Metalist ironed out

Ukraine’s FC Metalist Kharkiv have been thrown out of from UEFA competitions for 2013-14, UEFA has confirmed.

Earlier this month the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld a Ukraine Football Federation (FFU) decision to fine Metalist Kharkiv and FC Karpaty $25,000 each over the fixing of a match played in April 2008.

CAS also upheld the FFU’s decision to strip Metalist of their third-place finish that season, and confirmed a five-year ban on one Metalist player involved in the game and three-year bans on another five, while Metalist director Yevhen Krasnikov was banned from any football-related activity for five years.

The decision to expel the Ukraine outfit raises the prospect of a logistical nightmare for UEFA and its flagship competition.

According to the UEFA website: “This decision is final.”

Although, aware that when the football world collides with the legal world, nothing can be taken for granted, UEFA wisely added:  ”Metalist have the opportunity to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”

Turkish club Fenerbahce, banned from European football for two years over domestic match-fixing, have already been re-admitted to the Champions League while they await the result of an appeal at the CAS.

For the time being, Metalist have been replaced by PAOK FC, the Greek side they knocked out in the previous round, for the remainder of the 2013-14 club competitions.

Metalist were due to face Schalke 04 in their play-off round and the logical step following their expulsion is that PAOK would take their place, although UEFA could also simply award Schalke a bye to the group stage.

However, should the Ukrainian team appeal to CAS and be re-admitted pending the final decision, as Fenerbahce were, they could still face Schalke 04 over two legs, starting on August. 21.

Confused? You soon will be. If Metalist beat Schalke to qualify for the group stage and then lose their case at CAS. There is even a possibility CAS would not make its final decision until after some group-stage matches had been played.

Zero tolerance

FIFA says it has asked 2018 World Cup host host Russia for ”clarification and more details” about a new anti-gay law.

The legislation prohibiting ”propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” prompted an international outcry with the International Olympic Committee seeking answers about how Russia will enforce it during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

FIFA says that Russia has ”committed to provide all visitors and fans with a warm welcome and ensure their safety” during the finals. Football’s governing body added that it ”trusts that the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts will deliver on this promise.”

FIFA says it supports ”zero tolerance against discrimination.” It cites a provision in its statutes stating that ”discrimination of any kind … is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the World Cup committee, defended Russia’s laws explaining they had been misinterpreted.

“It is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference,” he was quoted in an article by World Football Insider. “Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious.

Indeed, but nor would anyone like a World Cup where naked people were running around displaying their heterosexuality. Going out on a limb here, but when it comes to a World Cup most people would prefer to watch it without streaking of any kind.

Sorokin added ”The Olympics and World Cup are not a stage for various views – not for Nazis, not for any other ways of life. It should be about football and nothing else.”

It should certainly not be about intolerance, that’s for sure.

Out of work

Levski Sofia have sacked four players after a poor run of results left them ninth in the Bulgarian championship and out of the European competitions.

Dutch defender Dustley Mulder, Brazilian midfielder Ramon Lopes, Portuguese winger Cristovao Ramos and Portuguese striker Joao Silva, regarded as some of Levski’s leading players, are no longer part of the team, the club’s chief executive said.

“It”s my decision, we can’t achieve our goals with these players,” Nasko Sirakov said. “I gave them a chance in the last two months but they didn’t take it.

“We’ll replace them and we’re already negotiating with new players.”

The dismissals will hardly have come as a huge surprise to the players; last month, Levski sacked coach Nikolay Mitov and turned to Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic.

However, The Blues continued to struggle after the coaching change and won only one of their first four league matches under former Chelsea midfielder Jokanovic, who recently complained about the quality of the squad.

Financial Fair Play

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has warned clubs that they must adapt to Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules or face punishments.

European football’s governing body intends to implement new laws in 2018 that will see clubs required to bring their annual losses below 10 million euros.

The big spending of clubs such as Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City this summer have prompted many to ask if the rules will actually be enforced. Infantino insists though that the sanctions will be applied to all clubs whose books are not in order.

“Big clubs as well as small clubs, the rules are there,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “A year ago, we warned that this is the last wake-up call for the clubs and that the rules have teeth. 

”The break-even rule will enter into force next season, taking into account the figures of this season and last season.

“The clubs know the rules. If they haven’t generated enough revenue to perform these transfers, then there will be sanctions – sanctions which could be a warning or a fine or a restriction on registering new players or, finally, an exclusion.

“The Financial Fair Play rules have been introduced and implemented not to punish clubs but to help the clubs.”

Ever the optimist, Infantino said that he hopes that the new regulations might lead to supporters having a greater say in how their clubs are run.

“It’s important to keep the fans on board,” Infantino said. ”Fans are the only ones who remain loyal throughout their life to the club.

“Everybody else sooner or later changes – players, managers, even owners – so a dialogue with fans to find the right balance is a good thing.”

Goal of the day

Jonjo Shelvey showed that there was more to his game than an ability to frighten opponents by staring at them, when he unleashed a superb long range effort for England Under-21 v their Scottish counterparts.

Quote of the day

“Luis Suarez confirms to me he will not leave Liverpool. The support of the fans has influenced his ­decision. Suarez see it as likely that he’ll sign a renewal (extension) to the contract that binds him to Liverpool.”

According to Uruguayan journalist Martin Charquero, the support of Liverpool fans (presumably the non-shirt burning ones) has persuaded Luis Suarez to stay at Anfield. Well that seems to be that. Until the next time.

Role model

Where little Luis leads, others follow. The carnivorous frontman achieved notoriety towards the end of last season when he took a bite out of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

A game between Deportivo Quevedo and SC Barcelona sees a tussle develop between Deportivo defender Edwin Hurtado and Andres Franzoia, resulting in the former appearing to bite his opponent.

Staying put

Suarez is not the only high profile player who looks set to be denied a transfer this summer: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has been told to forget about a move to Chelsea because he is going nowhere.

Rooney, who has been fluttering his eyelashes at Chelsea all summer  (not an image for the faint-hearted) will be staying at United, even though the club accepts the inherent risks of keeping a player against his will. The striker’s reputation may have slipped at Old Trafford, but the fear that a move may not only galvanise him but strengthen one of their title rivals, was a dual risk the United hierarchy was not prepared to take.

Rooney’s thoughts on his predicament remain unclear. Reluctant to speak about the impasse for fear of alienating those few United supporters who do not regard him as a money-grabbing mercenary, he has sensibly kept his counsel over the summer.

One man privy to his innermost thoughts though, is England captain Steven Gerrard, who revealed that Rooney had confided in him about his uncertain future at Manchester United. Imagining the pair deep in conversation and it is hard not to picture Beavis and Butt-head slouched on the sofa staring at a TV that’s broken down.

Speaking ahead of England’s friendly international encounter with Scotland, the Liverpool midfielder said: ”It wouldn’t be fair on Wayne for me to talk about that conversation, but of course I am close to him.

“But for me it is all about how Wayne is feeling for tomorrow’s game, and I am sure he will sort the other stuff out.”

All may not be lost for Rooney. If he really is intent on leaving and United are determined not to sell him to a title rival, then a move to Arsenal might suit both parties.

Fans behaving badly

Polish champions Legia Warsaw are the latest club to be punished for the misbehaviour of their supporters. The club have been ordered to close one of the stands at their stadium at their next home European tie following “racist behaviour” by supporters at a previous game.

UEFA, who also fined the club 30,000 euros, said that under new rules introduced in July, a partial stadium closure was now the minimum sanction for any incidents involving racist behaviour.

Legia’s next home match is the Champions League play-off second leg against Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest on Aug 27. The incidents happened in the second qualifying round tie against Welsh side The New Saints, UEFA said.

“The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA,” European soccer’s governing body added. “(UEFA) has a policy of zero tolerance towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands.

“All forms of racist behaviour are considered as serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are therefore sanctioned accordingly.”

Legia won the tie with TNS 4-1 on aggregate and went on to defeat Norwegian side Molde in the next round to book a play-off meeting with Romanian club Steaua.

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