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beIN to Review Serie A Partnership Over Supercoppa Match in Saudi

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beIN-Sports

Supercoppa Italiana match between Juventus and Lazio to be played in Saudi Arabia later this month is facing backlash from a Middle-East based broadcaster, beIN Sports. As reported, the distributor has said that it is considering cancelling all of its agreements in Italian soccer, which are valued at $500 million, following its spat with the kingdom over illicit regulation of beIN’s copyright protected content.

The illegal broadcast has been regulated since 2017 by beoutQ – Saudi’s pirate pay TV broadcaster – and has been condemned by multiple football associations and held accountable by FIFA for spreading piracy.

Over the past year, Qatar’s beIN has pressed Italy’s top-flight league Serie A to scrap the matches in Saudi, in which the league has a $22.5 million contract for three games over five seasons.

“beIN is actively reconsidering its entire commercial relationship with Serie A following the league’s decision to go ahead with its Super Cup match next month in Saudi Arabia,” a spokesman said. “It is remarkable what Serie A is seemingly prepared to jeopardize – not only all the financial revenues from one of its biggest broadcaster partners, but also the exposure beIN gives to the league in markets all around the world,” he added.

However, for Luigi de Siervo, who heads Serie A, honoring the contract is an important aspect regardless of what has happened or is happening. In his statement, he cleared that upon his election in February 2019, he found a multi-year agreement to play in Saudi Arabia and the league will, thus, go ahead with the due commitment. Besides, confronting beIN’s claims and adding that the contract with the broadcaster did not limit Serie A from playing matches in other Middle Eastern nations.

Serie A is the fourth largest league in the world, after England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga, according to Deloitte’s Sports Business Group’s 2019 review of Football Finance. Ironically, none of its team is in the list of top 10 ranking by revenue, with Juventus ranked at number 11.

The value of its pay-television revenues, too, has fallen by eight per cent in the last decade, compared to other countries which have seen rises of up to 158 per cent.

Last year in February, beIN scrapped its deal with Formula One, which was worth $30 million to $40 million a year. This was followed by a warning last November that claimed to cut spending with rights holders unless they did more to stop the Saudi-based broadcaster. And in a similar statement issued this time, Serie A might lose its entire commercial relationship with beIN pretty soon.

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New Report on FFP Exposes UAE’s Man City as a Sportswashing Tool

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New Report on FFP Exposes UAE’s Man City as a Sportswashing Tool

From rock bottom to epitome, Manchester City were once a team fighting to stay in the Premier League, but today they are pretty much the invincible juggernauts of the top-flight league. Their remarkable journey indeed took a lot, a lot of money to build the top-notch empire at the Etihad stadium.

As revealed by Guardian, Manchester City were found to have made unallowable submission to UEFA over financial fair play in 2014. And reportedly also did not make their bank statement available, the scenario that meant the payments from the sponsoring companies could not be seen.

In response, the club in fact issued their online back account that held the record from past 12 months to the spring of 2013. However, the missing information from 2012 or most part of 2013, which made up the financial account for FFP was reportedly missing.

As per the investigation reports, submission for the 2012 and 2013 financial year were questioned in relation to £118.75m in sponsorships from companies in Abu Dhabi. While club’s methodology of reaching the figure over transfer fees and the formation of two new companies was also rejected.

Following which, almost £60m was added to the losses made by the club, after UEFA found issues relating to accounting methods. The revelation against Man City FFP was brought forward by UEFA consultants, who also looked in to the further accounts and concluded that the club had made losses of €180m in 2012 and 2013, hugely overboard than the €45m FFP maximum deficit allowed, given the losses were covered by an owner.

It has been six years since it surfaced that Manchester City made alteration in their financial accounts and later agreed to a deal to restrict their spending limit. Yet the new report has revealed the exact sequence of events and figures, which was never been reported before.

Besides, after the UEFA carried out the investigation, scores of people in UEFA believed that the regulatory body needed to be stricter in 2014. While a staff member who worked on the FFP case is said to have left shortly after the case.

Fast forward to November 2018, Man City are once again called for over the board. The Etihad outfit this time came to light following the publication of accounts by Germany Daily Der Spiegel. The newspaper leaked internal Man City emails and documents, which conveyed that the club owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan has been largely pumping the money into club himself, a fact unknown to UEFA.

The “adjudicatory chamber” of UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) is currently looking into the possible allegations on Manchester City, and if the panel finds it true, it could lead to City being excluded from the next seasons Champions League.

According to the leaks, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was then-the head of UEFA was also personally involved in the City’s settlement in 2014.
The FFP regulations which made headway in 2010-11, were introduced to keep a check on the spending limit, so European clubs did not make huge losses. Under the norms, loss cannot be reduced by owners via putting in more millions using their commercial partnerships with companies associated to the club.

However, after the takeover in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, the game has completely changed and taken a sharp turn towards Man City and their spending patterns.

The move has been linked to sportswashing – an idealist attempt undertaken to deviate the attention towards sports so other major issues do not ignite negative perspective about the nation.

In the present scenario with Manchester City, rights group including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have underlined how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants to hide its human rights violations and contributions to the menacing wars in Yemen and Libya, to lure the western investors. And City Football Group (CFG) – a holding company that administers association football clubs under the ownership of Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) – which owns/co-owns 8 different clubs across continents is using football as a reputation management tool across the world.

Does FFP make any difference to Manchester City’s approach? The answer is clearly no, because even after huge losses and breach of financial fair play, the club has kept signing star players like Riyad Mahrez. But it also clearly means that the pious game of football is in danger of being swept away by financial bosses like Sheikh Mansour, who look sinfully indulged to build UAE’s name whilst demeaning century-old clubs that are still running in lieu of the norms regulated by UEFA.

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Scottish FA Reports Footballers Heading Ball Prone to Dementia Illness

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Scottish FA Reports Footballers Heading Ball Prone to Dementia Illness

Last updated on January 18th, 2020

A serious revelation in the field of football can possibly change the way game is played, after reports by Scottish FA linked heading the football to dementia – a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities.

As per the report, the Scottish FA’s ban to head football is to be applied in a matter of weeks on Under-12s in Scotland. The governing body which will become the first European nation to impose a restriction on head contact with football. However, such a ban is already in place in the United States since 2015.

Discussions first kicked off after the study was released in October, which concluded the first connections between former players and retrogressive symptoms of the disease. The Scottish FA’s doctor, John MacLean, who was part of the squad that learned about dementia, highlighted how ex-players are three-and-a-half times more likely to die of the disease.

Ironically, the case has been linked with the game that is often named for building tough mental and physical personalities. However, not all are convinced with how the two link up, because no solid proof still connects the heading ball to disease, to which the association doctors have said that restricting is only, but a common sense in the scenario.

“We can’t wait on the evidence one way or the other on heading. We need to take some sensible, pragmatic steps at the moment and that’s largely going to be about trying to reduce that overall burden, the overall times that young players head – and heading in training is much more common than in matches,” the doctors argued. Further explaining that their study was not designated to, and couldn’t even find out how the two are linkable.

Meanwhile, Gordon Smith, former chief executive of SFA, plaudit the Scottish FA ban while speaking on the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme. He also said, young ones could still be taught, if lighter balls are used instead of traditional heavy weight balls.

Glasgow’s largest youth club also showed approval and welcomed the reports. While Giffnock Soccer Centre said that it has already banned heading of football across its smaller-sided squads. Hard to say how fast will the Scottish FA ban be accepted and eventually applied all across the world, but the first good step to make the game free from all possible injuries is already underway.

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Saudi Spanish Super Cup: Amnesty Calls for Release of Rights Activists

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Saudi Spanish Super Cup: Amnesty Calls for Release of Rights Activists

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has hailed the Saudi Super Cup as the revamped version of football tournament that has boosted the Spanish Super Cup. Besides, being billed as the tournament that brings in a lot money by Barcelona’s Manager Ernesto Valverde, the Spanish Cup in Saudi Arabia has made ground breaking headlines since its inception on Wednesday.

The completion that is now into its final stage will see Real Madrid face on Atletico Madrid in Sunday’s final, after Barcelona and Valencia came short in their respective semi-finals. However, on the sidelines of the tournament, Amnesty International activists protested outside the Saudi Embassy in Madrid, Wednesday.

The group of people lined up like a football team while holding scarves of each of the four clubs. They wore yellow t-shirts that called for the release of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been detained for more than 600 days now. The protestants also urged people to “join our (their) team.”

On the route to become self-reliant, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated ideas to host major sporting events as part of Saudi Vision 2030, but they have often been labeled as attempts of ‘sportswashing’ – an activity that uses sports to refurbish a nation’s image.

As it turns out, some have stepped back from their decision to contest in the kingdom, while others have turned a blind eye to the issue.

“For decades in Saudi Arabia, women have been subjected to repressive laws that have imposed restrictions on their rights to travel independently, work or study, which limits various aspects of their lives,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Faced with this situation, many activists have raised their voices. One of them is Loujain al-Hathloul … one of 11 activists who are currently at risk of being sentenced to up to 20 all of them to be released immediately and their charges removed.”

The Spanish Super Cup’s move to Saudi Arabia also infuriated people in Spain, both because of the human rights abuse in the nation, and for overlooking the convenience of local fans to attend the matches.

The deal struck last year by Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales, reportedly gives them €120 million ($133M), to host the tournament for three years. While Barcelona and Real Madrid earn $7.8m each.

“We are not the ones organizing the competition, it’s organized by the Spanish Football Federation,” a Barcelona official told CNN when questioned on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. “We are the Copa del Rey finalist and winner of the Spanish League, so we have to participate along with the other three. We are aware there have been previous (human rights) incidents,” the official added.

Consequently, even if the presumed intentions of Saudi Arabia behind hosting global events is to become self-reliant, why does it still keep ignoring and abusing human rights?

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Diplomatic Gulf Crisis Denied Entry to the Football Stadiums

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Diplomatic Gulf Crisis Denied Entry to the Football Stadiums

The vast world of soccer has been influential enough to hit the political dynamics of certain countries, with some perfect strikes and other unexpected misses. The big game has recently been both a point of conflict and association between the tussling Gulf countries engulfed in regional crisis.

In 2017, the strong base of Gulf Cooperation Council’s six member countries was left with a grave crack, where Qatar was left on one side while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the rest remained on the other. Since then, the diplomatic relations have been frequently teased with football kicks on several occasions, as the two are closely intertwined in the region.

For the first time since the embargo, which blocked Qatar’s airplanes from the skies of Gulf neighbours and sealed its only land border with Saudi, the GCC member countries put a step closer towards their lost friend during the Arabian Gulf Cup in October 2019.

Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Bahrain dispatched shock waves, as they allowed their teams to visit Qatar and play for the Gulf Cup. While the result based on diplomatic grounds is uncertain, Qatar was seen losing to Saudi Arabia on the soccer field in semi-finals.

Surprisingly, no shoes were thrown at the players, forcing us to recall when the United Arab Emirates lost the Asian Cup to Qatar in January 2019 and the Emirati fans tossed their footwear at the celebrating Qatari players. Besides, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also presented the team of Bahrain with the Gulf Cup on their win.

However, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the other hand, was identified using soccer as a tool to instigate regional rivalries, a few months before that. The international football governing body, FIFA asserted in September 2019 that a Saudi firm had been pirating the television stream of Qatari state-owned company beIN Sports.

Saudi Arabia’s pirate service beoutQ initially raised concerns and rage in 2018, when it stole and broadcasted the World Cup across the Middle East, costing the Qatari firm a fortune in lost revenues. Besides, no Saudi lawyer was willing to represent the case, where FIFA tried to sue beoutQ in Saudi courts.

In a matter of few months, the political passions appeared to be parting their ways with the Middle Eastern zeal for football. The unanticipated change became a clearer sky in December 2019, when a number of Saudi Arabian fans purchased tickets for a forbidden journey to Qatar only to support their team, Al Hilal in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup semi final.

However, the dark clouds continue to maintain their presence from more than two years over the diplomatic ties of the Gulf nations. Qatar was accused by the regional rivals of financing terrorism and interfering in their domestic affairs, but the little Arabian nation denied the allegations.

After the crisis erupted, the Emirati ministers were reported to be urging FIFA to snatch away Qatar’s hosting rights for the World Cup in 2022. A 50-page report by “Spinwatch: Public Interest Investigations” in 2018 revealed that the UAE was indulged in a well-financed lobby effort from 2011-2015 in London, initiating a campaign that intensified concerns over worker’s rights in Qatar and accused Qatari officials of paying extravagant bribes to attain the World Cup hosting rights.

Last month, Reuters reported that the United Arab Emirates had hired former US counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke as a consultant in 2008. The monarchy created a secret unit DREAD (Development Research Exploitation and Analysis Department) with his assistance, which came to be known as Project Raven in 2012.

In 2014, the Emirates also hired a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Lori Stroud, who joined the Project Raven, helping UAE in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy. The unit reportedly hacked the computer systems of Qatari and FIFA officials to find damaging information about Qatar and its World Cup bid.

However, after years of conflict and cyber crime standoff with Qatar, the diplomatic tensions between the two sides lately appeared easing off too. In December, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invited the Emir of Qatar to the annual GCC summit, signalling an end to the impasse. However, Sheikh Tamim decided to rather send his Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, indicating a stern and sovereign stance of the nation.

Although the Gulf countries are still besieged in a blockade conflict, the world’s most popular sport has somehow brought their people under the roof of a single stadium. While the Middle Eastern football fans continue to kick the regional conflict away, could we hope for the diplomatic relations to be reconcilable?

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The Reds Make History with First Win of FIFA Club World Cup

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FIFA Club World Cup

Last updated on December 24th, 2019

The constant cheering crowd of around 45,000 and the floating confetti, the Reds shone brighter as they celebrated the magical moment and held the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup trophy for the first time. Saturday night became historic for Liverpool, when it added the only missing title to the list. The club kept the fans worried until the 99th minute, when Roberto Firmino hit the decisive goal.

Jurgen Klopp’s European Champions triumphed the Club World Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, as they defeated Brazil’s Flamengo with an extra-time goal. “In moments like this I struggle to find the right words to describe my respect for the boys. It is incredible.,” the Liverpool manager said.

Apart from the Merseyside’s Reds, their legendary player Mohamed Salah was honoured as the Player of the Tournament. With his intense pace, he has remained a constant threat to opponents throughout the 2019 Club World Cup. Despite not managing to score himself, Salah deservedly picked up the adidas Golden Ball for his brilliance at the game, amidst the cheers of thousands of fans.

FIFA Club World Cup

The highlight of the evening was the goal being secured by a Brazilian player, who was prized away from his homeland to Europe at the age of 19. After netting once in the semi final victory over Monterrey on December 18, Firmino secured his second goal of the many games played in Doha.

FIFA Club World Cup

After he struck at the final, the player ripped off his jersey and leaped into the air, as he celebrated the goal. “I couldn’t be more happy for him that he could score that goal,” said Klopp.

The European champions met the South American champions 38-years-ago in a single-game version, where the winning team wasn’t the same. Liverpool was defeated by Flamengo back then by 3-0, where the latest win could be seen as a little revenge. The team added the Club World Cup title to the sixth European Cup collected in June.

Flamengo too gave a tough competition, where the match required additional 30 minutes to conclude. Some of the Liverpool players also acknowledged that the Brazilian team was difficult to play against. However, their manager had slightly distinctive views.

“It was an incredible performance against a very good opponent. I saw so many sensationally good performances. The atmosphere was great and Flamengo should be proud of their team but I think we deserved the win. We were the better side,” Jurgen Klopp said.

It is undeniable that Liverpool gave terrific performance throughout the tournament while adding the latest title to the list of honours on the Champion’s Wall at Melwood. This was pretty visible by the victory celebrations that the global soccer lovers had.

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