David Owen: Questionmarks over FIFA’s representation in world sport’s most powerful club

So FIFA President Sepp Blatter is a step nearer securing a fifth term as boss of world football, following this week’s announcement by his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini, probably his most credible potential challenger, that he would not stand against him in next year’s election. That means that world football’s governing body may be a step nearer possibly losing its direct, active representation in world sport’s most powerful club – the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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David Owen: Liverpool and Balotelli: Why Reds set for a summer transfer profit despite £100m+ spree

Liverpool posted the biggest pre-tax loss in the Premier League in 2012-13. The previous year only Manchester City posted a bigger one. In such circumstances, you might have expected the Anfield club to be squirrelling away at least some of its Luis Suárez windfall; to be showing a modicum of restraint in this summer’s transfer market in the interests of its bottom-line. All the more so with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) provisions hovering in the background.

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David Owen: 1974 – when British football was whiter than white and QPR briefly looked like the shape of the future

Rummaging through my mother’s garage, I found a mildewed relic: a copy of Shoot! “incorporating Goal”‘s summer special from 1974.

It was not a happy time for English football. The Alf Ramsey era had just fizzled to a close with a goalless draw in Portugal. With the World Cup that England had failed to qualify for about to take place in West Germany, the first article was an assessment of Ramsey’s long reign.

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David Owen: Splashing the cash in the glory game

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Top football clubs are different to other businesses. Whereas most companies exist to generate wealth for their shareholders, football clubs must balance this against the pursuit of trophies. Of course, the two aims are linked, or can be: mountains of silverware will increase a club’s popularity, tending to make it more valuable and, hence, to enable its owners, should they so choose, to sell it at a profit.

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David Owen: Brazil’s year of living dangerously and the death of jogo bonito

Brazil eye

July 8 – The last few weeks, with the tournament in full swing, have been a lot better. But I don’t think anyone could justifiably argue that Brazil’s first of three years in the global sporting spotlight has gone entirely to plan. Today in Belo Horizonte Brazilians must face up to the distinct possibility of more bad news: can their yellow-shirted warriors, shorn of their two best players, feasibly get the better of a typically well-drilled,

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David Owen: The French and German football teams have got more similar. Will the nations follow?

Considering they have a common 450km-long border and have together been the beating heart of the European project for nearly 60 years, France and Germany are remarkably dissimilar.

Not so their football teams, which clash in Rio on Friday in what promises to be a fascinating World Cup quarter-final.

Take the goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris and Manuel Neuer don’t exactly look alike; but they are very proactive exponents of their craft, among the quickest to sprint off their lines to snuff out trouble.

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David Owen: Brazil 2014 – another small step, not a giant leap, for soccer in the USA

Twenty-eight years ago I moved to Chicago a month or two before the 1986 World Cup started. A report I wrote then underlines how far soccer has come in the land of the gridiron and the baseball diamond in the intervening nearly three decades.

“Just my luck,” I wrote. “While the rest of the football-mad globe is getting punch-drunk on a ball-by-ball account of the trail to glory, Windy City is more concerned with the size of Bears quarterback Jim McMahon’s close-season midriff.”

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David Owen: How I fell out of love with Holland’s 20th century boys

Dear Holland,

I’m sorry, but it’s over between us.

Along with millions of other school kids, I became besotted with you 40 years and a week ago – on 19 June 1974, the day of the Cruyff turn. It was a difficult time: Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup-winning team had broken up and England hadn’t made it to the 1974 tournament in West Germany. What is worse, Scotland had. Into this emotional void strode coach Rinus Michels’s team of strutting demigods headed by Johan Cruyff,

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David Owen: Yes it has more immediate problems, but is FIFA spending too much?

And so, with a final flourish, Sepp Blatter got out his cheque-book and wrote out a cheque for $200 million. No, the FIFA President’s closing gesture at this week’s FIFA Congress was not quite that dramatic. But his promise of $750,000 to all 209 national associations and $7 million to each of the six confederations has the same effect.

To which my question is this: has this $198.75 million of apparently extra expenditure already been written in to FIFA’s budgets?

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David Owen: Smell the coffee – financial polarisation may pave way for Superleague

There was good news and bad news for European club football in the financial story of the 2012-13 season, as compiled by professional services firm Deloitte in its latest Annual Review of Football Finance.

The good news is that, whether as a consequence of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) initiative or for some other reason, top-tier clubs in the five big west European football markets of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, do seem to be managing their financial affairs more sustainably.

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David Owen: FIFA reform – a modest proposal

The material published in the latest Sunday Times expose has sparked renewed calls for Joseph Blatter, FIFA’s 78-year-old President, to stand down. This is not remotely surprising. And, indeed, I concur there are strong arguments for his current term being his last – even though, in the real world, he still looks well-placed to sail triumphantly to a fifth term from 2015.

I also think, though, that the question of Blatter’s personal future tends to distract attention from the more important issue.

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David Owen: Anatomy of a World Cup qualifying competition

Heading to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup? Apprehensive about the demonstrations and logistical nighmares that might lie in wait for you? May I make a suggestion: pack a copy of James Montague’s kaleidoscopic new book Thirty-One Nil.

It will remind you that, however trying your current circumstances, things could be worse, while articulating, in a succession of scrupulously observed national tableaux, why you made the effort in the first place.

Not that the author makes a meal of his discomfort,

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