Laying down the law

The UEFA executive committee has ratified a 10-match minimum ban for racist abuse by players or officials.

The changes were first announced last month by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and will now be included in the disciplinary regulations.

UEFA will ask its 53 member nations to adopt the same measures at its congress on Friday. The English Football Association announced last week it will introduce a five-match minimum ban for racism.

”An association should adopt the same or similar measures,” Infantino said. ”UEFA has always acted in a way to try to convince people rather than impose. I don’t think you measure the way of fighting against racism in one simple measure and sanction.”

UEFA has been criticized in the past for dragging its feet on the issue by only fining national associations for racist abuse by fans.

In the future, if there is racism in the stands at UEFA matches, the first sanction for clubs will no longer just be a fine but a partial stadium closure. If there is further abuse, there will be a full stadium closure and a fine of 50,000 euros imposed on the team.

It’s a start.

Europa League finally worth winning?

And in another ground-breaking move, UEFA is expected to announce on Friday that the Europa League winners will be rewarded with a Champions League qualifying spot from 2016.

The move would instantly enhance the credibility of UEFA’s much maligned and little loved club competition.

Infantino declined to confirm details of the new proposal, saying the new development first had to be presented to member nations at Friday’s Congress.

It remains to be seen whether the likes of England, Germany and Spain, all of whom currently receive the maximum 4 Champions League spots, will be allowed to increase their allocation beyond the current UEFA threshold.

The decision followed months of discussions between the European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA officials.

On a busy day for UEFA, the venues for the finals of the UEFA club competitions in 2015 were also approved – Berlin’s Olympic Stadium for the Champions League and Warsaw’s National Stadium for the Europa League.

Good of the game

The head of the German Bundesliga has slammed FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, saying the decision ‘‘is not for the good of the game.’’

Christian Seifert, a man many people won’t have heard of a few months ago, but whose every word the world now hangs on, was speaking in London ahead of the all-German Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

‘‘The priority is always first the health of the players and this is what makes me most upset that the decision was done that ignores probably the health of the players and that ignores what is real in the game,’’ Seifert said.

‘‘If you make a decision which is so far away from the sports perspective if it turns out only to become, let’s say, politically driven, sports politics decision, then this is not good for the game … I’m not sure of the credibility of FIFA.

“Maybe first they should change the claim – because this (Qatar) is not for the good of the game.”

FIFA will not move the World Cup to winter without the request coming from Qatar – despite FIFA President Sepp Blatter saying last week that it is ‘‘not rational and reasonable’’ to play in the summer heat.

Air-conditioned stadiums to beat the 50-degree heat were a defining theme of Qatar’s bid, but the cooling technology is for the venues, not for the players who provide the entertainment.

‘‘We are really happy that FIFA recognises it’s warm in the summer in Qatar. This is a great, great finding,’’ said a sarcastic Seifert, who is also vice president of the German Football Association.

‘‘I am absolutely convinced that it is hard, if not impossible, to play a World Cup in the summer in Qatar.

‘‘Maybe you can create an artificial second sky over the whole country or over the stadia but what does that mean for the people in the media who need to work there, what does that mean for the fans who are there?

’’If the tournament was moved to the Gulf winter, it would likely be played in January and February 2022 – splitting the Bundesliga season and impacting the start and finish dates of leagues across Europe.

‘‘From other leagues I do have the feeling they are also very upset with the situation – that the decision was done and that a four-week tournament effects maybe three years of running of professional football leagues in Europe,’’ Seifert said.

‘‘It shows me which FIFA, as a body which says what’s good for the game, ignores completely the day-by-day basis in those leagues who are effectively the core and the heart of football – not the tournament that comes up every four years.’’

The remarks were similar to those he gave in a recent interview to World Soccer.

Hold the front page

Former Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has written a letter to club supporters in the local newspaper, reflecting on his time in charge of the club.

Pulis, 55, parted company with Stoke by mutual consent on Tuesday after seven years in charge.

He joked he could not afford to take out a full page advert as recently departed Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini had done.

“We have all been on one hell of a journey,” the Welshman told the Stoke Sentinel.

“It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since I first went up to the Potteries for a 4-2 defeat at Walsall.

“In those days I think we had two sets of goals on the training ground and, if it ever rained, we were running round in puddles.

“On a matchday, meantime, you could see more empty seats than occupied seats. But when I first arrived, I remember saying this was a proper football club with so much potential to do a lot better.

“I feel proud of the fact that I leave a club I found near the bottom of the Championship near the midway point of the Premier League.

“I will never forget the effort and the later celebrations as we won promotion back to the top division for the first time in 23 years.

“A generation of Stoke fans had never seen their club play the best teams in the land week-in, week-out, so I can’t tell you what it meant to be manager the day we did that.”

Similarly, a generation of Stoke fans have never seen the ball passed along the ground, so the post-Pulis era promises to be a novel experience in more ways than one.

“Who can forget that first [Premier League] win against Aston Villa, not to mention the victories against a certain team from north London?” asked the 55-year-old.

“I’d like to think I put out a competitive team that represented your club with the kind of pride you yourselves had in Stoke City.

“And I’d like to think I brought in players who will remain some of your favourites for ever and a day.”

Yes, forget the wizardry of Sir Stanley Matthews and the athleticism of Gordon Banks, it will be the long throws of Rory Delaap and the brutal hacks of Robert Huth, that will ignite the passions of a new generation of Stoke supporters.

Despite mounting criticism from Stoke supporters, many of whom unhappy at the route one style of play employed by Pulis, the departing manager thanked the fans and asked them to support the new manager.

He said: “And you, Stoke’s City’s wonderful support, have played such a massive part in the distance we have travelled over the last 10 years.

“That is how vital your support is. And that is why I urge you (for one last time) to get behind the new manager, just like you got behind the old one.”

Leopard not changing his spots

Litex Lovech coach Hristo Stoichkov has been fined 7,000 levs (£3,000) xfor threatening to beat up Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) president Borislav Mihaylov after his team’s 2-1 home defeat to Lokomotiv Sofia.

Former European Footballer of the Year Stoichkov, 47, also said referee Georgi Yordanov had “made fun” of his players by showing them cards and not awarding them a penalty in Wednesday’s Bulgarian league match.

Stoichkov was also given a one-match touchline ban for “insulting officials in the media”, the BFU’s disciplinary commission said in a statement.

Stoichkov, who as a player had frequent arguments with referees, told local media: “I just don’t care about the fines.”

After Wednesday’s verbal attack on Mihaylov, Stoichkov had told reporters: “I’ll catch him somewhere and I’ll beat him up. This will happen.”

With a combustible character like Stoichkov, you certainly wouldn’t put it past him.

Goal of the day

Two goals of the day today, both from Wednesday’s Ukrainian Cup final between Shakhtar Donetsk and Chernomorets Odessa.

Firstly, Shakhtar’s Fernadinho smashes home the opener and then an absolute belter from his team-mate Taison makes it 3-0.

Quote of the day

“Bayern Munich are the new benchmark in European football in my opinion. It’s a shame, but I don’t think that we will see Barcelona’s style of play again. They were able to hide their vulnerability over the years, until they were exposed when their form dropped a bit. 

Former Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk believes that Bayern Munich have set the new benchmark for European football.

Crowd trouble

The Macedonian soccer cup final was abandoned on Wednesday after rival Macedonian and ethnic Albanian fans began exchanging nationalist chants.

The match between Teteks and Shkendija has been rescheduled for Sunday and the Macedonian football federation said it would be played behind closed doors.

“Despite the serious preparations…the cup final was used for the manifestation of political and nationalist messages, coupled with violent behaviour by individuals and part of the fan groups, which crossed the boundaries of sportsmanship,” Macedonia’s youth and sports agency said in a statement.

The match was abandoned after 20 minutes for fear that the chants might ignite violence.

Both teams come from the western town of Tetovo, which saw heavy fighting in 2001 during clashes between Macedonian government forces and an ethnic Albanian guerrilla army.

The conflict pushed the small Balkan country to the verge of full-blown civil war, until a peace was brokered.

Shkendija, founded in 1979, are supported predominantly by Tetovo’s ethnic Albanians while the bulk of Teteks fans are Orthodox Christian Macedonians.

Here are the pyrotechnics that preceded the match.

Match fixing latest

Hungarian prosecutors have indicted a Singapore businessman and 44 Hungarians suspected of being involved in an international match-fixing conspiracy.

Chief Prosecutor Imre Keresztes said in a statement that 32 local and international matches are thought to have been manipulated by the suspects, including players, referees, team owners, an agent and a coach.

The affected games included an international match between two countries, a first-division game in the Italian league, three in the Finnish league and 11 Hungarian first-division matches, Keresztes said in an e-mail.

According to the indictment, a Hungarian suspect and his associates joined an Asian-based match-fixing organization in 2010. The scam is believed to have been masterminded by Tan Seet Eng of Singapore, also known as Dan Tan, the world’s most wanted and elusive match-fixing suspect.

Hungarian authorities said they have issued international and European arrest warrants for Tan, so far without success.

Cashing in

The announcement that Manchester City were collaborating with the New York Yankees baseball outfit to buy an MLS expansion team for $100 million, will not have gone unnoticed in the David Beckham household, nor that of his financial adviser.

If $100 million is now the going rate for an MLS franchise, then the recently-retired player is set for a huge windfall should he ever make good on his promise to buy a club of his own.

As part of the deal that took him to LA Galaxy in 2007, Beckham was given the right to buy an MLS expansion team for $25 million.

As the table below illustrates, $25 million was a reasonable price six years ago. But MLS team values have increased at an 18% annual rate since 1995. Even allowing for the premium paid to be associated with New York, the country’s biggest football market, Beckham looks to have secured a bargain.

If ever there was a man who could fall in manure and come up smelling of roses, it would be Beckham.

MLS Expansion Fees

First Year          Team                               Amount of  Fee

2015             New York FC                          $100 million

2012             Montreal Impact                  $40 million

2011             Portland Timber                   $35 million

2011             Vancouver Whitecaps        $35 million

2010             Philadelphia Union            $30 million

2009             Seattle Sounders                 $30 million

2008             San Jose Earthquakes     $20 million

2007             Toronto FC                           $10 million

2005             Real Salt Lake                     $7.5 million

2005             Chivas USA                          $7.5 million

1998             Miami Fusion                      $20 million

1998             Chicago Fire                        $5 million

1995            Original 10 teams               $5 million each