Italy PM promises to help clubs renew stadiums

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has promised that he will appeal to the country’s parliament next year to allow Italian football clubs to improve their stadiums.

In what has been a long-standing issue in Italy, the latest promise suggests that there will be genuine assistance provided to clubs who have been restricted in their ability to build their own stadia.

Juventus are currently the only club to privately own their own stadium, with Udinese are set to follow suit by renovating the Stadio Friuli.

Meanwhile, Lazio, Roma,  Milan,  Milan and Sampdoria are just five clubs who have expressed their desire to build new grounds. However, their efforts thus far have been thwarted due to the confrontation with local councils who own the stadia, who have been unwilling to fund improvements.

“I want to have the final word on a long-standing stadium problem,” Letta is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“There will be an amendment drawn up in the stability plan which will define this issue once and for all, and I will be inviting the parliament to approve it.

“This is the appeal I will be making to parliament: from Jan. 1, we need new laws for more modern stadia without any barriers.”

Clubs have long complained that the state of the stadia is fostering hooliganism, deterring families from attending football matches and in terms of revenue, making Italian clubs fall behind their European counterparts.

Meanwhile, Italian National Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago has called upon the Lega to allow children to replace ‘ultras’ in cases where there has been a partial closure of the stadium.

“Opening all of the Curva closed due to racism and letting only children in is a fantastic idea,” Malago said. “We need the clubs and the Lega (Serie A) to look into this from a regulatory point of view, but I like the idea a lot.

“It would be a great signal. It would be like when we confiscated assets from the Mafia.”

FIFA powerless to intervene in Belounis case

FIFA has said that it is powerless to intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who says he is being held in Qatar against his will following a dispute with his club.

As reported yesterday, the international players union FIFPro appealed to FIFA president Sepp Blatter to intervene on behalf of Belounis, who has been trying to leave the Gulf state for two years.

However, Blatter, who one assumes is on reasonably good terms with the Qatari hierarchy in light of him endorsing the country’s bid to host the world’s biggest sporting event, is unable to help.

“FIFA is unable to intervene in this matter given that Mr. Belounis chose the option of contacting an ordinary court in Qatar instead of the second option available to refer to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC),” said FIFA in a statement.

“Furthermore, we would like to point out that FIFA has to date received no contractual claim from Zahir Belounis against his Qatari club as well as any accompanying documentation to support his case.”

In which case, that would make FIFA the only organisation involved in the sport unaware of Belounis’ plight.

The plight of the 33-year-old Frenchman is the latest controversy involving 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar following an outcry over the treatment of migrant workers building the stadiums and infrastructure for the finals.

If world football’s governing body can do nothing to help a professional footballer, one wonders what it will be able to do for the long suffering migrant workers. Sadly, very little.

French clubs call off strike

French clubs have postponed a strike planned for the end of this month to protest against a n protest at a soon-to-be-introduced 75 percent tax rate on high earners.

The UCPF, the union that represents France’s professional clubs, made the announcement after a meeting in Paris, meaning that games scheduled between Friday November 29 and Monday December 2 will now go ahead.

UCPF President Jean-Pierre Louvel said in a statement the clubs wanted to discuss how the future of the sport in France would be preserved.

“We decided to put off the day of action and come back to talks on ‘sustainable football’,” Louvel said of talks.

The postponement comes after talks began on Wednesday evening between UCPF representatives and Socialist MP Jean Glavany at the headquarters of the French Football Federation in Paris.

The talks, described as “very constructive”, came after the clubs walked away with nothing from a meeting last month with French President Francois Hollande, who refused to exempt them from the proposed new tax.

Glavany said that the government would “not go back on the principle” of the new tax but did raise the prospect of carrying out a study into how it could best be applied to football.

The new tax would see all earnings over one million euros taxed at 75 percent but it would be the clubs themselves who would be liable rather than their employees.

Fourteen of the 20 Ligue 1 clubs are to be affected by the tax on 2013 and 2014 salaries, including Qatar-funded Paris St Germain. Players at Monaco, backed by a Russian billionaire, will be exempt as they do not fall under French tax laws.

A recent poll by Tilder-LCI-OpinionWay showed widespread support for the tax, with 85 per cent of those questioned not wanting clubs to be exempt from the tax.

Edinson Cavani smashes in our goal of the Day

Jordan’s World Cup dream already looks over after their 5-0 first leg defeat to Uruguay. Like their goalkeeper confronted with this stunning Edinson Cavani free-kick, they never really stood a chance.

Quote of the Day

”My wife has already prepared space on the mantelpiece for the Ballon d’Or. I try not to think about it. But she thinks about it a lot. Everyone at Bayern Munich thinks I will win it.”

Everyone and Franck Ribery’s wife thinks the Bayern Munich playmaker will win this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Club releases player over match-fixing allegations

Austrian club Groedig have released defender Dominique Taboga amid claims he tried to persuade four team mates to take part in match-manipulation, the club has confirmed.

“On the basis of the events of the previous days, sporting director Christian Hass has announced cancellation of Dominique Taboga’s contract by mutual consent,” said the Bundesliga club in a statement on its website.

The Austrian football federation (OeFB) said it had been told that Taboga had tried to persuade team mates to take part in match-fixing.

“This morning, the OeFB was informed in writing by SV Groedig that Dominque Taboga tried to incite four players to take part in match-manipulation, which they rejected,” said the OeFB in a statement issued jointly with the Bundesliga.

“Based on this information, the appropriate legal steps have been taken.”

Prosecutors’ spokesman Marcus Neher said former Austrian international striker Sanel Kuljic, is being investigated after Taboga filed charges, claiming he has been threatened by Kuljic after refusing to get involved in match-fixing.

According to Neher, Taboga said he was forced to pay Kuljic nearly 30,000 euros after refusing to prevent his club from winning matches.

”By his own account, (Taboga) has not been involved in any match manipulation,” Neher said. ”However, he claims to be blackmailed over a long period of time, including the threat of violence against him and his family.”

Brazil players registers protest at fixture congestion

Brazilian players stood with their arms crossed for several moments after the start of league matches Wednesday to protest against a fixture overload in the country.

Players in all Brazilian league matches staged the protest. Some refused to kick off after the referee’s whistle, while others put the ball into touch before remaining motionless.

The protests took on a number of guises, with players in the match between Sao Paulo and Flamengo kicking the ball back and forth from one team to the other. They exchanged passes for almost a minute as the referee ran from one side to the other.

Botafogo and Portuguesa linked arms before kick-off to avoid getting yellow cards, but players in the match between Criciuma and Atletico Paranaense waited for the initial whistle before crossing their arms and nobody was shown a card.

The players are unhappy that the Brazilian federation (CBF) hasn’t responded to their demands for a more organized calendar with fewer games.

The protest is part of the “Common Sense Football Club” movement created earlier this year.

“We want the CBF to know that we want more answers and more action to improve our football,” said Corinthians defender Paulo Andre, one of the movement’s leaders, along with former Brazil and Fenerbahce midfielder Alex and veteran Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni.

On Wednesday, players entered the field carrying a banner reading “For a better football for everyone.” Another read: “CBF friends, where’s the common sense?”

“It’s important we have better championships, better football in general,” Vasco da Gama right back Fagner said.

The players have joined forces to try to reduce the notoriously long fixture list, which runs for most of the year and which allows little time for breaks or pre-season preparation. They also want punishment for teams that don’t play salaries on time.

Players met with the Brazilian federation a few weeks ago and were initially told that officials would pay attention to their demands, but decided to keep protesting after little was done after the meeting.

Officials say changes won’t likely happen until 2015, blaming the World Cup for a shorter season next year.

It looks like the World Cup is taking the rap for a lot of things going on in Brazil at the moment.