Asian football’s match-fixing issues rise again

As the Asian football scene continues to grow at a vast pace, it seems to have become an easy target for match fixers. We look at the recent incident involving South Korea’s K-League’s Jeonbuk Motors.

By Ed Wade.

It is not very often, especially at the top of football, where a match is tampered with for gambling purposes.  It hasn’t been much of an issue, and other sports suffer much worse than football, as players, coaches, and referees all make decisions to change the course of the game for financial benefit. Football isn’t immune though, of course.

The Calciopoli scandal was enough to strip Juventus of two league titles and relegate them. Former Blackpool striker DJ Campbell was accused of match-fixing games and new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has only recently been given the all clear after being given similar charges from his time with Siena.

Football in general is very well organised and has mostly avoided match-fixing. However, some regions don’t have the same security as Europe. In countries where football is not the national sport, it is sometimes known to be easily influenced by crime gangs.

Asia is where the game is suffering the most. Over the past 10 years there has been one scandal after another. The sport has never been spectacularly popular in the east, which perhaps suggests why it is such an easy target for fixers. Football has long been behind, basketball, badminton and gymnastics in terms of popularity. With such little protection surrounding the game, it has been increasingly easy to influence matches.

What has become especially concerning for the game is just how simple its become to change the outcome of matches. It has also now spread to the top of the game. Korean champions Jeonbuk Motors were the latest team to come under scrutiny in South Korea’s K-League. The team faced Melbourne Victory in the Asian Champions League back in 2013, before it came to light that team scouts for Jeonbuk had bribed the referees. The astonishing thing was, that it took as little as $1,000 dollars.

It was an intriguing story considering where the team were at the time. Jeonbuk were owned by Hyundai Motors, top of the league, outspending everyone, and had highest wage bill. The team was driving forward. They had no real need to get involved with match-fixing, and it highlights how easy and tempting it is. There was no need for the team get involved with scandalous activity, yet they chose to do so because it was such a viable option.

At the moment it looks like there will be no end to the match-fixing. With the sport at an all-time low, football has an incredibly negative view in the public eye. The public know that match-fixing occurs, yet because the game has such little popularity, scandals are rarely covered by the media.

Korean football hero Cha Bum-Kun was named as one of the greatest footballers of the 1980’s by German kicker magazine. He was well-remembered for his thunderous striking ability. This didn’t stop him being and brandished as somebody ‘dishonouring’ football after stating that there should be more thorough investigations into the footballing scandals. This really just highlights the problem in Korea, where there is so much contentious activity, that there are no longer odds available.

Things are spreading though.

Singaporean Tan Seet Eng also known as Dan Tee was accused of being a huge match-fixing syndicate. With operations in Hungary, Italy and Finland, reportedly being involved with 32 different match scandals. Tan had previously served a year’s jail time, for fixing horse races. He was detained in Singapore in 2013 for two years, before being released. Judge Sundaresh Menon claimed that because all the allegations had taken place overseas in Europe, then Tan should not be facing any prosecutions in Singapore.

He said: “The matches fixed, whether or not successfully, all took place beyond our shores. There is nothing in the grounds to indicate, he was working with overseas criminal syndicates or to suggest that such activities are likely to take root in Singapore, by reason of anything he has done or threatens to do.”

It’s quite astonishing really that a man who has former match-fixing allegations was able to get off so lightly. This highlights just how easily brushed aside match-fixing is, showing why it happens more and more. However, until football becomes a more popular sport within the region, it remains to be seen just when match-fixing will be taken seriously.

Given it’s so simple to accomplish and get away with, why would teams, players, or crime syndicates stop doing it?

South Korea’s match-fixing issues are far from being resolved.

Euro 2016: Raspberry Awards

Ed Wade presents his own version of the Euro 2016 Raspberry Awards.

By Ed Wade.

Euro 2016 has come to an end. It has been a great tournament with lots to take away from it. Although there hasn’t been the same amount of flair or quality as previous European Championships, it has been brilliant for various other reasons. Portugal caused a stir by winning it, Wales were a revelation dismantling Belgium to get to the semi-finals and Iceland were the underdog heroes of the tournament knocking out England, the sick men of Europe.

So, there will be a team of the tournament, a player of the tournament, a goal of the tournament. All great accolades. But which players made a mess of things? Which coach was cringeworthy on the side-line? Which player crumbled on the penalty spot? Who will get the unwanted Raspberry awards?

Cringeworthy Coach

One of the world’s renowned international coaches. An exemplary presence on the touchline. Fashionable, young and intuitive, but yet again caught with his hand down his trousers, under his armpit and picking his nose and then eating it? It is still baffling to see players and coaches get caught out, especially considering the thousands of cameras that are on them throughout the course of a game. This time however, Germany’s Joachim Loew took it to another level.

Ridiculous Haircut

This was a difficult choice. International football tends to bring out some of the most absurd haircuts and Euro 2016 was definitely not any different. But it is Ivan Perisic who takes the prize. Being patriotic is one thing, but putting a  pattern that resembles a dish cloth on the side of your head certainly wasn’t a good look for the Croatian winger. Wales’ Aaron Ramsey was a close second – a haircut that was subsequently copied by many a Welsh youngster much to their parents annoyance.

Worst Penalty

The Italy-Germany Quarter Final encounter was a bit of an odd one. Both teams played very tactically and astutely, effectively cancelling each other out. But it was the penalties that were rather unique, both the Germans and Italians are known for being good from the spot, yet most of them were awful. So it has to be Simone Zaza who takes the award, with an absurdly over the top run up, to then hoofing the ball over the top.

Biggest Miss

Raheem Sterling had a tough time out in France. A seemingly decent performance against Russia was heavily criticised, before being dropped in the final group game. He got plenty of stick from pundits and fans. His new manager Pep Guardiola even rang him to just keep his chin up. But it was his miss against Wales which set the tide for things, squared, six yards out, spanked over the top.

Flamboyant Fans

Republic of Ireland, The Green Army, are always a pleasure to have at a major tournament and they did not disappoint this time around! With all the fan trouble at the start of the championships, the Irish were a breath of fresh air, dancing and chanting with opposing supporters. The Wales and Icelandic supporters have to get a special mention, who were also terrific!

Dullest Team

Unfortunately, there were quite a few teams to pick from. Things weren’t exactly gung-ho for most of the tournament. A lot of the teams played defensively and tried to counter, this was hardly easy on the eye for viewers. With plenty of teams to go for, it has to be Ukraine who take the award. The only team who failed to score a goal, I think they attacked for about 30 minutes of the whole tournament.

Best Player

An incredibly difficult choice. People will obviously have varying views and opinions. But I have brought the decision down to a couple of key factors. How much of an impact the player had whilst remaining a team player, the ability and desire of the player to help drive his team forward. With this in mind, surely Gareth Bale has to take the accolade. He was instrumental for Wales throughout the tournament, scoring three and assisting another. With such a hefty price tag placed on his shoulders it would be easy to see how he could have an ego. But the Welshman was a team player through and through, whilst being a huge driving force for the dragons.

Best Captain

A difficult choice and perhaps a contentious one, but the leader of the winning team has to take the award. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid maverick had a mixed tournament, growing continually frustrated during the group games acting like a petulant child at times, but you can see within the Portugal team just how much of a leader he is. The passion and desire shown during the final against France put to bed the claims that he only cares about himself. He was almost like a second manager on the touchline after coming off injured and was in tears at the final whistle.

Magical Moment

Iceland beat England. The minnows of the tournament claimed one of the greatest scalps in international history. A nation with a population of only 330,000 pulled one over a so called footballing nation! The Icelandic celebrations were something that could give you goose pimples.

Goal Of The Tournament

Again this will be down to preferences and opinion. However, Xherdan Shaqiri managed to put away the best technical goal of the tournament. It was an outstanding strike in the last 10 minutes of the game against a Poland side which hadn’t conceded all tournament. A bicycle kick from 18 yards out by a player who is only 5ft 5in!

Team Of The Tournament

This accolade once again has to go to Wales. They were terrific as a unit right up until the Semi Final, where crucial suspensions seemed to take it’s toll on the side. Each player knew the role they had in Chris Coleman’s favoured 3-5-2/5-3-2 system and no player was bigger than the team. For a nation who had not been to a major finals since 1958, it was a fantastic achievement to be the last home nation and to make it as far as the semi-finals, and the fans really didn’t want to go home.

Football Family Connections

Family connections within football are few and far between. But there are a few obvious examples, and some obscurely interesting ones, if you delve deep enough..

By Ed Wade.

 

It is no surprise that football is a family game. We have often seen, fathers, sons, brothers and cousins all playing professionally. But it is an incredibly unique occasion when a family is united on a pitch. Or pitted against each other even.

 

Gary and Philip Neville

gary-and-phil-300x256

England’s modern full-back brothers. Both are part of the famous Manchester United Class of 92. The two brothers enjoyed massive success for the Red Devils accumulating 15 major honours between them, as well as amassing a total of 144 England caps. The two brothers did come up against each other, in the Premier League, when Everton would take on United, however it was Phil who arguably won that battle, scoring against his former club. It is not only on the pitch where the brothers have come together in football. Phil was Gary’s assistant during his ill-fated spell as manager of Valencia. The pair are also co-owners of Salsbury football club, where they grew up. They own the club along with fellow 92 members, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes. Both recently teamed up during an ill-fated period as part of the Valencia management team.

Granit and Taulant Xhaka

Xhaka

The two brothers have taken different paths in international football. The pair were born in Basel, Switzerland to Kosovo parents. However, the two made different choices in which national team they would represent with Taulant the older of the pair playing for Albania, whilst Granit decided to represent Switzerland. The two had to put aside family connections as they recently played against each other at Euro 2016. It was the first time the two had played against each other, and it was obviously a difficult game for the pair. Granit recently admitted that they were not only brothers but also best friends. Even their parents didn’t know what to do as their mother Elmaze Xhaka wore a half- and- half jersey.

Jack and Bobby Charlton

Charlton Brothers

Although the pair have only recently reconciled. They are both World Cup winners and arguably the most famous pair of English footballing brothers. Bobby was the leading goal scorer for England and was playing for Manchester United when the brothers took on West-Germany in the final. Jack meanwhile was playing his trade for rivals Leeds United. The two were brilliant at the tournament, with Jack in defence and Bobby upfront. Despite the two being footballing legends, the two had a very open family feud. Thankfully for England fans, the difference they had never affected them on the field of play.

 

Kevin-Prince and Jerome Boateng

Soccer - 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - Group D - Ghana v Germany - Soccer City Stadium

The half-brothers have competed against each other many times before. With both having played their trade in the Bundesliga the pair coming up against each other is no surprise. But it is an international level where things got contentious. Kevin-Prince played for Germany up until under-19 level, however, things got nasty when he took an ill-fated night out on the eve of a tie with England. He was banned from playing and decided to switch his allegiances to Ghana the place of his father’s birth. Jerome meanwhile was managing to establish himself as calm versatile defender, managing a call up to Germany’s World Cup squad in 2010. It was at the tournament where the two first met at international level. Kevin-Prince was already a pantomime villain having effectively managed to end Michael Ballack’s international career. He was German enemy number one, when they played Ghana in the group stages. Luckily there was no drama between the two, as they swapped shirts at the end of the game. The two have definitely had different careers, with Jerome now looking to claim a European tournament with Germany, whilst Kevin-Prince is struggling to make an impact in his second stint with AC Milan.

Arnor and Eidur Gudjohnsen

Gudjohnsen.png

Eidur Gudjohnsen is certainly the star of the two. He made his name playing for some of the top clubs in Europe. Barcelona and Chelsea just to name a few. But it was twenty years ago when the Gudjohnsen family, completed a full circle. It has been twenty years, since the two became the first ever father and son duo to represent their national team in the same game. It was a symbolic moment in 1996, when it appeared the Gudjohnsen baton had been handed down a generation. Arnor said it was his ‘biggest wish’ to play with Eidur during an Iceland game.

It is certainly a fantastic sight, seeing family members represent the same team or nation. Similarly, it is brilliant to see the intensity between two siblings competing against each other. It testament to the fact that football runs through family.

The Randy Lerner Era

Randy Lerner’s decade at the Villa Park helm began with optimism, only to quickly turn into a ghoulish nightmare.

By Ed Wade.

Once touted the saviour of Aston Villa back in 2006. The American was a knight in shining armour when he took over the club from Doug Ellis. With the promise of US funding and the strong willed Martin O’Neill, there was optimism once again at Villa Park. Ellis had poured his ‘heart and soul’ into the club, but had taken them as far as they could go.

“For 35 years I worked my guts out for Aston Villa and suffered for it.” He famously said.

Lerner took over the club with no debt and inherited a very strong first team. There was big potential at Villa for the first time since the golden era back in the 1980s. The American declared that the Birmingham club would be fighting Europe, and although the American did admit it wouldn’t be a ‘lifelong’ thing, he seemed to have the club’s best interests at heart – even getting the Villa badge tattooed on his ankle.

The O’Neill Time

At the start of Lerner’s rein he certainly lived up to his promises. Villa spent £200 million on player transfers, and were competing with the big boys in terms of wages, with even squad players earning £40,000 a week on average. Villa had three successive sixth place finishes and were consistent. They challenged for the domestic cups, managing to reach the League Cup final.

Regarded as limited success by Lerner, he pulled the money plug. Villa quickly becoming a selling club  and in 2010, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United came calling for their top guns.

Martin O’Neill was determined not to lose what he had built over the last three years. But James Milner soon made the move to Manchester City for £26 million. He followed in Gareth Barry’s footsteps who had made the same move the year before. Soon enough the trend set in.

Northern Irishman O’Neill left just five days before the season started.

Gerard Houllier was brought in as replacement, and Villa quickly became relegation candidates. It was only the signing of Darren Bent which saved them in the 2010/11 season. Bent was the last major acquisition in the Lerner era.

Villa’s Worst Nightmare

Houllier left the club by mutual consent after undergoing heart surgery and only managed one season at the club. His replacement was every Villa fans worst nightmare. Former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish. The Scotsman had previously led City to a League Cup triumph but had also seen them relegated. Those ties to Villa’s rivals went down very badly. 1,000 Villa supporters turned up to protest at Villa Park before he had even signed for the club.

There was no doubting McLeish had a hard time, but it was always going to be difficult given his City ties.

“I would have had to win the treble to be accepted by Villa fans.” McLeish said whilst looking back at his time with the club.

Lerner himself had also taken a hit, his family stake in Bank of American had seen a substantial drop. The American wanted McLeish to work miracles, trimming the wage bill whilst still keeping the club competitive.

Quick Fire Managers

After sacking McLeish, it seemed as though fan power was actually making a difference. The fanbase believed they had successfully driven the Scotsman out, whilst incoming boss Paul Lambert was met with welcome arms and seemed a very viable replacement after his success with Norwich.

He also knew what he was getting himself into, Lerner told him from the off that it was going to be a very difficult job. Lambert scrambled Villa to 15th place, with Lerner then announcing his intention to sell the club at £200 million.

With Villa fans unhappy once again with another manager, there was massive negativity at Villa Park as they called for a change from top to bottom.

They got part of their wish as Lambert was replaced by Tim Sherwood, who made good of their top players. Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke were the catalysts in getting Villa out of relegation trouble and into an unlikely FA Cup final. They lost to Arsenal 4-0.

Once again, however, Villa showed their total lack of ambition, as Benteke and Delph moved to Liverpool and Manchester City, respectively. They got good money, but it was not spent well as Tim Sherwood lost six games in a row leading to his sacking.

Next up was Remi Garde, as he took on what looked like the impossible job. The atmosphere around Villa was one already accepting relegation. Garde fared no better than his predecessor and left the club before the end of the season.

What Next for Villa

Joleon Lescott shocked fans as he admitted it was a ‘weight’ off the player’s shoulders when they were formally relegated. Villa are not even considered to be amongst the favourties for promotion come next season.

However, there must be some sort of positivity as the Birmingham club go into a new era. Lerner has now sold the club to Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia for £60 million, who has stated his ambitions for the club.

”My ambition is to bring to the top six in less than five years and I hope it can be the top three in the world – even the best well known in the world – in less than 10 years.”

Villa fans will undoubtedly be wary having heard talk like this before. However, Xia has said that there will be transfer funds of £20 – £50 million, as he aims for instant promotion back into the Premier League.

The Championship is much more of a marathon than a sprint and it looks like things could get worse for Villa, before they actually get any better.

China Leads the Asian Football Revolution

A Chinese footballing revolution has taken place over the past year. The landscape may be forever changed, whilst the worldwide economic power struggle only begins to take effect…

By Ed Wade.

The Chinese Super league is now two months into fruition following the winter break. Optimism around the country is at an all-time high following the £200 million net spend on top international players. China ended up spending more than all of the top European leagues and established themselves as being ready to compete financially for the game’s very top players.

Leading the charge for footballing glory is President Xi Jinping. As an enormous fan of the sport, he has laid out a ten-year grand plan in order to make China the biggest sporting nation in the world.

The plans look over-ambitious perhaps, but when China set out to do something, it normally happens.

What does the president want?

President Xi plans to create a Chinese sporting economy worth $850bn by 2025. This valuation is quite astonishing considering that the entire global sports economy is currently valued at around $400bn by Optimistic.

Football is a fantastic opportunity to tap into the consumer lifestyle that absorbs China. With some of the wealthiest people in the world, it is a huge area for further investment and growth.

Xi also wants greater participation in the sport and plans to build 20,000 all-purpose football schools by 2017, with a plan of producing 100,00 players. He then wants this to increase to 50,000 schools by 2025.

With the country concerned by the growing rise of obesity, increasing participation in sport alone is becoming more important. Taking this into consideration, development at grass roots level is almost a necessity. This then becomes a ploy to not only stop health problems, but also develop better footballers in the long run.

Footballing schools would be a massive culture change, as football is not a sport currently encouraged by parents in China. It is certainly not seen as a job and parents want their children to pursue other careers. The development of Manchester City’s training complex is the sort of facility that president Xi wants across the country.

As well as this, there are also plans for China to host and win a FIFA World Cup. Very outgoing for a nation currently ranked 96th in the world, although the prestige of football is certainly growing in the country, as more high profile managers are beginning to make their trade in the East.

Brazilian World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, Ex England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and Alberto Zaccheroni who won a Scudetto with AC Milan, are all currently managing top teams in China.

Eriksson, who is currently leading Shanghai Shenhua towards an AFC Champions league, holds a similar view with Xi.

Eriksson recently said ‘Ten years ahead, 15 years ahead, I am quite sure the China national team will compete to win the World Cup.’ He also stated that ‘everyone should be worried’ about the emergence of China as a football powerhouse.

What about the current players?

Despite the grand plan and obvious ambition of China, some players believe it will only remain a place for semi-retired footballers and will never have the same pull or stature as the leading European leagues.

Former Chelsea and Newcastle striker Demba Ba was confident in the progress that the Chinese Super League was making. The Senegalese forward who now plays for Shanghai Shenhua said that people want to play in China and not just for the ‘millions and millions.’ He did, however, admit that it would take ‘years and years’ before the CSL is at the same level as the Premier League.

Didier Drogba, who played in both the MLS and the CSL, sbelieves that more players would choose to go America over China. The MLS also has a reputation for recruiting players who are past their best. The Ivorian believes that America is ahead in terms of Development and quality.

No I don’t think China is ahead of the MLS’ said Drogba before moving to Shanghai Shenhua.

Despite some of the incredible signings made by the CSL, Maurice Ross a former Rangers player, believes that it is only short term gain. He believes that a lack of structure and knowledge of the game, means that it is being built on a false premise of money as appose to desire and hunger for the sport.

‘So many deals are short-term because of the environment,’ said Ross ‘You have to really adapt to their lifestyle. ‘It’s not a good place to play football.’

Tim Cahill’s bizarre transfer episode further proved this further as his contract with Shenhua was terminated, before he signed with Hangzhou Greentown. He claimed that China was ‘crazy like a revolving door.’

What do the fans think?

For fans in Europe it is hard to see them changing their mind on the CSL. Europe is definitely the place to go in order to see top quality football. The television rights for the Premier League alone, show the pull of the competition and just how popular it is worldwide.

European competitions also have massive prestige and a global recognition. The clubs are steeped with history and are continuing to grow on a competitive and financial front. Players who move to the CSL are seen by many as ‘mercenaries’ and just in the game for the money.

On a domestic scale the popularity of football has never been greater in China. Stadiums are averaging 23,000 fans per game which is currently at a record high. However, popular culture in China is to follow a hero in the game, which is why the new influx of top quality stars should help drive fan engagement forward.

So what might actually happen?

There is no doubting there is massive potential in China. With president Xi on a 10-year tenure, Chinese football will theoretically have government backing for a while yet to come.

Arsene Wegner says clubs should be ‘worried’ by what is happening. ‘Because China looks to have the financial power to move the whole game to China. We know it’s just a consequence of economic power and they have that.’

If Alex Texiera is worth £37.5 million and Jiangsu Suning were reportedly willing to pay £75 million for Oscar, surely it is only a matter of time before the £100 million bracket is breached.

It is easy to imagine all of the Chinese clubs offering astonishing fees for players over the course of the summer, as they continue Chinese footballing revolution continues.

Brexit: What does it mean for football?

Ed Wade takes an in-depth look into what a Great Britain outside the European Union might mean for British Football.

By Ed Wade.

British football could face its biggest ever challenge when the United Kingdom decides whether to leave or stay in the European Union on 23 June. The possible Brexit could lead to 400 players having to leave the footballing pyramid and it would subsequently affect nearly half of all Premier League players.

Footballers who hold an EU passport can currently play in the UK without restrictions. Whilst on the other hand, those without EU status must apply for visas and meet the criteria set by the Home Office. One of the core rules set by the Home office is that players are established internationals, playing for leading countries on a regular basis.

Who Will Be Affected?

A total of 332 players currently playing in the top two tiers of English and Scottish football would fail to meet those current standards. 100 of the affected would come from the Premier League with Newcastle, Watford and Aston Villa facing the prospect of losing 11 players. Only 23 of the 180 non-British EU players currently in the Championship would get work permits, with an extreme example being Charlton Athletic who could potentially be left with 13 ineligible players.

Due to a lack of international caps for their respected countries, players like Cesar Azpilicueta, David De Gea, Juan Mata, Hector Bellerin, Anthony Martial and Kurt Zouma would not qualify under current laws.

None of the 53 non-British EU players in the Scottish Premiership would be granted a work permit, based on their international career, with the same situation for 109 non-British EU players in League One and League Two.

West Ham United vice-chairman Karren Brady has already spoken out about the ‘devastating’ effects it could have on English football.

She said: “Cutting ourselves off from Europe would have devastating consequences. Losing this unhindered access to European talent would put British clubs at a disadvantage compared to continental sides.”

Brexit would also result in it being more difficult for clubs to acquire players from other continents.

In the past players from South America began playing their trade in European countries with lenient immigration systems whilst progressing within the national team, before then moving to the UK.

Currently the rules state that a player without an EU passport must have played at least 70% of competitive international games over the past two years. However, this rule only applies in FIFA’s top 70 ranked side and the percentage increases depending on the ranking of the national team.

What are the rules?

A player from a top 10 nation only has to have played 30% of their games, two years prior to applying for a work permit.

A player from a nation ranked between 11 – 20 has to have played in at least 45% of their games, to gain a work permit.

Players playing for a nation ranked 21 – 30 must have played 60% of their games

If a player is playing for a team ranked 31 – 50 then they must have played 75% of matches.

What does it mean for the Premier League?

This lack of talent-pool could ultimately affect the popularity of the Premier League.

With the increased television revenue deal that awaits on the horizon, the Premier League’s appeal is at an all-time high. Nevertheless, without that talent coming through, the popularity of the Premier League as a whole could lessen, eventually meaning a reduction in revenue. Richard Scudamore, Chairman of the Premier League has spoken out and said the UK should stay in the EU ‘from a business perspective’.

The worst scenario for the Premier League would be if it lacked the ability to bring in players in the same bulk as other top European nations such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Dr Rory Miller, director of the MBA Football Industries programme at the University of Liverpool believes that the home office would take a standardised view of the situation.

He said: “Reducing the number of high quality players in the Premier League will reduce its brand value, particularly to overseas audience.”

If the United Kingdom does opt to leave the European Union, then the FA might be able to implement some of their own plans in the Premier League.

The Premier League currently holds the majority of power when it comes to a quota of non-British players in the division, but the FA would have some leverage if they were to leave the EU. They could begin to implement a quota of foreign players in domestic cup competitions for example.

Daniel Geey, a lawyer at Sport Law firm Sheridans, insisted it would stop the debacle of counting players who play for foreign national sides as homegrown products.

He said: “The FA could limit foreign players – without having to adopt the fudge that allows players such as Cesc Fabregas to qualify as ‘homegrown’.”

And what for the fans?

The fans will look at it in two ways.

Firstly, a lot of them could see their teams cut to pieces and some of their best players leaving their respected clubs, which would be a huge loss.

High calibre players like Dimitri Payet and Mesut Ozil would require work permits to play all of a sudden whilst others would be deemed ineligible.

On the switch-side, fans might look at the youth development system and hold hope that this might lead to the rise of more youth academy graduates making the grade. There is nothing more pleasing for a supporter than seeing a local lad come from the club’s surrounding area and representing the first team.

Teams like Tottenham and Leicester City have already shown the importance of having a British identity this season, with one of those teams looking more and more likely to claim the Premier League crown come May.

Although the Premier League can boast about being the ‘richest league in the world’, it may not even be able to spend the great wealth it possesses come the summer. Clubs may have a complete re-building job on their hands as the majority of their players would subsequently be left ineligible.

British football might wake up to a much-changed landscape come the morning of 24 June.

The remarkable story of Football’s underdogs

As Leicester City continue their march towards the Premier League title, Ed Wade looks into footballing underdogs of the past.

By Ed Wade.

As Leicester City charge towards the Premier League title, only seven games remains before they pull off one of the most incredible stories in footballing history. But will it be the biggest?

Here are some other teams that achieved incredible feats, despite having the odds stacked against them.

The Danes go for glory

International football tournaments have seen some of the greatest shocks of all time. With tournaments being less frequent, and played on an even bigger stage, shock victories can be all the more dramatic.

Denmark caused shockwaves across European football in 1992 when they claimed the top prize at the European Championships. The Danes had not even qualified for the tournament after finishing second to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group.

However, Yugoslavia were disqualified prior to the tournament because of their involvement in the Bosnia war.

With only a week of preparation before the tournament kicked off, Denmark were barely given a chance. Their star player Michael Laudrup had fallen out with coach Moller-Nielsen and didn’t even think it was worth showing up for the Danes.

After a slow start drawing against England and losing against Sweden, the Danes picked up their form and beat France before dispatching the defending champions The Netherlands. They then pulled off the biggest shock, beating reigning world champions Germany in the final.

It was a team which had no real individual star players. They relied on a stalwart defence, with inspirational goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel in-between the sticks. Kim Vilfort who played in midfield for the Danes said ‘We didn’t have the best players, but we had the best team.

The win remains Denmark’s only major international honour and they have since failed to make an impact at a tournament. However, it still remains one of the biggest upsets in international football.

 

Uruguay upset a Footballing nation

In 1950, Brazil had the privilege of hosting their first World Cup and as a football-mad nation they were favourites to claim the title. But they didn’t count on South American rivals Uruguay upstaging them.

Uruguay were a top national team at the time and would have been one of the favourites had it been on home soil. Nevertheless, Brazil had been unstoppable; they beat Mexico 4-0, Spain 6-1 and Sweden 7-1.

With the tournament being a round robin group, with points awarded, they went into the decider against Brazil only needing a draw. The hosts even went into half time 1-0 up, before one of the greatest comebacks saw Uruguay come out winners despite the home nation having 200,000 fans behind them.

Despite the defeat on home soil, Brazil went on to become the most successful World Cup nation by winning the title five times. The Canarinho have been fortunate to see some of the greatest footballers to ever grace the planet put on the yellow shirt.

 

Second Division Sunderland upset the odds

At 250-1 pre-tournament, Sunderland were huge outsiders but caused one of the biggest upsets by beating the all-conquering Leeds United 1-0 in the 1973 FA Cup final at Wembley.

Sunderland were a Second Division side at the time and were the first team in 42 years to win the FA Cup that didn’t participate in the First Division.

Ian Porterfield claimed the winner from a Dave Watson corner, but it was goalkeeper Jim Montgomery who was the standout player. He made a string of remarkable saves, including a sensational double save to firstly deny Trevor Cherry and then a Peter Lorimer shot which was turned onto the crossbar.

Sunderland became the first team to win the FA Cup without fielding a single international player, in grave comparison to Leeds, who subsequently had 11.

 

Steaua Bucharest go for European glory

Although Barcelona are currently the all-conquering force in football, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1986, the Catalonians were going for European glory and were hot favourites to claim the title over Romanian rivals Steaua Bucharest.

Although Barcelona had not won a European Cup at that point, they had knocked out Juventus, the tournament favourites and current holders, at the Quarter Final stage.

With the mercurial talents of Francisco Carrasco, Barcelona thought the game would be a walk over, but Bucharest had other ideas. The Romanians set up very defensively and simply looked to be going for a clean sheet.

After 120 minutes, the score was still at 0-0 and the game went to penalties. Up stepped Helmuth Duckadam who saved four Barca spot-kicks and was dubbed the ‘hero of Seville.’

One of Eastern Europe’s greatest triumphs in football. It is hard to see another team replicating that incredible victory.

 

In a time when football shocks are fewer and harder to come by, will Leicester City’s be the biggest ever? Despite being in the ascendancy, they should take heart from the famous underdogs stories of the past and believe they can achieve one of the greatest feats of the modern footballing day.

Football Protests: Do they work?

Here is Ed Wade with his summary of the most influential Football fan protests.

By Ed Wade.

It doesn’t take much to make fans voice their opinions when they get disgruntled, be it with the owners, manager or players. If something isn’t right, it’s not long before we see a march to the stadium, a banner outside the club, a written letter to the board of directors or even a stadium walk out.

We have most recently seen the likes of Liverpool have ticket prices lowered as a result of a stadium walkout, whereas Charlton Athletic will have to see if the weekend’s ‘Coffin’ protest against the club’s owners comes to any fruition. But how often does the protesting actually work?

  1. Liverpool fans reduce ticket price

With the growing amount of money in the Premier League including a new £5-billion-pound TV deal, fans across the UK are sick and tired of paying extortionate ticket prices. For Liverpool fans, £77 was the highest priced match day ticket and it was simply too much. The Kopites staged a mass walkout during their home game against Sunderland during the 77th minute and got their reward. The club Fenway sports group who are the club’s owners lowered the price to £59 and issued a statement of apology. Since then the Premier league has put a cap on prices for match day away tickets at £30. Score one for the fans.

  1. Seville protest the splitting of La Liga television money

The start of the 2016/17 season will see the television money of La Liga split fairly for the first time. With Spanish clubs negotiating their own deals in previous seasons, Real Madrid and Barcelona would take home the lions share, leaving the other La Liga clubs fighting over the scraps. In 2012 this became too much for Seville fans, who had a home match against Levante delayed, so that Spanish broadcasters could show a post ‘Clasico’ press conference. In protest of their treatment, Seville supporters bombarded the pitch with tennis balls. It has taken years to click but finally we will see a more even split of finances amongst Spanish clubs.

  1. Ajax fans wait until the 14th minute to enter stadium

During a champions league game in 2010/11 season, the famous Ajax VAK410 waited until the 14th minute (club legend Johan Cruyff’s number) before taking their seats against AC Milan. Supporters of the club were unhappy at having to fork out 80 euros for a ticket. Banners read ‘against modern football’ as the spectators expressed their views. Unfortunately, the protest didn’t work as UEFA fined Ajax for misconduct and prices remained just as high.

  1. Swedish fans stay silent over crowd rules

During a derby between Swedish giants AIK and Djurgarden in 2011, supporters of both clubs remained in total silence for the first 10 minutes of the game. The fans were protesting against the Swedish FA who had warned that attending football matches could be dangerous and wanted to prove just how much live games would miss the supporters. Such was the silence, you could hear conversations between players. The FA never a blind eye and didn’t really take any notice.

  1. Manchester United supporters try and get a new manager

It was always going to be a difficult job to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. David Moyes endured a torrid time at the club and was a dead man walking for much of the campaign. Fans were so unhappy with performances at the club, they flew a plane over Old Trafford during a game with Aston Villa, costing £840 with a banner reading ‘Wrong one – Moyes out.’ The Scot didn’t last till the end of the season and was sacked with three games remaining.

  1. A chicken goes wild at Ewood Park

During a relegation six pointer between Blackburn and Wigan in 2012. A 23-year old Rovers fan Anthony Taylor released a chicken with a Blackburn flag wrapped around it onto the pitch. It was a clever move as fans were unhappy with the club owners Venky group who, had made their money, you guessed it, by poultry. Things didn’t get better for the club as they lost the game and were relegated to the championship, with the same owners still there.

  1. Brazil protest its own World Cup

With Brazil set to host the 2014 World Cup, masses of public funding was used to build new and adequate stadiums. Brazilians were unhappy considering some of the more pending issues in the country such as housing and schooling, were often ignored. Brazilian authorities ended up firing tear gas during riots in Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. There were continuous protests during the tournament, which also saw the ITV studio windows receive a battering. From a footballing perspective it was a massively successful tournament but the protests did very little in terms of funding change

  1. Luis Figo gets a head thrown at him

Luis Figo was labelled Judas after his transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000. The Portuguese star had spent five years at the Nou Camp and was a firm fan favourite. That love turned to hatred during the Clasico in Barcelona, though, as amongst all the booing and missiles Figo received, he also had a pig’s head launched at him whilst taking a corner. Figo never complained about Barcelona fans afterwards and really kept his Poker face to remain cool. The Referee suspended the game for 13 minutes, fearing for the safety of the players.

 

Football supporters are such a key part of the game and make for the whole dynamic of how the game is played. With the game always changing it will be fascinating to see what else supporters have up their sleeve.

 

See also – https://footballfoyer.com/2016/02/18/politically-charged-footballers/ 

 

%d bloggers like this: