(WFI) INSIDER editor Mark Bisson rounds up the ten things you need to know about the global football business today.

Central American nations back Blatter
FIFA president Sepp Blatter claims he has backing from seven Central American federations in his bid to be elected for another four years in office. The Swiss returned to Zurich on Sunday after his week-long tour of the region, which took in Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and Belize. CONCACAF has said that it will vote as a bloc in the presidential election on June 1 where he will face a challenge from Asian football boss Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Blatter ramps up campaign
Blatter’s election campaign is set for lift off this week with the launch of his manifesto. Brian Alexander, the British journalist acting as Blatter’s new media advisor, is finalising the campaign document that will spell out Blatter’s aims for what he has said will be his final four-year term. Bin Hammam has already put his cards on the table, having publicised his election pledges at a press conference several weeks ago. These include giving more power to confederations, more money to federations and expanding the FIFA Executive Committee.

No PR firm for Bin Hammam
INSIDER has learnt that Bin Hammam will not be employing a PR company to manage his election campaign. Blatter brought experienced newspaper man Brian Alexander on board two weeks ago with the specific task of handling the London-based media who savaged the Swiss during the last few months of the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding campaign and in the aftermath of England’s first-round elimination in the Dec. 2 vote. But Bin Hammam feels confident he can spread his message of goodwill to the 208 FIFA member associations – who will cast their votes in six weeks time – without the assistance of a PR firm. After his visit to India last week, the 61-year-old Qatari is preparing the groundwork for make-or-break visits to the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF Congresses in May where he must win some significant support to stand any chance of ousting Blatter from football’s top job.

Russia’s $5 billion World Cup
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mukto says the cost of preparations for
the Russia 2018 World Cup will run to around $5 billion. Most of this
will be allocated to building new venues and renovating existing stadia
in the 13 host cities, he was quoted in a Xinhua report. Four stadia in the Moscow area will stage games; 13 new venues are being built. Significant sums are being spent on the revamp of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the opening match and final, and Saint Petersburg’s 69,500-seat stadium. This is the single biggest stadium project of the Russia World Cup – and at a cost of 500 million euros the most expensive. It will have a moveable roof and retractable pitch.

Stoke face Manchester City in FA Cup final

English Premier League club Stoke City reached the FA Cup final for the first time in their 148-year history by thrashing Bolton 5-0 at Wembley. Bolton’s hopes of making their first FA Cup final since 1958 evaporated when they went three goals behind at the interval. Stoke meet Manchester City, conquerors of Manchester United on Saturday, in the final on May 14. Stoke manager Tony Pulis said his team’s success owed much to the plan put in place by City chairman Peter Coates, which was designed to establish them as a Premier League club.

“It is fantastic for everyone that we have achieved this success and taken another step forward, but it is a gradual building process and we’ve only just started,” he told the club’s website on Monday. “We have to make sure that we do it gradually and we have a plan in place which will aim to improve from top to bottom over the next few years. He added: “We must make sure, however, that we don’t fall into the trap of trying to do it quickly. This is a well-managed club, but we don’t have the finances to transform it overnight. So it’s a case of evolution rather than revolution.”

FIFA appoints Women’s World Cup officials
FIFA today appointed 51 female officials to officiate at the Women’s World Cup in Germany this summer. The list includes 16 referees, 32 assistant referees and three refs who will serve exclusively as fourth officials during the June 26 to July 17 competition. Sonia Denoncourt, FIFA’s senior refereeing manager, has overseen the preparation of the officials, and was herself a referee at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cups. “A lot of these officials have sacrificed careers to achieve their dream of working at a World Cup so to receive

this confirmation is a just reward for all their hard work” she said.

Reporters held in Qatar
Two Swiss sports reporters filming a piece on football in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, were
detained in the Gulf state for nearly a fortnight, according to TV
channel RTS. No reason was given by police about why they were taken
into custody, what they were accused of and why they weren’t allowed to
leave the country for 13 days. The Swiss TV station said the journalist
and cameraman had been filming landscape shots when they were arrested
at Mesaieed and later forced to pay a fine without being told of what
offence they had committed. “The arbitrary conduct of the Qatari police
constitutes a serious violation of press liberty,” said Massimo Lorenzi,
head of sports at RTS, in the statement. FIFA has been informed. The TV
crew returned on Friday.

Champions League trophy handover in London
The UEFA Champions League trophy will be handed over to the host city of London at a ceremony on Wednesday. UEFA president Michel Platini will join Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Football Association David Bernstein at the event. Other football personalities attending include former England-striker-turned-BBC-presenter Gary Lineker and several players from last season’s UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan. The Champions League and Women’s Champions League trophies will go on a tour through London from April 21 to May 20. Both will be on public display in Hyde Park for the UEFA Champions Festival in the lead-up to the finals at Wembley Stadium on May 28.

Auckland City book FIFA Club World Cup berth
New Zealand side Auckland City will represent the Oceania Football Confederation at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December. They booked their berth after beating Vanuatu’s Amicale 4-0 in the 2nd leg of the 2011 O-League final to earn a 6-1 aggregate win. Qualification for the FIFA Club World Cup brings the club a US$500,000 bonus. It will be City’s third FIFA Club World Cup. “It’s huge to have qualified for a Club World Cup and to get the chance to compete against players who are worth millions,” said co-coach Ramon Tribulietx. “For a club like us, this is a massive achievement.” About 11,000 fans attending the two legs of the O-League final. The OFC said the season-long spectator figure was more than 110,000 – the highest ever since the competition was established in 2007.

New CEO for New Zealand Football
New Zealand Football has a new chief executive. Grant McKavanagh, 41, who joins from the retail business, says he plans to accelerate recent football developments spearheaded by his predecessor Michael Glading. “Now it’s about fully implementing the Whole of Football plan and taking advantage of where football is placed now. We have great corporate support from ASB, Nike, McDonald’s Volkswagen and Persil. Football in New Zealand is in the best position it’s ever been to catapult forward.”

McKavanagh’s main focus is the Whole of Football Plan vision, the sport’s grassroots development plan being rolled out over the next six years. “We lose people in their teens, as do a lot of sports, but we have a chance to create the aspirational and emotional connection with the game to keep people involved for life. “We can also grow players in our elite game. With the Whole of Football Plan in place and the existing pathways through U-17, U-20 and Olympic levels we’ve got a platform to push these players through.” He takes up the role on May 2.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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