Reform school

Mark Pieth, who was appointed to lead FIFA’s new independent governance committee, has set out a series of reforms that he believes will improve the standards of governance at FIFA House.

Pieth presented a report called “Governing FIFA” in Zurich yesterday, and although his brief did not include examining past misdemeanors, he was charged with producing recommendations that will ensure that the corruption allegations that have haunted FIFA for the past 12 months, do not recur in the future.

“FIFA has to reorganise itself, it has to accept change,” he said. One of the key changes he proposes is limiting terms for the president and other committee members, in a bid to help restore confidence.

The report may be the footballing equivalent of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but if it helps to improve conduct and reduce corruption in the future, then it will have served a purpose.

Follow the money

The Premier League has published the figures spent on agents’ fees over the past year with a grand total of £71.87m being spent by the clubs between 1 October 2010 and 30 September. This is the highest figure since the Premier League first published the figures in 2008, although the figures broadly average out at £70m per season. That might sound like a lot of money, but in the context of the combined fee of £85m spent on Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, it’s obvious that there have been bigger wastes of money over the past 12 months

Unsurprisingly, Manchester City spent more than any other Premier League side on agents’ fees over the past year with £9.66m going to player representatives. After City the most profligate clubs were Tottenham who spent £7.57m, and Liverpool who forked out £7m.

One or two anomalies appear in the list: Everton for instance, spent no money on transfer fees but still paid out almost £3m to agents; which just goes to show that there is no such thing as a free transfer.

Total money spent on agents (Oct 2010 – Sep 2011):
Arsenal – £4,648,532.17
Aston Villa – £3,163,320.00
Blackburn Rovers – £4,227,056.93
Bolton Wanderers – £1,941,896.08
Chelsea – £6,457,747.37
Everton – £2,931,127.10
Fulham – £951,245.50
Liverpool – £7,000,242.99
Manchester City – £9,663,700.00
Manchester United – £4,457,103.00
Newcastle United – £6,380,488.00
Norwich City – £710,251.75
Queens Park Rangers – £2,499,214.00
Stoke City – £2,207,698.11
Sunderland – £3,735,384.29
Swansea City – £248,633.00
Tottenham Hotspur – £7,571,815.27
West Bromwich Albion – £1,305,576.38
Wigan Athletic – £659,800.00
Wolverhampton Wanderers – £1,107,918.00

Sack race

The candidates are jockeying for position in the race to succeed Steve Bruce as manager of Sunderland. Bruce was fired on Wednesday and within hours of his dismissal speculation about a replacement was rife in the English media.

The bookmakers’ favourite is Mark Hughes, although his reputation continues to be sullied by his decision to walk out on Fulham in order to to “further my experiences”.

At the time, Hughes was confident that he would be approached by Aston Villa to become their next manager. It didn’t happen. In fact, furthering his experiences has resulted in Hughes spending a lot more time with his family, punctuated by the occasional piece of television punditry in order to keep himself in the public eye.

Goal of the day

Darren Ambrose’s stunning long range effort helped Crystal Palace to a shock 2-1 Carling Cup win over Manchester United.

Universidad graduate

Universidad de Chile will meet Ecuadorian side LDU Quito in the Copa Sudamericana final after a 2-0 win over Vasco da Gama 2-0 on Wednesday helped them to a 3-1 aggregate victory.

Before the game, the Vasco coach Cristovao Borges complained about the chocie of venue with Universidad opting to play the match at the 22,000 capacity Santa Laura stadium rather than the national team’s Estadio Nacional stadium.

“The pitch is good, it is set up to let the ball move around fast. But the stadium is too small for a special match like this,” the trainer told Lance.

“I just hope that all of our fans can be safe on the day of the game.”

The fans were safe, but as you can see from this footage there was a bearpit-like atmosphere at the intimate little ground.

Have boots will travel

Sven Goran Eriksson has been racking up the air miles in recent days. After a trip to Iran to discuss terms with Persepolis, the Swede will travel to Brazil this week to have discussions on Monday concerning the Botafogo manager position.

There has been no explanation as to why talks with Persepolis ground to a halt, but recent events in Tehran may have caused Eriksson to ponder the wisdom of working in such a febrile environment.

Better late than never

With the Euro 2012 just 7 months away, Ukraine has finally opened all the stadiums that will host matches. However, there are fears that the finals will be mired in organisational problems, particularly for visiting supporters.

Certainly, the first events at the renovated Olympic Stadium in Kiev, have exposed one or two teething problems.

Thousands of fans forced their way into the stadium as several turnstiles were closed. Some climbed the two-metre-high fence, others broke metal doors to enter.

“Thank God, there were no casualties,” Olexiy Mochanov, a TV presenter, said on his blog blaming the authorities’ “idiocy” and poor organisation. “I will never go to this stadium again.”

Meanwhile, in Lviv, fans were forced to walk three miles from the nearest bus station to get into the 33,000 seat arena built in the city’s outskirts.

A word of advice for any fans planning to attend matches in Donetsk: bring a sleeping bag. Hotel rooms are so scarce that the city was unable to provide accommodation for UEFA’s 5000-strong delegation in October.

Ah, but in the capital city Kiev, surely the situation must be better. Not exactly. Rooms are abundant, but unless you’re acquainted with a local oligarch it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to afford to stay in one.

Prices range from $133 for a bed in a hostel dormitory to $797 for a room in a four-star hotel in Kiev. Kiev is not normally an expensive city to visit by European standards, but for a four-week period next summer, it will certainly become one.

Other than than the fact that fans will struggle to find a hotel room and be unable to afford one even if they do, there is also the small matter of travelling around the country.

TV football commentator Olexandr Glyvynsky – who also acts as spokesman for the national football team – said he is most concerned by the state of the roads.

“My biggest worry is about fans coming by car,” he said. “We have terribly few road signs, even fewer in Latin letters, no light and the roads are often covered with potholes. Europeans risk having a culture shock here.”

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Anglo-Italian coup

Reports in Italy suggest that Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has sanctioned a move for Manchester City’s AWOL striker Carlos Tevez.

Milan are looking for a replacement for Antonio Cassano who will miss the rest of the season through injury, and have identified Tevez.

While City contemplate the departure of Tevez to Italy, there are reports that they are planning to use to some of the proceeds from that sale to buy Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi.

The Italian international’s current deal with Roma expires in the summer and he can commit himself to a pre-contract with City from January 1.

Only last month, City manager Roberto Mancini enthused: “If De Rossi becomes available one day, Manchester City will try to sign [him], just like Real Madrid, Chelsea and all the other big clubs.

“He’s a superb player and one of the few who would be able to blend in a top team. He’s a complete midfielder with a lot of quality and experience.”

Touch of evil

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who has already branded Manchester City ‘money wasters’ this season, has suggested that the wealthy English club might employ underhand tactics to further their Champions League ambitions.

To progress to the knockout stages at the expense of Napoli, Roberto Mancini’s side must beat Bayern Munich next week and hope that the Italian side drop points to Villarreal.

A paranoid De Laurentiis said: “I can feel strange things going on surrounding the Villarreal game – princes and sheiks are getting agitated.

“To think about it would be evil but sometimes you can guess what is happening.”


Can Australia’s A-League afford Harry Kewell? Apparently not.

A government report says Australian A-League football players are overpaid. The Smith Review of Australian football says the 10-team A-League “must live and grow within its means” and recommends reducing the $32 million dollars spent on player salaries.

“Salaries have increased at an unsustainable rate, out of step with the income the product generates and at a time when the Australian dollar is extremely competitive in the international player recruitment market,” the report says.

It has been estimated that Melbourne Victory’s Harry Kewell could earn upwards of $3m this year. Admittedly, much of his income will come from sponsorship and marketing deals, but to let one player extract that much money out of the coffers will do nothing for the long term sustainability of the A-League.