Bahrain’s World Cup qualifier win being investigated by FIFA

March 2, 2012

In our newest potential match fixing scandal, the Japanese sports paper “Nikkansports” has an article noting that FIFA has declared this weeks World Cup qualifier between Bahrain and Indonesia as being “unnatural”.  Coming into the final day of round 3 qualifying for Asia, Bahrain was in 3rd place, 3 points behind Qatar with a goal differential of 8.  With only teams placing 2nd or higher in their group moving on to the final qualification stage, Bahrain had to win by at least 8 goals (and hope for a Qatar loss).  What happened was Indonesia sat most of their starting players, and fielded a rather unknown group.  What ensued was a 10-0 victory for Bahrain, which was then thwarted by Qatar drawing with Iran to get the point they needed to secure moving on to the next round.

FIFA noted that Bahrain and Indonesia have faced each other 6 times resulting in 2 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws for both sides, and figured something didn’t add up.

So not only was Bahrain eliminated from the World Cup, but FIFA thinks that something fishy was going on.  Did Bahrain payoff/convince Indonesia to take a dive?


The Brazil 2014 World Cup Scheduling Mess

November 17, 2011

A quick interlude in the mass of NBA lockout posts which I have been firing off for the last week or so.

The schedule for the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil was announced awhile back, and I had meant to discuss it, as it has some potential implications for the competition itself.  The schedule is quite arduous for some teams, with great travel distances between matches, some teams (and their fans) will be required to travel over 2,000 miles between matches.  What makes this even more difficult is that it will be Winter in Brazil, so in the South of the country teams will be facing near freezing temperatures and possibility of snow, while in the North them will have around a 30 degree (Fahrenheit) difference in temperature.  Though we are already worrying about the 2022 Qatar World Cup because of the heat that teams will face, the World Cup in Brazil does not look to be a walk in the park by any means.

Brazil itself is not immune to the great travel distances, as it was decided that the team should play in as many regions as possible, with a total travel distance in the group stage of over 3,000 miles (over 6,000 km).  This means lots of travel time for the team, drastic temperatures and playing conditions between matches.  I wonder how much this scheduling will cause problems for teams in terms of the ability to play on-field after such travels, as well as the ability to get fan support to follow the teams on long flights all over the country.  Or, if one wanted to travel by road, there would be 3,500 mile journey through the Amazon jungle.  The big thing to note is that not all teams have to travel as far in the group stages, the teams picked into the H1 and G1 group spots have the need to travel less than a 1,000 kilometers between all their group stage matches, and will see relatively little changes in the climate.

For fans with not much money, this World Cup might just be off limits because of all the travel needing to be done within Brazil.  For teams, they better get comfortable traveling a lot.  Of course if you play one game in the snow, and another in the warm climate, how do you prepare for this in training camp before the World Cup?

Fox wins rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup

October 22, 2011

As I flipped between ESPN and FX (a Fox channel) tonight, I saw them broadcasting news that Fox had won the bid for the broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup in the United States.  The big news was made more so by the large numbers in relation to the bid.  Fox, Telemundo (an NBC held Spanish language channel) and Spanish language radio paid a combined $1.2 billion for the rights to the two tournaments.  Fox by themselves are going to pay around $425 million.  To put that into perspective the current right holders of ESPN and Univision paid a combined $425 million for the U.S. rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup.  They are saying that FIFA has really cashed in with this new mega bid, with the new rights holders (as of 2015) paying close to double the price than their previous competitors.  While the World Cup has become more popular in the U.S. in recent years, I am not sure that this deal is really worth it for Fox.

As I write this, I am having a bar scroll on the bottom of my TV saying that DirectTV (my television provider in the U.S.) is about to drop FX, Fox Sports, Fox Soccer Channel, and Fox Soccer Plus.  These would be all of the main channels through which the games would be broadcast in the U.S.  Naturally, I am not pleased, as Fox Soccer Channel is one of my main gateways to European soccer while living in the U.S.  While there is a lot of time till Fox wins the deals, I think the availability of the ESPN channels is much better, and makes me worry about whether I’ll be able to watch the games I want in the United States, once Fox takes over the rights.

The effect of winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup?

September 29, 2011

Earlier this year, Japan pulled off what is considered to be an amazing upset by knocking off Germany, Sweden, and the United States on their way to winning their first FIFA Women’s World Cup.  The psychological benefits for a country ravaged by earthquake and tsunami months earlier was said to be great, helping give people lots of hope.  The disasters which hit Japan also hurt the countries economy.  Now the economic impact which sport can have on a city or region is often called into question.  With that said, I’ve been doing some digging into the effects winning the title have had on the Japanese soccer and attendance at Nadeshiko League (the women’s professional league) matches.

Immediately after winning the world cup, goods and souvenirs were sold out in stores all over Japan.  Some believed that this was going to have a major impact on the economy, as they believed there would be hundreds of millions of dollars of sales directly attributed to the win.  Of course, I am skeptical about the impact, as many of these goods were simply products normally bought by consumers which had images and licensing done with the Japanese Football Association to promote the Nadeshiko (the nickname of the women’s team).  While I haven’t had a chance to look at the data, I don’t think there has been any real boost for Japan’s economy because of the World Cup victory.

So how about the Nadeshiko league?  In the weeks after the World Cup, the Nadeshiko league had attendance of over 20,000 at several of their matches.  This is quite impressive for a league which has had games with only a few hundred in attendance.  Two games in August posted attendance numbers of 24,546 and 21,236.  To put this in perspective, the previous record for the league had been 17,812.  Of course there is a big catch in this attendance boost, not only is there a novelty effect from winning the World Cup, but also the tickets for these matches were free.  In other words, people were not charged for the chance to see a large number of the key players for the winning World Cup team.  Now over a month after these high attendance numbers, the number of people attending is starting to go down, with less than 10,000 (9,200) attending a match last weekend.  The players and head of the JFA has been happy with the attendance, but it’ll be curious to see how well attendance levels do in the future.

So who is the real winners?

Probably the players themselves.  The Women’s National Team is not very well funded, and many of the players have been living in near poverty for years, despite playing professionally.  With the win, the players were all rewarded 5,000,000 yen (about $55,000) for the victory.  Additionally, many of the players have become celebrities, netting them more money from sponsorship, commercials, ads, player appearances, and so forth.

They truly deserve it, so it is good to see them get a well needed reward.  There is the question of whether Women’s professional soccer will continue to thrive and survive in Japan.

Is the Rugby World Cup group play unfair?

September 15, 2011

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is underway, hosts New Zealand have looked strong so far, and defending champions South Africa barely got by Wales in their first match with a 17-16 victory.  The United States also notched a win against Russia, only their third in the history of the competition, and first against a team not named Japan.

I was discussing the Rugby World Cup with a friend in Canada who is quite passionate about the sport, and he noted that Canada coach Kieran Crowley went public with his criticism of the scheduling of group play in the Rugby World Cup.  In an article on The Telegraph, Crowley is quoted saying:

“It makes me laugh really when tier-two countries have four-day turnarounds and all the tier-one countries have seven-day turnarounds and eight-day turnarounds,”

My friend even found a nice table showing team rank, and the turn around between matches.

World Rnk Country   1-2   2-3   3-4   Avg
Pool A
1   NZ   7   8   8   7.67
5   France   8   6   7   7.00
12   Tonga   5   7   11   7.67
13   Japan   6   5   6   5.67
14   Canada   4   9   5   6.00

Pool B
4   England   8   6   7   7.00
7   Scotland   4   11   6   7.00
9   Argentina   7   8   7   7.33
16   Georgia   4   10   4   6.00
17   Romania   7   7   4   6.00

Pool C
2   Australia   6   6   8   6.67
8   Ireland   9   7   5   7.00
11   Italy   6   8   7   7.00
18   USA   4   8   4   5.33
19   Russia   5   5   6   5.33

Pool D
3   South Africa   6   5   8   6.33
6   Wales   7   8   6   7.00
10   Samoa   4   7   5   5.33
15   Fiji   7   8   7   7.33
20   Namibia   4   8   4   5.33

You will notice that as you go down each table, there is a tendency for the weaker teams to have to play on shorter turn around.  The real loser seems to be Samoa, who despite their #10 world ranking, has a 5.33 day average turn around, the lowest for any team.  While Canada and other “minnow” teams have said they just have to deal with the issue in any way they can (Tonga for example had to change 11 members from their starting squad because of a lack of rest), I got the feeling there was probably something else that played into the scheduling.  Television broadcast.

The tendency is that weekend matches, such as those hosted on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tend to have higher ratings, as people will tend to have more leisure time to watch matches.  Sure enough, looking at hosts New Zealand (Ranked #1) play schedule, they play on Friday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday during group play.   Australia (Ranked #3) play on Saturday, Sunday, Friday, Saturday.  Namibia (Ranked #20, last in the tournament) plays on Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday, Monday.  Of course most of the minnows get a weekend game, but most of those are against the top ranked teams.  I haven’t analyzed the full schedule, but the implications seem clear.  The Rugby World Cup wants to maximize viewership, and they believe to do this, would be to schedule teams that are strongest on days that are best for television viewing.

Tournament Spokesperson Mike Jaspers pretty much confirmed this:

“This is a tournament with global interest, not just New Zealand. Factors considered were fan appeal, broadcast and commercial considerations as well as player welfare. So we think this is a fair and balanced schedule for all teams while also achieving the best result in terms of the wider interests of the game,”

Doesn’t seem to fair to me, Jaspers adds:

“The broadcast revenues that are generated by scheduling around the top nations’ matches are reinvested by the IRB (International Rugby Board) to increase the competitiveness of the so-called smaller nations.”

I’d really like to know exactly  how that is being done.

H/T (Hat-Tip) to donimator for pointing out these facts to me.


Sepp Blatter doesn’t call it a “crisis”

May 30, 2011

That’s right, despite several previous posts (here, here, and here) noting the bribery and corruption issues which have hit FIFA, Sepp Blatter claims that the organization is not in crisis.  It seems with each passing day (or literally, a few passing hours since my previous post) that more details and news seems to make this FIFA bribery and corruption scandal look even worse.  Blatter said in a very lively press conference:

“Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis.  We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved — and they will be solved inside this family.”

I think someone is in denial.  There is clearly a mass of issues here, but Blatter is most likely to be president for another couple of years, and probably his ego tells him he is in control, so nothing can go wrong.  But with all these issues which have come under his watch, how can anyone really trust FIFA in the future?

In more corruption news, FIFA cleared Nicolas Leoz, a FIFA member from Paraguay who had been charged with asking for favors in return for his vote for the 2018 World Cup host selection process.  Reading a report on the 2018 World Cup host selection process on FIFA’s website, you can see that it is alleged that Mr. Leoz’s assistant asked for the FA Cup to be named after him, and a knighthood and in return he would give a vote for the 2018 World Cup to be held in England.  You can read the full report: here.  It is full of great quotes and allegations, yet FIFA somehow is saying this really didn’t happen, or it isn’t serious enough to take into consideration.

The question arises: Why is Blatter and Leoz off with no charges, but Bin Hammam and Warner suspended?  It all points to FIFA keeping those who are currently in higher positions of power in their current place.  I don’t know how much damage control FIFA can do, but I’m thinking that this whole scandal could be costly.  I’m imagining countries are going to be less likely to pour money into World Cup bids with all of this news.  Of course, the counter-point could be that they might actually put in more money, knowing that a few well placed bribes could be the secret to being named a host.

In one other piece of news, I’d like to congratulate Swansea for their 4-2 win over Reading earlier today to secure promotion from the nPower championship up to the Premier League for next season.  The boost in revenue should be nice for them, but we’ll see if they will be able to hang around the top flight of English professional soccer for long.

$40,000 to “do what you want with”

May 30, 2011

See that picture to the right?  That is $40,000, brand new U.S. hundred dollar bills.  It is also supposedly a picture taken by Fred Lunn or another member of the Bahamas Football Association (FA).  Mr. Lunn, a vice-president for the Bahamas FA was at the meeting which Bin Hammam had with members of the various Caribbean football associations to try and make his case to become the FIFA president.  As noted in previous posts, Bin Hammam along with CONCACAF’s Jack Warner have both been temporarily suspended from football related activities by the FIFA ethics panel.

This morning, the picture you see to the right emerged, as part of the evidence which was given to the ethics panel.  Mr. Lunn noted that he went into a room to receive a gift from Bin Hammam and picked up the envelope and literally had a pile of hundred dollar bills spill out.  This seems more like a good mob movie, than a FIFA meeting.  Lunn contacted the head of his FA, and they agreed that the money was to be returned.  Of course, being smart, they snapped a quick photo of the money.  It is claimed that the money was for whatever each FA wanted to do with it.  They could use it for grassroots programs, training, development, or lining their own pockets.  Mr. Lunn went back to the room to give back the money, but found he had to wait in line, as others were queued up to get in.  He then texted his FA head saying:

“a lot of the boys taking the cash, this is sad given the breaking news on the TV CNN… I’m truly surprise its happening at this conference”

So it appears that a lot of people did take the cash.

In more FIFA corruptions news:

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has confirmed that he sent an email to the now suspended Jack Warner saying that the 2022 World Cup had been bought.

Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has called for FIFA to be “Red Carded” and for Australia to not spend any more money on World Cup bids until this whole process is straightened out.

And in a bit of positive news for FIFA, or possibly a well-timed release to try and make it look like they are actually fighting against corruption, FIFA has announced it has helped to break up a match-fixing ring in the UAE.  They claim that this ring has ties to both Asia and Europe, and is an important move against corruption in the game.

I think that FIFA has bigger corruption issues in house at the moment.