract in mid-June.
Interestingly, the defender expressed his relief when the deal collapsed, claiming he had always wanted to stay at San Siro. As for Ibrahimovic, whose big money moves have replaced the increasingly rare sound of the cuckoo as a sign that summer is here, this is just par for the course.
Goals of the day
Wednesday’s US Open Cup semi final turned out to be an unhappy evening for Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Badly at fault for the first goal and equally complicit in the second, the distraught stopper had to be consoled by Union coach John Hackworth after his side’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Quote of the day
“I have never put my departure in front of the owner, it was the owner who dismissed me and the owner who decided to cut short the project. I respect the decision of the owner of Chelsea but I will never accept it. I told him that for me it was him quitting on me when he had been so much involved in the beginning in bringing me in and he was the one also who was not putting up to the things he promised.”
If one of the qualities required to become a successful football manager is an imperviousness to criticism, then Andre Villas-Boas can look forward to a long and rewarding career. Discussing his ill-fated, short-lived tenure at Stamford Bridge, the new Tottenham boss, believes the fault lay not with him, but with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who had the temerity to sack him.