Romance of the cup

The Football Association has been accused of prioritising television revenue over supporters’ concerns after confirming the FA Cup final between Wigan and Manchester City on Saturday, 11 May, will kick off at 5.15pm.

The final will be played on an evening when train services from London to the north will be disrupted by engineering work. On that day, the last train from London Euston to Manchester is 9pm and 8.31pm for Wigan.

Naturally, the people being forced to foot the bill, the ones who will have to travel halfway across the country with no guarantee of catching the last train back north, are not happy with the FA’s arrangements.

The Wigan Athletic Supporters Club believe that decision should allow the final to start at 3pm.

Its spokesman Jason Taylor said: “It seems the FA are more interested in what the television companies want than the logistics of supporters getting to and from their final. It’s not just us, it affects Manchester City as well. They are only 18 miles away and we will be using the same roads and, if it was possible, train lines. It was a nightmare for the semi-final.

“We expected a late kick off but the ridiculous thing is the final won’t clash with the Premier League programme, which was the original reason for having a late start, as they have already moved those games to the Sunday. But the TV companies want a late time to attract a bigger global audience and that is taking precedence over supporters. We won’t have a problem selling our ticket allocation for the final but the day is a lot more difficult for supporters than it needs to be and the FA should consider that. With a 3pm kick off you would have plenty of time to catch the train even if the final went to extra time and penalties.”

The FA’s general secretary Alex Horne last week defended late kick-off times on the basis of their appeal to a television audience.

Displaying the chronic lack of sensitivity to the ticket buying supporters that we have come to expect from a senior member of the FA, Horne said: “When we designed the new national stadium, we knew we needed to put content in it. That’s what is paying for the stadium

“We’re now used to consuming our football in those time slots. It really works. Lunchtime kick-offs just haven’t got the same appeal.

“The 5.15pm kick-off for the final was really successful. We added a couple of million viewers. It’s a sensible compromise.”

Content? Consuming? Contemptuous.

Warring factions

On the same weekend that the English game returned to the dark days (© every newspaper in Britain) there was a much more serious outbreak of hooliganism in Germany that was largely ignored by the mainstream media.

In Munich, police warned of a “new dimension of violence” after 16 officers were injured and more than 60 supporters arrested before Bayern Munich’s match against Nuremburg.

“We are shocked and disappointed about what happened before the Nuremberg game,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told AZ after the clashes between rival fans.

“There is no excuse for the behaviour of these ultra fans.”

According to reports, a group of 400 Nuremberg fans was attacked by 120 Bayern fans en route to the stadium before the away fans then turned on police, using stones and bottles.

In all, 61 fans were detained – 31 from Munich and 30 Nuremberg supporters – and questioned over offences ranging from assault and resisting arrest to breach of the peace.

But, as no one was stupid or drunk enough to punch a police horse, the incidents attracted little attention outside Germany.

Net closing in?

Is the net finally starting to close in on Jack Warner? The former FIFA vice-president continues to deny that he appropriated funds intended for Caribbean football, amid claims of serious financial foul play in his native Trinidad and Tobago.

An investigation by the Trinidad Sunday Express claimed that 100m Trinidad and Tobago dollars (£10.1m) has gone missing during Warner’s dealings with local football since 2006.

The investigation also claimed that millions of dollars were transferred to Warner’s bank accounts from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF).

Say what you like about Warner, but if he is going down he will go down fighting and he responded to the latest allegations with characteristic bullishness.

“If I did not believe that (I was incorruptible) I wouldn’t say it,” said Warner, the former head of CONCACAF who stood down in the wake of the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked world football in 2011.

“You point to anything that I have done as a Minister in this country that warrant me to change my opinion. Nothing.

“I don’t give a fig and who wants to write let them write,” he added.

“Who want to write, write. I don’t care. The time will come when we will deal with that. I will hit them with hurt.”

You can read more about the latest investigation into Warner here.

Strike action

Rapid Bucharest’s players have gone on strike and will not play their Romanian top-flight fixture at FC Viitorul Constanta on Saturday in a protest over unpaid wages.

It may be acceptable for Premier League outfit Reading to employ people without pay but thankfully, in Romania, there remains the expectation that a professional should be rewarded for his or her labours.

“We will not train and we will not play our next match,” captain Daniel Pancu told local media.

Rapid’s players showed discontent at their situation earlier this month, displaying a banner before the league match at Gloria Bistrita and asking for help from the country’s authorities.

In December the triple Romanian champions, who have spent heavily in recent years, filed for bankruptcy after accumulating huge debts.

According to reports players have only been receiving 10 percent of their salaries for months.

Romanian League president Dumitru Dragomir said recently that several clubs were on the brink of collapse due to spiralling debts.

Money’s too tight to mention

Money might be tight in the world of football, but try telling that to the agents who are taking a bigger cut from international player transfers – this despite sales falling by £188 million in 2012.

Player representatives took £106 million in fees from clubs, at 28-percent average commission, while their total from cross-border transfers rose £21 million last year.

FIFA’s online Transfer Matching System reports that ”2012 witnessed a greater involvement of intermediaries” when players move between clubs from different countries.

FIFA processed English clubs paying £38 million to agents in international deals. In 2012, agents were paid commissions from 706 international transfers, a 19-percent increase.

Agents’ income rose despite FIFA logging a 10-percent drop in total value of international transfers, worth £1.6 billion.

And that’s just the money that went through the official channels. Factor in the below the counter, untraceable payments and you can safely assume that representing footballers is one of the few professions immune to the recent economic downturn.

Quote of the day

“Wayne Rooney to PSG is a done deal. You will see. He is a PSG player.” 

Michael Moulin, a former sports advisor with PSG, claims Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has already signed a deal with the French side.

Goal of the day

Some of the pace may have gone, but at the age of 37, Marcelinho Paraíba showed that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Here the Boa Esporte playmaker slaloms through the before calmly slotting past the América Mineiro keeper.

Fair weather fans

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is in favour of shifting the Bundesliga calendar in order to prepare players for World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

The hope is that by playing through the summer months, players will sample the extreme temperatures the Gulf nation experiences in June and July.

“From May to August is when we do not play football in Germany, although these are the months with the best weather. A change could be an advantage to us,” he told Die-Welt.

Another possibility being discussed is switching the 2022 World Cup from a summer to a winter tournament. And the Bayern chairman would welcome a change in schedule to avoid the poor weather during the winter months.

“The football family is united. Either pausing in January and February or in October and November, I can see in this model as an opportunity for the Bundesliga,” he explained.

“We would prefer to pause when the weather is bad here.”

It begins to look as if the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2022 was less to do with that tournament and more to do with a concerted effort to unify the calendar and in effect, turn football in the northern hemisphere into a summer sport.

Russian roulette

Russian Premier League clubs FK Krasnodar and Krylya Sovetov have denied accusations that Samara’s 3-0 win on Saturday was fixed, insisting the claims are “outrageous and insulting”.

Reports of potential manipulation in the match emerged after relegation-threatened Samara eased to victory over their eighth-placed opponents.

The win moved Samara to within three points of safety, although the Russian Premier League moved quickly to dismiss the media speculation.

“Lately, we have seen an increase of unfounded allegations in the media. Unfortunately, often they are initiated by certain members of our football family,” the league said on its website.

“We ask all our members to respect each other. At the same time refrain from making rush conclusions which would harm the reputation of our clubs, the Russian FA and the Premier League.”

The clubs released a joint statement on their websites, which read: “We believe this is a pure smear campaign, not only against the two clubs but the entire Russian football.”

Samara boss Denis Maslov furious with the allegations, claiming there was no amount of money that could persuade Krasnodar’s billionaire owner Sergei Galitsky to fix the match.

“Such allegations are outrageous and insulting,” Maslov said. “What do you think we could offer Sergei Galitsky so he would agree to give us a win?”

Finally…

The president of the San Jose Earthquakes says he is appalled that forward Alan Gordon insulted an opponent with an anti-gay epithet.

Dave Kaval said Monday that Gordon’s actions have let down the team’s fans and he will do whatever is necessary so the team can be ”viewed as a beacon of diversity, community, and equality.”

Gordon was sent off in the second half Sunday after receiving a second yellow card. But minutes before his dismissal, he was captured on the television broadcast using a slur toward Portland’s Will Johnson.

The Earthquakes striker was heard calling Portland Timbers’ midfielder Will Johnson a “faggot” during the match.

Gordon apologized after the match and said his comments didn’t reflect his views. Gordon could face a three-game ban from MLS.

“I sincerely apologize for what I said in our game tonight,” he said. “Although I said it in the heat of the moment, that language has no place in our game. That is not my character, but there is still no excuse for saying what I said. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

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