Archive for May, 2011

The announcement that the FIFA Ethics Committee has decided to investigate an alleged breach of FIFA Statutes by CONCACAF President Jack Warner and Presidential Candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam is interesting – and highly significant – in the lead up to the Election for FIFA President in seven days time.

Accusations of corruption have recently been made by the Sunday Times in London against Warner, fellow FIFA Vice-President Issa Ayattou and FIFA Executive Committee members Ricardo Teixeiro and Worawi Makudi. Evidence has still to be sent to FIFA which says it will investigate the allegations, but this development is different.

For the first time, the accusations have been made by a FIFA Executive Committee Member against fellow members.

Firstly it shows a split in the previously strong relationship between CONCACAF President Jack Warner and his General Secretary Chuck Blazer. They will never work together again in CONCACAF after the election, no matter the result.

Secondly, it suggests very strongly that Warner will deliver the 35 or so votes of CONCACAF to Bin Hammam instead of Blatter. This must be a worry to Blatter who has always relied on Warner’s support in the past.

Thirdly, Blatter must be worried at this turn of events. His previous press statements had projected an aura of invincibility and confidence in the result but this changes everything. It may encourage some member associations to vote against the present regime.

Blatter is under pressure and in the final week of the campaign both candidates will take off the gloves and slug it out for the ultimate prize.

For the Game – For the World?

For the Good of the Game?

Forget the slogans.

This is football politics in the raw.

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Ernie Walker – a football visionary

I was very sad to learn that Ernie Walker, the former Secretary of the Scottish Football Association had died.

Ernie was a football visionary who was in charge of Scottish football during its golden era when it expected to, and did, qualify for FIFA World Cup Finals on a regular basis.

My memories of Ernie are particularly personal.

I played in the Scottish Amateur team which was runner up in the UEFA Amateur Championships in Palma, Majorca in 1967 and Ernie was the SFA Assistant Secretary who accompanied us on that trip.

After moving on from playing professional football I became a Scottish Grade One Referee. I was also Depute Head Teacher at Lesmahagow High School and one day in January 1988 I received a call from Ernie asking me to come to the offices in Park Gardens, Glasgow to have a chat with him. After a discussion lasting almost two hours he asked me to take give up a teaching career of almost 20 years and take on the role as the SFA’s first Referee Training Officer.

After discussing the situation with my wife, Catherine, I decided to accept and have been involved full time in football ever since.

As I said earlier, my memories of Ernie are very personal.

I remember him doing regular visits round the SFA Offices to check up on how things were going. Ernie was a busy man, much in demand by FIFA and UEFA as well as his role as the top man in Scottish football so if you had issues you wanted to discuss you had to be ready for his arrival.

I also remember him at the International FA Board where his views were highly valued by FIFA Presidents and General Secretaries. Ernie had presence and he had class!

He was also the man who, along with Paddy Barclay of the Times, prepared the text for the change to the Offside Law in 1990 – a forward level with the second last defender was no longer offside – a major change to the Laws of the Game in favour of the attacking team.

I also remember the media calling him the ‘Ayatollah’ because of his strong views on how football should be run – but never to his face!

He was a highly skilled administrator but above all he was a football person who had a complete understanding of the game.

In the last two years Scottish football has lost three major administrators in Ernie, Davis Will and Jim Farry.

How much could they have contributed to Scottish football in today’s atmosphere of confrontation and tribalism?

A lot, because they provided the leadership we lack today.

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Wenger needs a dose of reality

I have just read, with utter astonishment  a comment by Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal FC, that referees appointments should be drawn by ballot.

What nonsense!

Firstly it is against the new FIFA Regulations on the Organisation of Refereeing in Member Associations which came into effect on 1st April 2011.

A second point is that the appointment of referees is a major part of referee development and it must be a set of planned appointments.

Would he have considered selecting the following team to play Manchester United a few weeks ago by ballot?

Fabiannski

Cruise

Boateng

Vermaelen

Eboue

Denilson

Gibbs

Henderson

Frimpong

Deacon

Murphy

The answer is of course, no.

The actual team selected by Arsene Wenger, was:

Szczesny

Djourou

Koscielny

Clichy

Sagna

Wilshere

Nasri

Song

Ramsey

Walcott

van Persie

Would Wenger select a team by ballot? Never!

How absurd that he should suggest referees should be selected in the same way!

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Corruption allegations threaten Blatter

FIFA came under major pressure today after allegations made by the former Football Association Chairman, Lord David Triesman, to the United Kingdom Parliamentary Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

This is a high level UK Government committee which is investigating the bidding for the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Two members of the FIFA Executive Committee, Amos Adamu from Nigeria and Reynald Temarii from Tahiti, were banned by FIFA’s Ethics Committee last year after evidence emerged that they were prepared to accept money, either personally or on behalf of their federation or confederation, to vote for USA in the bid for the 2002 nomination.

Triesman has now alleged that four other members of the FIFA Executive sought “bribes” in return for backing England’s failed World Cup bid.

The four members named are Jack Warner from Trinidad and Tobago, the President of CONCACAF, Nicolas Leoz President of CONMEBOL, Ricardo Teixeira, the man in charge of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Worawi Makudi, a member of the Executive Committee of the AFC .

All have denied the allegations but they present a serious problem for FIFA President Sepp Blatter as he fights an election against AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam, for the FIFA Presidency.

Blatter himself promised immediate action if evidence of wrongdoing by FIFA Executive Committee members was proved.

“I was shocked to hear this but one has to see the evidence,” said the 75-year-old Swiss on Tuesday, adding that the accused Executive Committee members were not elected by the same congress as him.

“They are coming from other confederations, so I cannot say that they are all angels or all devils.

“There is a new round of information. Give us time to digest that and start the investigation by asking for evidence on what has been said.

“We will react immediately against all those in breach of the ethics code rules.

“Zero tolerance is going through FIFA, it is one of the items on the Congress. It is my battle horse.”

Blatter is now faced with possible massive corruption allegations on his watch

Zero tolerance or not the political landscape in FIFA is changing and the main beneficiary may be Blatter’s opponent, AFC President Bin Hammam.

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The choice of Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals was a controversial one.

How will such a small country cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of travelling supporters?

How will Qatar deal with the 40°C temperatures in June and July 2022?

Qatar is a well organised football country. It has a referee structure professionally administered by Neji Jouini, a former FIFA World Cup Referee, supported by a strong Referee Committee which includes Hani Balan, a FIFA RAP Instructor,  AFC Elite Referee Instructor and member of the AFC Referee Committee.

Of course Qatar is a wealthy country but wealth does not always equate to professional organisation.

I was privileged to attend the recent Heir Apparent Cup Final between Al Arabi and Ah Gharafa in Doha. The quality of the football was not particularly outstanding but the intensity was the same as you find anywhere in the world.

What particularly impressed me, however, was the referee meeting the following day at the Qatar Olympic Association Headquarters.

A detailed analysis of matches which had taken place so far in the Qatar Stars League was made by the Qatari Referee Committee Observers using Prozone, the leading system for match analysis in world football.

Statistics were available on how far the referee ran during the match and how far away he was from the ball on critical decisions.

Qatar FA Referee Fitness Instructors also showed the movement of referees by using special video cameras and how movement could be improved by changing running techniques.

It was a highly professional presentation which would stand comparison with any other association in world football.

We tend to be blinded by what happens in football in England, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Germany and Argentina for example, but football is a global game and size is not everything.

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Frank Lampard’s goal – and no goal!

It was ironic that a goal was awarded to Chelsea in the recent match against Tottenham when the ball had not fully crossed the goal line.

The scorer was Frank Lampard – the same player who had a perfectly good goal disallowed in the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Germany.

Some would say that this is just an example of things evening themselves out but I am sure that would be hard to accept in the English dressing room in Bloemfontain or the Spurs dressing room in London.

FIFA will continue to test goal line technology on behalf of the International FA Board.

There will be a two phase series of tests.

Companies will have until 3rd June to register an interest with FIFA .They will need to demonstrate 90 per cent accuracy rates for their prototype systems to get through the first phase and then 100 per cent success in the second stage.

The tests will be divided into three parts:

Shots from all over the pitch will be fired into an empty net and the success rate must be 100 per cent.

There will also be dynamic tests where a ball-shooting machine will fire shots into the goal.  There will be a fixed wall which will prevent the whole ball passing over the goal line then it will be moved back inside the goal at different distances from the line.  A 90 per cent success rate is needed in this test.

Finally there will be a static test when a ball will be placed on a sledge and moved in slow motion across the line, sometimes with the ball rotating. Again, a 90 per cent success rate is required.

Companies that pass phase one – which will take place between September and December this year – will then move on to the second phase which will take place early next year.

These tests will be more rigorous and will require 100 per cent accuracy.

If a system is successful it is planned to use it in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Don’t hold your breath however.

Goal line technology, under the criteria set by FIFA and the International FA Board, is a major technological challenge but for a company which comes up with the solution it could be a very lucrative business.

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