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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David Owen: Plea bargaining & doping – you ain’t seen nothing yet..

When the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s Foundation Board, whose members include FIFA President Joseph Blatter, assembles in Montreal this weekend, it could helpfully reflect on the kerfuffle stirred up by this month’s announcement of the sanction meted out to Tyson Gay, the US sprinter, in the wake of his adverse analytical finding.

Gay received just a one-year suspension, and a loss of results dating back to July 2012, including an Olympic silver medal,

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David Owen: Would a European Super-League really be such a bad thing?

Easter Monday brought one of those chance juxtapositions: FIFA Presidential candidate Jérôme Champagne’s third campaign letter bounced into my inbox just as those rumours of David Moyes’s impending departure from Manchester United started seriously swirling.

One of the many things that Moyes’s fate demonstrates is that transition seasons are no longer acceptable among football’s super-elite.

His ousting in this way helps to illustrate the validity of Champagne’s point that a “financial iron curtain”

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David Owen: Saadi Gaddafi, Libya’s most notorious footballer, and the politics of names

Names can be powerful things, particularly today when almost no-one is beyond the reach of electronic media.

In these superficial times, your name can be one of the most important factors in determining what people think about you and, hence, your destiny.

It is worth bearing this in mind when contemplating the fate of Saadi Gaddafi.

Now in prison in his native Libya having recently been extradited from Niger where he took refuge following the overthrow of his father,

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David Owen: FIFA’s development spending conundrum

FIFA’s new financial report isn’t just the financial story of last year; it also offers a fascinating window on to the future. This is in the form of the governing body’s budget for the 2015-18 business cycle.

Readers shouldn’t look on this as set in concrete; some might say it isn’t even set in custard: not even Madame FIFA can gaze into her crystal ball with anything approaching infallibility.

But it does offer an informative glimpse into how Joseph Blatter and his chums think the medium-term future might pan out.

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David Owen: From Spain to Asia in a well timed move

You know for sure that the people’s game has become gentrified when luxury Swiss watch brands start sponsoring football clubs.

Now, five and a half years after Hublot set the ball rolling by sponsoring Manchester United, another landmark deal has been unveiled.

Maurice Lacroix has announced a three-year agreement with Barcelona that will see it become the Catalán club’s Official Watch Partner in a deal said to be worth somewhere in the seven figures of euros (ie upwards of €1 million).

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David Owen: Could Neymar’s Brazil play future matches at London’s Olympic Stadium?

What do the following international football matches have in common: Brazil 0 Portugal 2 on 6 February 2007; Nigeria 1 Ghana 4 the same night; and Australia 3 Canada 0 on 15 October 2013?

Right, they were all played in London.

So was an extraordinary encounter last week pitting the Socceroos, once more, against Ecuador, France’s future World Cup opponents. While Roy Hodgson’s England were labouring to beat Denmark at Wembley,

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David Owen: Kosovo’s Vokrri looks forward to end of isolation

Well over 50 international football matches will be played on Wednesday, March 5.

They include some 2015 Asian Nations Cup games, Spain versus Italy and Portugal v Cameroon. They provide one of the last opportunities for experimentation for many of the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

And yet the most significant fixture to be played that night pits the world’s 79th -ranked team against a side that does not yet have any ranking.

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David Owen: Why it would make sense to introduce a Winter Olympic futsal competition

“Just arrived in Sochi,” Joseph Blatter tweeted on Tuesday. “Looking forward to meeting my friends and colleagues from the Olympic community before Sochi 2014.”

The FIFA President is an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member. So he will attend the IOC Session that precedes the Winter Olympics, the first to be chaired by Thomas Bach, the recently-elected IOC President.

There will no doubt also be opportunities to catch up with Russian officials,

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David Owen: Why Financial Fair Play is unlikely to chill the transfer market

What impact should we expect UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations to have on business conducted during player transfer windows such as the one that closes today?

You might think the break-even requirement enshrined in the rules would have a chilling effect, dissuading clubs from splashing the cash on these costly assets.

Actually though I think this will be far from the case. Why? Because of the lop-sided way player valuations are dealt with in corporate accounts,

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David Owen: Champagne reveal beggars the question: Will Sepp run?

FIFA Presidential elections are different. So it was probably par for the course that the first candidate out of the traps – and this more than 16 months before any vote – should at once cast doubt on his candidacy by refusing to make clear whether he would stay in the race if the incumbent President decides to run. Indeed, he admitted he did not think he could beat Joseph Blatter, who will mark 16 years in the post at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil,

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David Owen: Is it time to designate permanent homes for the World Cup and Olympics?

I was not altogether surprised on Friday to open my copy of The Guardian newspaper and find that the latest twists in the Qatar World Cup saga had combined with the approach of Sochi 2014 to provoke columnist Simon Jenkins into an elegant tirade.

These mega-events, Jenkins argued, “are about the crudest form of politics, that of national prestige.

“The athletico-military-industrial complex seems to have a mesmeric appeal to world leaders,

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David Owen: A team of African-Europeans in honour of Eusébio

In 2002, I travelled to Sedan in northern France to watch a match against Lens that featured some of the Senegal players likely to represent their country in the opening match of that year’s World Cup against France.

Afterwards I wrote: “If Dakar-born Patrick Vieira were playing for the country of his birth, Senegal would have a real shout at springing the World Cup’s first upset.” I was wrong, of course: Senegal beat the then World Cup-holders,

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David Owen: What Luís Suárez has in common with Diego Maradona

Hands up everyone who thought that Liverpool would be top of the Barclays Premier League at Christmas.

In truth, the Merseysiders are precariously perched: their next two games are away at Manchester City and Chelsea respectively. Lose those and they would probably be back below local rivals Everton and out of the Champions League places before the year-end. A New Year’s Day engagement back at Anfield against newly-promoted Hull then has the look of an ideal fixture with which to stop the rot – until you remember that the Tigers claimed their first-ever win over Liverpool on Humberside less than a month ago.

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