32 to 48 – the madness goes on

ALREADY considered by many to be pure folly, FIFA’s decision to host a 48-team World Cup may be brought forward to 2022 in the Middle East. Originally targeted for 2026 in North America, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in Kuala Lumpur the expansion could take place four years earlier. “We have to see if it is feasible,” he said. “We are discussing it with our … Continue reading 32 to 48 – the madness goes on

A question of balance

THE 2018-19 season is only a few weeks old and the scene is all-too familiar: Manchester City, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona all on top in their respective domestic leagues, while Bayern Munich are currently in second place. The UEFA Champions League is underway and the groups create a sense of déjà vu. Business as usual, as they say. On October 2, Bayern Munich meet … Continue reading A question of balance

If Abramovich goes…

THE recent decision by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to put the club’s stadium redevelopment on hold has raised many questions, not least speculation about the Russian oligarch’s long-term commitment to the United Kingdom, London and the club itself. Could the man who effectively kick-started the wave of inflated investment in football be about to call it a day? Naturally, with the issues over his visa, … Continue reading If Abramovich goes…

Democratic football party

WHEN Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked-off the World Cup, the game was not just between the two lowest ranked countries in FIFA’s rankings, it was also a meeting of the two nations with the worst rating for political freedom among the 32 participants. According to the Freedom House annual survey (Worldaudit.org), Russia and Saudi Arabia scored 7, representing the lowest level of freedom. The next … Continue reading Democratic football party

The political game

BACK in 1980, when the Moscow Olympics opened, hundreds of white doves were released as a symbol of peace. BBC commentator, David Coleman was quick to remark, “look at how they are all flying west…somehow symbolic” – or words to that effect. The Olympics were heavily boycotted that year, in protest at the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, in a tit-for-tat response, the … Continue reading The political game

Brexit, the end of the football world as we know it

HARRY Kane has been appointed captain of England, possibly the nearest the nation will get to a “Roy of the Rovers” figure leading the team into battle. Kane has already delivered the kind of message the hordes will want to hear from the man with the armband, “England can win the World Cup.” Even the most myopic England fan will chuckle at this, but Kane, … Continue reading Brexit, the end of the football world as we know it

Guest Slot: Should Russia be hosting?

WHEN Russia was awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it wasn’t totally unfair to dismiss the reaction – particularly that of the English – as sour grapes. After all, there was a certain expectation among the England camp that it was their moment: a feeling of entitlement that it was their chance to win the tournament in the home of football … Continue reading Guest Slot: Should Russia be hosting?

Tinker, tailor, soldier, footballer – the Russia house has no smiley people

HOW the US must be kicking themselves. They cannot boycott the World Cup because they didn’t qualify, but surely Donald Trump would just love to tell the world, “we’re not going” as the diplomatic arguments become more and more intense. This World Cup is up to its neck in problems, but this could be the new normal for FIFA’s flagship competition. We’ve got Qatar 2022 … Continue reading Tinker, tailor, soldier, footballer – the Russia house has no smiley people

English football defies the xenophobes

AS BRITAIN becomes increasingly intolerant of foreigners, football fans might like to be reminded that the nation’s teams are heavily reliant on talent from abroad. In fact, in the Premier League, 61.2% of all appearances this season have been made by expatriate players. Among the “Big five” leagues across Europe, England have the highest percentage of overseas players. Italy has 55.1%, Germany 50.5%, Spain 39.4% … Continue reading English football defies the xenophobes

PR is the big priority for Russia’s Confederations Cup

NO DOUBT FIFA’s grandees are enjoying their Russian summer, a chance to make sure that everything’s on track for 2018 and an opportunity to taste some decent vodka, eat the finest sturgeon’s eggs and to be royally entertained by the world’s favourite bare-chested horseman. But what is really the point of the Confederations Cup? Why do we need the competition in the first place? The … Continue reading PR is the big priority for Russia’s Confederations Cup

Qatar: Surely, the final straw?

THERE are more important things than football to be concerned about today, but with Qatar’s isolation from its neighbours and questions being asked about the country’s role in backing terrorism, the future of the 2022 World Cup comes into focus once more. Let’s be frank, the decision to award Qatar the World Cup was ludicrous. Against a backdrop of alleged bribery and corruption, FIFA made … Continue reading Qatar: Surely, the final straw?

Football and the military: A tricky alignment

    IT SEEMS impossible to avoid some form of military presence when any major football event is taking place. Whether it is a game old cock rattling a tin in aid of “helping heroes” or somebody dressed in khaki bringing a trophy onto the pitch, there seems to be a deep desire to attach the game to Britain’s armed forces. Football continues to be … Continue reading Football and the military: A tricky alignment

Millwall – a dangerous precedent looms

IF ANY London football club is representative of its local environment it is surely Millwall. Earthy, tough, passionate and defiant – Millwall are not the most appreciated of institutions outside their own locality, but unlike many football grounds today, there’s an atmosphere at the New Den. Many people might not relish a trip to the New Den, but it is much better than a visit … Continue reading Millwall – a dangerous precedent looms