One rule for the rich…

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has escaped a driving ban after his lawyer argued it would have caused him, his club and the people of Stoke untold hardship.

Pulis pleaded guilty after he was recorded doing 96mph in a 60mph zone on the M42 following Stoke City’s 5-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers last November. He was fined £2500, £85 costs and six points were added to his licence. That took him to 15 points, a total that for most people would have resulted in an automatic ban.

Pulis, though, claimed that he was unable to employ a chauffeur because he conducted a number of confidential phone conversations which had to be kept out of the public domain and especially out of the earshot of his fellow managers.

Perhaps he’s concerned they’d overhear some sophisticated tactical nuggets for forthcoming games like: ‘Plan A is we launch it up to Crouchy’s head, Plan B is we get Rory to throw it to Crouchy’s head. Plan C is…Do I look like Pep Guardiola? There is no Plan C!’

Anyway, according to Pulis, the singing of Peter Crouch is an example of why he needs to be able to drive his car. Bear with him, it makes sense, almost.

“We signed Peter Crouch in the summer without anyone knowing,” Pulis told Leamington Magistrates’ court. “That took almost four days of non-stop conversations between us and Tottenham and Peter and the like.

“If other clubs had found out, they would have been attracted and might have signed him before us. I have my staff who I trust implicitly, but there are things I wouldn’t even discuss with them.”

The Stoke boss often commutes to the club from his family home in Bournemouth, a journey of 158 miles that takes approximately 3 hours. Or, at the speed at which Pulis drives, about 20 minutes.

Pulis’ lawyer, Mike Stephenson, who does a brilliant job defending his client, but whose sophistry doesn’t exactly exactly enhance the reputation of his profession, hinted that the entire city of Stoke would grind to a halt unless Pulis was permitted to drive around the country in a reckless fashion.

“That has contributed to the success of the football club. As a result of being in the Premier League it has put Stoke-on-Trent on the map,” said Stephenson.

“It has led to numerous businesses being set up.

“A number of them are totally reliant on Stoke City, and those businesses would suffer if they were relegated. The people of Stoke-on-Trent could suffer if Mr Pulis lost his licence and lost his job.”

Performance related pay

Struggling Bulgarian club Kaliakra have decided to stop paying their players’ wages after a run of defeats.

“The decision will be in force until further notice,” Kaliakra president Ventsislav Vasilev was quoted as saying.

Kaliakra, promoted to the top flight for the first time in 2010, suffered their 14th league defeat of the season when they lost 4-0 at home by Chernomorets Burgas on Wednesday.

The Kavarna-based club, who have not won a point in their five games since the winter break, are in penultimate place in the standings with seven points from 19 matches, eight points from safety.

Coach Radostin Trifonov, however, said he was optimistic that the club would avoid relegation.

“I was thinking about resignation but now I’m an optimist,” Trifonov said despite the drubbing by Chernomorets. “We played very well in the first half and I was glad to see that the players were eager to fight.”

How long that fighting spirit might persist while they remain unpaid, remains to be seen.

Panathinaikos fans hit hard

Panathinaikos have been docked five points and been told to play four games behind closed doors as punishment for crowd violence. The punishment is the stiffest penalty imposed by the Greek Super League.

The judgement came after Panathinaikos’s derby match against Olympiakos at the Olympic Stadium last Saturday was abandoned after being interrupted twice by crowd trouble.

The league said the match would be recorded as a 3-0 defeat for Panathinaikos who would also pay a fine of €252,500.

Panathinaikos have exercised their right to appeal and their case will be heard next week.

Rooney breaks fans wrist

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has apologised to young supporter Jamie Thomas after he broke the nine-year-old’s wrist with a shot during the warm-up for last Sunday’s game at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“I want to apologise to Jamie Thomas, I have arranged for a letter and a signed shirt to be sent to his home address,” Rooney wrote on his Twitter account.

The boy himself seems delighted with the publicity surrounding his mishap.

“It all happened so fast, one minute I was watching Wayne take shots at goal and the next the ball was flying towards me.” he said. “It was coming really fast and I just put my hands up. I felt like a rocket had hit my arm but I was buzzing because Wayne had kicked it. I thought my arm and wrist was okay but it was getting more painful.”

“I missed most of the second half but it was worth it. I think it’s brilliant that Wayne Rooney broke my wrist. Everyone at school wanted to sign my plaster cast.”

I can see this kind of thing catching on across the playgrounds of Britain. In which case, I’d advise any young Liverpool fans who wish to have their wrist broken by their idol, Andy Carroll, to position themselves somewhere near the corner flag.

Brazil allays World Cup concerns

Brazil’s sports minister Aldo Rebelo says FIFA’s concerns with preparations for the 2014 World Cup are the result of cultural differences and he is confident the country is capable of hosting a great tournament.

“There are two ways of looking at this problem,” Rebelo said. “The way the Brazilians see the challenges and the way the Europeans see them. It’s not a conflict of information or a division, there is a certain conflict of cultures. The Europeans don’t quite understand the culture of the tropics.”

Rebelo said Brazilians may not seem as organized as the Europeans, but they will always deliver on time. He used Carnival as an example.

“An event with international notoriety such as Carnival just happened in Brazil, and in at least three cities – Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife – the number of international and national tourists were greater than what is expected in the World Cup, and everything went on virtually without problems,” Rebelo said.

So there you have it FIFA: everyone can sleep easy now knowing that Brazil can put on a carnival they’ve been holding every year since 1723.

Quote of the day

“Desperation? Paul Scholes is the best midfielder of the last 20 years. Desperation? On Wednesday, they played a player who refused to go on the pitch and the manager had said would never play for them again. What is that?”

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson responds to the suggestion made by Manchester City’s Patrick Vieira, that the return to action of the previously-retired Paul Scholes, was an act of desperation.

The sound of silence

Real Madrid will not give their customary pre-match news conference ahead of the visit of Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Their vow of silence is a reaction to events on Wednesday when they had two players sent off as well as the coach Jose Moourinho and his assistant, Rui Faria during a tumultuous 1-1 draw with Villarreal.

Fortunately, someone at the club was answering the phone and was willing to explain why the manager and his playing staff had decided to participate in one big sulk.

“We just want to play under the same conditions as any other team. All we are asking for is to be treated like the rest,” Pardeza was quoted as saying by Marca.

“We share the team’s outrage and perplexity with what’s happened. We understand that some players were unable to suppress their astonishment and frustration.

“This was a refereeing performance that we have yet to see for Barcelona. We are concerned about the apparent unequal treatment.”

The last resort

One thing’s for sure, when it comes to promoting their fantasy island holiday resort, there will be no shortage of willing spokesmen happy to espouse the Real Madrid brand.

As mentioned in yesterday’s World Soccer Daily, Real Madrid have pledged to build a €1 billion luxury holiday resort in the UAE.

A video of the proposed destination has now been released. The venture carries the tag ‘When an emotional brand creates an emotional resort…’, although on the evidence of the last few days, a more accurate term would have been ‘overemotional‘.

The club hope to attract over 1 million people per year to the resort, which sounds impressive until you put it into context. A seaside resort like Blackpool gets ten times as many visitors each year and it doesn’t need to put out promotional videos to bring in the punters. I suspect though, that Real are looking for a more exclusive clientele to the ‘tired and emotional‘ masses who visit the north west coast of England.

Anyway, if you wish to see what €1 billion buys you in the desert, take a look at the promotional video (see below). It’s basically a football-themed Disney Park for people with more money than sense.

Swiss court blocks disclosure

Switzerland’s supreme court says a document revealing which FIFA officials took bribes from World Cup marketing agency ISL can remain blocked from publication while the court considers the case.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal has granted a “suspensive effect” to parties identified only as “B2” and “B3” who appealed to stop publication.

The document relates to a May 2010 deal in which two officials admitted taking bribes in the 1990s. They repaid the then 5.5m Swiss francs on condition their identities would remain secret. Five Swiss and British media organizations seeking access to the document won a state court ruling in December, but the appeal against disclosure has been upheld.

There has been much speculation as to the identity of the pair, with a a BBC Panorama investigation claiming that the two officials were former FIFA president Joao Havelange and his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, who resigned earlier this month from his roles on FIFA’s executive committee member and as chairman of the World Cup organising committee for Brazil 2014.

Back on his feet

Speaking of Havelange, who was admitted to hospital on Sunday suffering from a severe bacterial infection, well it would appear that the news from Switzerland has coincided with a marked improvement in his condition.

Havelange is already able to breathe without the aid of a ventilator, but there is still no estimate as to when he may leave the hospital.

“According to doctor Joao Mansur Filho, the condition of the FIFA honorary president shows a slight improvement, but he still requires medical care,” a hospital statement read.

“Right now Joao Havelange is breathing without aid, but there is no estimation about when he may be discharged.”

Just tell him the ISL charges have been dropped and he’d be back on his feet in no time.