Sepp Blatter at the Geneva press club today (Getty)

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

Three-horse race for FIFA presidency?
Sepp Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam will find out if they will be joined by three-times South American footballer of the year Elias Figueroa in the race for the FIFA presidency later this week. On Friday, INSIDER exclusively broke the story that the Chilean planned to challenge Blatter on a reformist platform as the candidate of the Change FIFA movement. The 64-year-old still needs the backing of one of FIFA’s 208 member federations. The nominations deadline for the top job in world football is Friday midnight CET. Blatter is aiming to be re-elected for a fourth term as FIFA president at the elections in Zurich on June 1, but he faces a strong challenge from the Qatari.

No SportAccord for Blatter
INSIDER is told that the FIFA president has decided not to take his campaign to London this weekend for the annual SportAccord Convention. Around 1,500 delegates from the Olympic Movement are attending. FIFA is a member of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which is holding its general assembly at the April 3-8 convention. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke is attending in place of the Swiss. It means Blatter will miss out on the opportunity to communicate his election manifesto message to an array of international journalists and broadcasters who are accredited to cover SportAccord.

Man Utd confirmed for MLS All-Star clash
Premier League leaders Manchester United will face the best of Major League Soccer in the 2011 MLS All-Star Game this summer, the league announced today. The Red Devils, who last year beat the All-Stars team 5-2, will play the match at Red Bull Arena on July 27. “We are pleased to host Manchester United again for our marquee summer event,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Our All-Star Game has become a true celebration of soccer, and our best players look forward to the challenge of competing against one of the top clubs in the world.” United boss Alex Ferguson is pretty optimistic: “Last year’s game was a special occasion in front of a noisy, passionate crowd. Obviously we’ll be looking to repeat the performance and the scoreline.”

Soccerex kicks off in Manchester
Hundreds of football
executives from around the world are gathering at the Soccerex European
Forum this week. The March 30-31 event at Manchester Central convention
centre features a strong line-up of speakers. INSIDER will provide on
the scene coverage from the conference.

Among the highlights is a session on the 2012 European Championship
preparations in Poland and Ukraine. The panel, including UEFA’s Euro
2012 operations director Martin Kallen and Marcin Herra, president of
Polish organisers PL 2012, will also look at the remaining commercial
opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in staging UEFA’s showpiece

Elsewhere, the implications for clubs of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play
rules, designed to ensure clubs operate within their means, come under
the microscope. Andrea Traverso, UEFA’s head of club licensing, and Sam
Rush, international COO of the Wasserman Media Group, are among the
participants in this debate. Other sessions at the conference include
one focusing on Britain’s Olympic football debate; at the moment only
English players will be picked because the FA’s of Scotland, Wales and
Northern Irelandnd are refusing to field players. Other speakers at the
conference include Christian Seifert, CEO of the German Bundesliga, and
Manchester United CEO David Gill. A closed session for the European
Professional Football Leagues general assembly also takes place on the
sidelines of Soccerex.

Match-fixing threat to football
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has warned of the threat of match-fixing and illegal gambling facing football, urging governments and law enforcement agencies to help stamp out the problem. Speaking of the risks at the Sports Funding, Sponsoring, and Sports Betting Congress in Zurich on Friday, he said: “It’s going to be a tough fight but I am convinced that football can overcome this challenge.” Delegates heard that while the sports industry generates around $300 billion a year, sports betting has an estimated annual worth of between $350-400 billion. FIFA’s Early Warning System, which has monitored betting markets relating to FIFA competitions since 2007, and UEFA’s own Betting Fraud Detection System, which detects irregular betting patterns in club matches were also explained. UEFA’s system checks around 100 million bets every day, with around 29,000 club matches covered since its inception in 2008.

Blatter warning for Brazil 2014
Blatter has urged Brazil to accelerate its 2014 World Cup preparations. In his starkest warning yet about the country’s slow progress since being awarded the tournament, he was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters in Geneva today: “I would like to tell my Brazilian colleagues about the 2014 World Cup, it’s tomorrow, the Brazilians think its just the day after tomorrow. We are hoping for a little good faith, things are not advancing very quickly.” He said Brazil was lagging behind South Africa at the corresponding stage of the country’s 2010

Afghanistan Football Federation’s new logo (AFC)

preparations. “If Brazil keeps going like this there will not be matches in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo at the Confederations Cup,” he told reporters. Financing and building Sao Paulo’s 65,000-seat Itaquera stadium remains a major issue of concern, with just three years until the Confederations Cup. The slow pace of billion-dollar upgrades to Brazilian airports is an even bigger worry.

Warner set for another 4yrs as CONCACAF chief
CONCACAF president Jack Warner will stand unopposed for a sixth term, the confederation has announced. The FIFA vice-president will be formally re-elected during the CONCACAF Congress in Miami on May 3. “I am honored by the trust placed in me by our members,” said Warner, who was first elected president in 1990. “I thank each one of them for allowing me to continue working on their behalf.” Others nominated unoppsed for positions on the CONCACAF Executive Committee are Lisle Austin of Barbados (vice-president – Caribbean zone), Mexican Football Federation President Justino Compean (vice-president – north zone) and Ariel Alvarado of Panama, who will replace fellow Mexican Guillermo Canedo White who decided not to seek re-election. Rafael Salguero of Guatemala will retain his place on the FIFA Executive Committee as the member from the Central American zone after no other candidates came forward for the position.

Villa is record-breaker
David Villa became Spain’s all-time leading scorer after netting two goals in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Czech Republic at the weekend. The Barcelona striker has now scored 45 times in just 72 internationals.

Charity fundraiser for Japan disaster
AFC Asian Cup winners Japan will play a J-League select team in a fund-raising match for the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Osaka on Tuesday.

New logo for Afghan FA
The Afghanistan Football Federation, a member of FIFA since 1948, has a new logo and office bearers. The Asian Football Confederation has been notified that Keramuddin Karim is the AFF president, with the two vice-presidents being Mohammad Yasin Mohammadi and Farid Ahmad Mawlahi. Mukhtar Ahmad Rustami is the appointed general secretary.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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