TOP STORIES OF THE WEEK

$2billion lost by top Euro clubs 
UEFA says annual losses reported by the top European clubs soared 36% to 1.6 billion euros ($2 bn) largely because of lower transfer revenues. Just over half of the 650 first-division clubs from UEFA’s 53 member national associations audited by European football’s governing body recorded losses in 2010. A total of 29% of clubs reported significant losses equivalent to spending €12 for every €10 in income. This climbs to 75% when only the largest clubs (those with annual revenue of more than €50m) are taken into account. Only two of the largest 20 top divisions broke even. “The situation is even worse down the football pyramid, where the risk of insolvency and bankruptcy is much higher than in the top divisions,” UEFA said. “This trend needs to be reversed very quickly,” AFP quoted UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino (who spoke at last October’s Leaders in Football Conference) as saying after the report was presented at the body’s Nyon headquarters on Thursday. Infantino said the figures in UEFA’s fourth club licensing benchmarking report on European club football were a “wake-up call” for the top clubs with its new Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules being phased in over the next two years. He said that if the FFP regulations were imposed now rather than when scheduled in 2013-2014 13 clubs would have breached the rules and be subject to various sanctions including transfer embargos, deduction of points and possible exclusion from Champions League and Europa League competitions. Underlining the financial problems afflicting the continent’s big clubs, Infantino explained that the slight growth in income (6.6% or 12.8 billion euros) was not being offset by higher expenses. A total of 3.3 billion euros was spent on players in the reporting period. “The need for Financial Fair Play measures and strong governance is strongly emphasised by the report findings,” UEFA said in a statement. “Whilst the level of losses was one of a number of warning signs that confirms the need for football to act, there were some improvements with the 64% of income spent on employee costs, representing a small decrease on the previous year after four years of rising percentages.” UEFA said more than half of clubs showed weaker balance sheets, indicating that many club owners did not cover their losses. In news from the UEFA Executive Committee’s first meeting of 2012 in Nyon yesterday, members were updated on the Euro Qualifiers project related to the centralisation of media rights for all European qualification matches for Euro 2016 in France – the first continental championships with 24 teams – and the FIFA World Cup 2018. The tender process for the media rights to the European Qualifiers package is planned for the second quarter of 2012. The next meeting of the UEFA Ex-Co takes place on March 20-21, a day before the UEFA Congress in Istanbul.

UEFA sends warning to Turkey 
Turkey has been one of the main match fixing culprits in Europe with a spate of arrests and punishments in recent weeks and Infantino warned that UEFA was keeping a sharp eye on proceedings. Press reports in Turkey recently quoted UEFA President Michel Platini as looking favourably on a prospective bid from the country for the 2020 European Championships, having controversially missed out by one vote to France for 2016. Istanbul is also planning to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. But Infantino said: “2020 is a long way off but what is important is that the Turkish FA takes the right decisions with regard to this whole match fixing situation. The longer it drags on, the worst the climate becomes. In situations like this, you need to take responsible decisions. You can’t just wait for criminal proceedings to be finalised because they take years. Disciplinary proceedings on the sporting side need to go faster. It will be an important question in terms of next season’s UEFA competitions.” Speaking following the conclusion of a two-day UEFA Executive Committee meeting, Infantino also disclosed that fan violence in both Serbia and Croatia had not yet been eradicated to UEFA’s satisfaction. A year ago, Platini warned both countries faced suspension from European competitions if they could not rein in the hooligans. “Some progress has been made in both countries but we are not yet there so we will look at it again in six months’ time,” Infantino said. “In spite of some effort, more needs to be done.” The Executive Committee was also brought up to date, said Infantino, on talks with European clubs over an insurance policy to cover the salaries of players injured on international duty, and the next four-year international calendar starting in 2015, both strong concerns of the 200-strong European Club Association (ECA). “We will find a good solution with regards to insurance because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Infantino said.

Redknapp in hot water 
Harry Redknapp, the most successful English club manager of recent years and the man favoured to succeed Fabio Capello as England boss after Euro 2012, appeared in court today to face accusations of tax evasion. Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur, is charged along with Milan Mandaric with cheating the public revenue, involving payments totalling $295,000 (£183,000/€229,000) allegedly made by Mandaric to Redknapp when they were chairman and manager respectively of Portsmouth. As anticipated given the high-profile nature of a case that has lurked ominously in the background while he steered his team into the Premier League’s top three, a media scrum greeted Redknapp, who denies the charges, as he arrived at Southwark Crown Court. The first charge alleges that, between April 1, 2002 and November 28, 2007, Mandaric paid $145,000 (£93,100/€112,600) into a bank account held by Redknapp in Monaco, to avoid paying income tax and national insurance. The second charge for the same offence relates to a sum of $150,000 (£96,300/€116,500) allegedly paid by Mandaric to the same account between May 1, 2004 and November 28, 2007. Redknapp, 64, who underwent minor heart surgery last year, led Portsmouth to FA Cup success in 2008 and Tottenham to last season’s Champions League quarter-finals in what was their first season among the European elite. Mandaric is now chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, having also worked at Leicester. Judge Anthony Leonard told jurors to “leave prejudice or favour behind” as a panel of eight men and four women were sworn in. “The defendants are two well-known personalities within the world of football.” He said football “almost overwhelms other aspects in life” as he ordered jurors to focus solely on the charges. It can prejudice if you hold such allegiances or prejudices” towards clubs that the defendants were or are at, he said. The case is expected to take up to two weeks.

Malaga hit with transfer ban 
La Liga outfit Malaga, one of the richest teams in Spain, have been banned from transfer activity until they have paid back a debt to rivals Osasuna. According to Spanish media reports, the signing of Nacho Monreal from Osasuna last June has put the southern outfit in trouble, and forced the Spanish league (LFP) to impose the transfer embargo. Malaga were earlier this season the subject of a complaint from Villarreal over VAT owed to them following the transfer of Spain playmaker Santi Cazorla, the Andalusians’ record signing when he arrived last summer. Transactions at the club can take up to two months to go through due to their convoluted payment structure. Malaga were bought by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani of the Qatari royal family in June 2010 and since his arrival the club have spent significantly in a bid to reach the Champions League. On their website, Malaga issued a statement which said that they “acknowledge that there are delays in some payments (including to Osasuna) due to the complexity in approving budgets and transactions with foreign entities.” The statement went on to accuse Osasuna of singling them out, as well as being impatient. “In one year, Malaga has received more than €120 million (£100 million/$156 million) and the organisation estimates that this amount, together with the personal guarantee of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani, should be sufficient guarantee for third parties to have patience with delays in payments,” the statement continued. “[Malaga] understands that Osasuna is entitled to claim the amount owed, but such claims are being made only with Malaga and not with other clubs.” The statement also promised that Osasuna would shortly be paid back what was owed to them, and they pledged to improve their financial administration to avoid similar problems in future. The transfer ban may also lead to the LFP barring Malaga from fielding goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who is their only signing during the current transfer window, which closes at the end of the month. The two clubs are also involved in a fierce battle on the field, as they are among half a dozen in La Liga chasing the final Champions League spot for next season. Osasuna currently lie in sixth place in the league, four points off Levante in fourth, and two ahead of Malaga in tenth.

Japan’s women confident of gold in 2012 
The former Japan Football Association (JFA) General Secretary Takeo Hirata has said that Japan’s rivals will be more wary of the women’s world champions at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer. Japan won the Women’s World Cup in Germany on penalties after a 2-2 draw with the United States last year. Going into this summer’s Olympic tournament in London, Japan and the US will again be among the favourites for gold. “Teams will study and be prepared when they face Japan this time around,” Hirata told The Japan Times, adding that the Japanese were even more motivated to do well at the World Cup after the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck the country last March. “They were very motivated after the March 11 disasters. The players were united and were ready to fight hard.” Hirata says that midfielder Aya Sameshima would be a key player for the squad, saying: “It would mean so much to the devastated areas in Tohoku for her to play well on the field, especially since she used to work at the Fukushima No 1 nuclear plant.” As well as Sameshima, Japan will look to captain Homare Sawa, who was recently awarded the 2011 FIFA Ballon D’Or prize. Japan reached the semi-finals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, being beaten by eventual winners the US, but have never won the tournament. Japan will compete with North Korea, France, Sweden, hosts Britain, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and Cameroon at the Olympics this summer, with the North American and Oceania representatives yet to secure their places at the Games.

Bundesliga records massive profits 
The Bundesliga made a profit of €52.5 million (£44 million/$69 million) in 2010/11, translating to an increase of €130 million (£109 million/$171 million) from the previous year’s figures. The impressive numbers came just after UEFA revealed that in 2010 European teams racked up a staggering €1.6 billion (£1.3 billion/$2 billion) in debt. The Bundesliga also generated record revenue in 2010/11, bringing in almost €2 billion (£1.67 million/$2.63 billion). Adding to the financial success, the attendance record for the league was broken for the second year in a row as 42,101 spectators were at each game on average, making the German top flight the best attended league in Europe ahead of the Premier League. “For the first time, more than 42,000 spectators on average attended the matches, causing the Bundesliga to retain its spot as the football league recording the highest spectator average worldwide,” the German Football League (DFL) said. “The measures for an improved cost control approved by the clubs in August 2010 have borne fruit.” Christian Seifert, the Chief Executive of the DFL, added: “The Bundesliga is as popular as never before with fans, sponsors and media partners.”

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