Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): The Four Lions

Day 2 – Thursday 11 April 2013

15:15 – 16:15       The Four Lions

–      Roy Hodgson, England National Team Manager

–      Bryan Robson, England Legend

–      Kevin Keegan, England Legend

–      Michael Owen, England Legend

–      Moderator: Hayley McQueen, Presenter, Sky Sports

Michael Owen (on screen)

The opening question of the session from Hayley McQueen was to Michael Owen and asked whether his impending retirement felt real. He replied that he knew before Christmas that he was going to call it quits at the end of this season and added that every week was one game closer to retiring. Owen added that he was surprised how emotional he was when he made the announcement and was sure it would be equally emotional after the last game of the season. Bryan Robson asked Michael Owen if he planned to stay in football. He replied that he had a few things he was involved with, such as punditry work, doing his coaching badges and setting up a management company to look after young players. McQueen asked if Kevin Keegan had any advice about retirement. He responded that Michael Owen was lucky that he was in a position to decide when to end his career, as others didn’t have that luxury. Keegan added though that he believed Michael Owen could have carried on playing in midfield, as he had done a few times at Newcastle. However, Keegan added that ultimately there was nothing that could replace playing.

Moving on, Hayley McQueen asked about the significance of the introduction of ‘Goal-line’ technology to the Premier League. Roy Hodgson said that everyone wants it and it had to be right that injustice when goals were not given was corrected. However, he added that not all countries and their leagues would be able to afford it. Hodgson did wonder if it would lead to further technology being used. Bryan Robson picked up on this point and said that the technology may only be decisive on 2 or 3 goals a season, whereas how many occasions are there are close penalty calls and so reasoned should technology be used to look at these incidents. Roy Hodgson added that back in the 70s and 80s handball shouts were few and far between, but said that in some games he had watched recently there were 10 or 12 appeals for handball. He added did we want to stop a game on that many occasions whilst a decision was viewed ‘upstairs’.

The next topic for discussion was in relation to the new UEFA regulations for dealing with racism. Roy Hodgson replied that the ‘new’ UEFA stance was much needed. However, he was concerned that although CCTV was in grounds in countries such as England, Spain and Germany, there were numerous others without the technology which would make identifying troublemakers difficult. Hodgson continued that he was concerned that the small minority who go looking for trouble could bring about the closure of a whole ground and make the majority suffer. Bryan Robson said that he wholeheartedly supported UEFA’s efforts to improve the situation, but didn’t believe racism could be 100% eradicated.

Kevin Keegan

Hayley McQueen next asked Kevin Keegan about the stresses of being an England manager. He replied that dealing with the press was always a difficult one. Keegan added it was like facing an over in cricket. The first ball up would be a friendly one you could hit for a four or six, as would the second and third ball, but you knew that sooner or later a beamer and a googly were coming! Keegan continued that as England manager you  had a Press Officer who would prepare the responses, but you had to be careful and make sure you answered the questions properly. He went onto say that it was difficult going to games as England manager and remembers going to Highbury to watch Arsenal against Chelsea and only having one English player to watch, whereas the French National Coach was able to watch eleven players. Keegan said that would be okay if he was then able to go to watch Paris St-Germain against St Etienne and watch six or seven English players. However, he said that he loved working with the players, but it was difficult not having the regular contact and communication with them.

Roy Hodgson was asked if the amount of foreign players in the Premier League hampered the progression of English talent. He responded that clubs had their own agendas and therefore brought in overseas talent in the hope of bringing success, but Hodgson added we just had to deal with it. He continued that it was important to maximise what talent was available and build around senior players, but that invariably youngsters took time to develop and blend in. Bryan Robson joined the debate and said that foreign talent had enhanced the league in terms of the skill they brought and what other players learnt from them. Kevin Keegan said that it was important that England had ‘generals’ in first-team’s and that our own ‘play-makers’ were developed. He continued that at Manchester City, their midfield included David Silva and Javi Garcia, who whilst ‘generals’ for the club, weren’t in the top three for the Spanish National Team. Robson said that in the 70s, there were three or four quality Scottish players at each club. Roy Hodgson came in with the point that we had to be more optimistic. He reflected that 10 or 12 years ago, Spain were not amongst the top World teams, so they embarked on an investigation to look at what needed changing. Now The FA is studying the Spanish to see what they do, that we don’t, whether that be in terms of coaching, club organisation or developing young players.

Hayley McQueen asked Michael Owen whether playing abroad helped his development. He added that English players going abroad is rare, with part of the reason being that the Premier League is so lucrative. Owen continued that when he was younger football was so very different at international level and across Europe. He said that now he thought that the game was broadly similar, so players don’t need to play overseas.  Owen added that he enjoyed his time at Real Madrid, although his family struggled, but that he did miss the Premier League whilst he was in Spain.

Roy Hodgson

Roy Hodgson was then questioned as to how optimistic he was about England going to Brazil next summer with a full and fit squad. He said that with clubs going on tours pre, during and post season it made it all the more difficult. Hodgson added that the ‘club v country’ issue is not something confined to England as he encountered it during his time as Swiss National Coach. He continued that be understood the situation from both sides as he had worked as a club manager. Bryan Robson half-joked that Sir Alex Ferguson would have preferred all his players to retire from the international scene! He continued that a club manager has the interests of the team at heart so wants fresh players come the start of a new season and not the problems of tiredness and injuries that the European Championship and the World Cup inevitably bring.

Hayley McQueen asked if England was in a transitional phase. Roy Hodgson replied that we had to be positive. Yes, he added there were clubs where squads were filled with foreign players and so it was a different world now for managers. Hodgson continued that young players have to be playing first-team football, but it was a very difficult situation. Michael Owen added that he had never been stopped from going on international duty, but knew of managers who rather you didn’t. He continued that in recent years the League Cup and FA Cup were used to rest players and queried whether internationals were next. Owen continued that there had to be dialogue about the situation, so that players perhaps only played a half in international friendlies. Kevin Keegan interjected that he saw that as a compromise and generally compromises never worked. Bryan Robson added that compromise was the only way. Roy Hodgson made his view clear when saying that UEFA had detailed certain dates or ‘windows’ when friendly internationals could be played, so there was no excuse for club managers not to be aware of these slots and therefore should be able to plan them in.

Given that England had internationals at Senior level and the summer European Championship at Under 21, Hayley McQueen asked where players who were eligible for the U21s but who had played at Senior level, would be selected. Roy Hodgson said that there were obviously discussions to be had with Stuart Pearce. However, he continued that in his opinion if a player has played consistently at a higher level then they don’t go back down. Hodgson added that he couldn’t understand why clubs denied players the chance to play international football at any level and quoted an instance when there were sixty withdrawals from an England U20s squad prior to a tournament. He said he simply couldn’t see why a club would stop 18/19 year olds being released.

Bryan Robson

Continuing on this topic, Hayley McQueen wanted to know how important it was for players to progress through the international levels. Michael Owen said that on a personal level he gained enormous benefit playing at various age-group competitions as it prepared him for his later experiences at Senior level. He added that he never had a summer off between the age of 15 and 20. Owen acknowledged that some players can cope physically with these demands at a young age, but he added his body didn’t mature enough until his early 20s. He continued that it was difficult to say whether missing out on some of those tournaments would have helped extend his career. Kevin Keegan said that for him it was important that players sailed through the levels and that as an England manager you wanted an elite group of four or five who progressed quickly to Senior level. Keegan added that Michael Owen had only played one game for the U21s. Roy Hodgson made the point that if a player at 19 was not a key player at a club; he liked to think that international experience at the relevant age group was vital and so enable them to get a break at a later point. Michael Owen wondered whether ‘special’ players should be treated differently. Kevin Keegan said that the age-groups team needed their ‘generals’ to play. Bryan Robson recalled the Under 18 (Mini) World Cup that England won in 1975. He added that along with himself, Glen Hoddle, Alan Curbishley, Ray Wilkins and Peter Barnes all played in the tournament despite the fact that they were playing first-team at their respective clubs. Robson considered that winning the competition provided then a confidence and boost that help progress their careers. Michael Owen said that in Spain they seemed to serve an apprenticeship before moving up. He observed England didn’t have the numbers to do this and instead youngsters found themselves forced up, but asked if there was an ideal model. Roy Hodgson said that it was an interesting debate and that there was no ‘right or wrong’ answer. He added that if you built an early and successful relationship with players, it lasts a life-time, with Dario Gradi being a case in point with the work he had done over the years at Crewe.

Kevin Keegan commentated that when he was a player, if you weren’t playing it felt like a failure. He continued that if you get paid ‘big’ money you had to put in the ‘big’ shifts’. Keegan said it was not right that England players like Gareth Barry and James Milner weren’t regulars at Manchester City. Bryan Robson said that he remembered one season when at WBA where he played over seventy games including many on some terrible pitches. He added that they managed by doing less training and that the top players at clubs were rarely rested. Robson continued that current players have all the advantages of better playing surfaces, diets, training and medical support, yet play nowhere near the amount of games of the past. Roy Hodgson said that he didn’t believe modern players played too much and that we were slightly hood-winked as we ‘took it as read’ that players took part in too many games. In support of his point Hodgson said that from his analysis of the England squad many players only completed 15 -19 full games (in actual minutes) during a season – hardly a situation which causes ‘burn-out’.

Hayley McQueen next asked whether it mattered if England qualified through the Play-offs for the 2014 World Cup. Bryan Robson replied that the aim should always to finish top of the groups and therefore qualify automatically. He continued that you should ‘hammer’ the minnows and not lose to the strongest teams. Robson added that it was still in England’s hands, but that the games at Wembley were now ‘must-wins’ and the young players now have to ‘step-up’.   Michael Owen added that coaches and players had improved amongst the ‘smaller’ countries and agreed with Bryan Robson that the games at Wembley have to be won.

Turning to the recent game in Montenegro, McQueen wanted to know how it came to be the proverbial ‘game of two-halves’. Kevin Keegan said that these things happen, in that you go forward in the opening forty five minutes, yet come out after half-time and it’s all so different. He added that it happened in the opposite manner as well and recalled how the two games against Scotland in the Play-Offs for Euro 2000 reflected this. England had been comfortable at Hampden Park winning 2-0, but then lost at Wembley 1-0 and just about hung-on to qualify. Keegan continued though that the important thing was qualify. Roy Hodgson was asked how he fielded criticism. The England manager said that people are entitled to their opinions, but their comments were generally made with the benefit of hindsight. He continued he might be being naïve, but held the belief that the public understood the situation. In terms of the game in Montenegro, he said that as a manager you can’t believe that what happened in the opening half is not continued into the second period and therefore you don’t rush into substitutions. Hodgson reinforced what Kevin Keegan had said in that qualifying is the ‘be-all and end-all’.

Hayley McQueen

Next Hayley McQueen wanted to know about the failure of England when confronted by a penalty shootout. Roy Hodgson was visibly irritated by the question and Kevin Keegan stepped in to provide a response. Keegan said that it was very hard to replicate the match scenario and recalled a story from his days at Liverpool. He remembered how after he had missed a penalty against Burnley that in training a penalty competition was organised. Peter Cormack emerged as the winner and three weeks later at Coventry City, Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Keegan said that Cormack didn’t want to take it and so he had to take it and Keegan missed! Bryan Robson jokingly remarked the best thing to do was not draw! Roy Hodgson then said that they do practice penalties, so they can say they have, but continued that in practice before the Italy game they were ‘flying-in’. Hodgson added that ultimately it was all about composure. He said that Clive Woodward had once said that penalty-taking was a ‘science’; however Hodgson said he wasn’t convinced as good players miss.

Hayley McQueen asked Roy Hodgson as to which was the toughest of the four national teams he has managed. He replied that getting Switzerland to the World Cup in 1994 and getting them to the last sixteen gave him particular pride as the Swiss emerged from a Qualifying Group that contained Italy, Portugal and Scotland. Hodgson added that his time at Finland was also pretty satisfying when they narrowly missed out on qualifying for Euro 2008. He continued that to work at International Level was a privilege and that he enjoyed working with the variety of players. However, Hodgson added that he understood that failure was also part and a reality of the role. He continued that ‘other people’ made the job tougher or easier. Turning to the panel he said that the three ex-players were a tremendous example in terms of the enthusiasm they displayed during their career and that England was lucky to have fans who shared that passion.

The session closed when Roy Hodgson turned interviewer and asked the panel who their football idols were. Kevin Keegan said that for him it was Billy Wright, as he was a ‘small’ guy who went onto be a world-class player. He added that he remembers watching on television Wolves against Honved and being amazed by Wright. For Bryan Robson, he said that Bobby Moore was his idol, a great reader of the game and so smooth in everything that he did. Michael Owen said that as a kid he was an Everton fan and Gary Lineker was the player he looked up to and wanted to be. Roy Hodgson had the final word, saying that for him, his idols were two players who were part of the 1966 England World Cup squad who didn’t get to play – Gerry Byrne and George Eastham.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): Gary Neville – Player, Coach and Pundit

Day 2 – Thursday 11 April 2013

14:00 – 14:45       Gary Neville – Player, Coach and Pundit

–      Gary Neville, Coach, England & Pundit, Sky Sports

–      Moderator: Guillem Balague, Presenter Sky Sports

Guillem Balague provided a simple introduction for Gary Neville, stating that the former Manchester United player had made 602 appearances for the club from Old Trafford and represented his country on 85 occasions.

Starting the session Balague asked what Neville had thought of the game he had attended last night in the Champions League at the Nou Camp between Barcelona and Paris St-Germain (PSG). The former United full-back said that at half-time he believed that PSG would go on and win the game. However, Messi showed what a difference he makes to the Barcelona side even when not fully fit. Neville added that PSG were so positive in their approach, but the psychological impact of the talisman Messi proved to be too much for the French team.

Guillem Balague then asked Gary Neville for his thoughts on the Manchester ‘derby’ on Monday. He replied that it was a strange one really in that the game wasn’t as important as it could or should have been, with the title already virtually won by United. Neville added that the game never got going and in no way could it be compared to the high standard he had witnessed in Barcelona last night.

Gary Neville

Returning to the topic of the Champions League, Balague wanted to know why the English clubs had fared so badly this season in the tournament. Gary Neville said that the form of the teams during the autumn had been poor and also it was a fact that such success couldn’t be expected year-on-year. He continued that English clubs had experienced a ‘golden period’ and that even Barcelona can’t go on at this level forever. Indeed Neville added, the signs of a needed refresh at the Catalan club were evident. Guillem Balague interestingly noted that in the Premier League when teams need a change, the manager gets rid of a number of players, whereas in the case of Barcelona, the manager Pep Guardiola left. Gary Neville replied that he wasn’t talking about wholesale changes, maybe just three or four new faces. He ended by saying that the Semi-Final fixture against Bayern Munich would be very interesting.

The conversation moved to Neville’s career, with the ex-England player admitting he should have finished the season before he eventually did. He said he was persuaded by Sir Alex Ferguson to carry on into the 2010/11 season, but that those last 4 appearances for the club were pretty disastrous. Neville said that he admired players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, who had been able to adapt their game, but for him that was difficult since his play was based on energy and fitness.

Balague asked if it was true that Sir Alex was very clever at planting certain ideas in players mind and then walking away to let them grow. Neville replied that was certainly the case when he was considering retiring. Sir Alex simply said his piece then sent Neville away to have a holiday for a week. He continued that the Old Trafford boss always had a vision, which was evident in the way he let players go and recruited even after the ‘Double’ triumph in 1995.

Neville was next questioned about the standards that were maintained in training and playing at the club. He said that Sir Alex always held the ‘good’ games against you so as to provide a ‘marker’ of your standard. Neville continued that it was a way of keeping players at a level in a positive way. He added that whilst recently Chelsea looked like they wanted to off-load older players of the calibre of Terry, Lampard and Cole, Manchester United look to manage players in the same way that AC Milan did with a squad containing a number of individuals in their late 30s. Neville said that Sir Alex was always insightful in using his squad and recalled the occasion in 1994 when Manchester United played Port Vale in the League Cup with a side containing 7 players aged 19 or younger. United were roundly criticised at the time, but won the game and players such as himself, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all gained valuable match experience that served them well later in their careers.

Balague asked Neville how he felt that first morning knowing he didn’t have to go to training. He replied that he had not missed training at all since finishing. Neville added that he expected to retire when he was about 35/36 so was prepared for it. He understood if players struggled when they had to retire prematurely through injury, but had no sympathy for older players who did nothing to prepare themselves for the end of their career. Neville added he also has sympathy for the lads who at 18 years old are told that they will never make it and therefore have to start again either in another career or at different clubs.

Since retiring, Balague wanted to know if Neville carried any pain or injuries from his playing days. He replied that like any player his joints had taken a battering, but even people who haven’t played professional football have aches and pains; it was the price you paid.

Gary Neville was next asked how he thought he would be regarded in ten years time – would it be as a great coach or great pundit. Neville jokingly replied – neither! He continued that in his last playing year he was offered a coaching role, but it didn’t feel right at the time. Neville added that when the chance came to work with and learn from Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington with England, it was too good an opportunity to turn down. He detailed that he has his UEFA A Licence and is doing his Pro-Licence currently. Neville also added that he knew he had a dream situation, travelling around England and Europe watching and commentating on football as well as the intensity and importance of being involved coaching the national team.

Next Guillem Balague wanted to know what kind of preparation and hours Gary Neville put into his punditry work. He first said that he didn’t know how someone like Gaizka Mendieta managed it in a ‘foreign’ language as Neville could never see himself being able to commentate in Spain. He said that he found the initial games difficult as he didn’t know what do with his hands or what the right gestures were. In terms of preparation Neville said that he would generally watch three ‘live’ games on a weekend. He continued that for the Monday game, most things from the weekend would have already been picked up, so he had to look for a different angle. During the game, Neville said that he tended to watch the big overhead screens in the studio so as to get an overall view of what was happening on a pitch. For a Sunday match, such as the upcoming game at Stoke City, he would arrive about 10.30 – 11.00 and then just talk through the match as he sees it.

In terms of his varied career, Neville said that there was nothing like the ‘buzz’ you got waiting in the players tunnel or being in the dressing room as a coach; it just isn’t the same commentating. As he player, he said he was happiest on the pitch and felt less on edge, but strangely was never relaxed after games. He added that he can’t sleep after England games as he finds himself wanting to look back over the events of the game in coaching terms.

Balague enquired as to how Neville saw his commentating style. He replied that he didn’t really see himself as a broadcaster and all he does is says what is in his head and what he thinks. Neville continued that it was important to provide balance and not become cynical in the “in my day” manner. Balague asked if it was an issue talking about players that he coached. Neville said that it wasn’t, in that he believed he provided balanced and honest observations, although you had to be careful in the way words were selected so as they were not taken out of context. He continued that players really only got upset if the comments were personal or unnecessarily harsh.

Guillem Balague next moved onto the quote which the Spaniard perceived as an honest of Neville’s time with England, that being, “…playing for England was one long roller-coaster: some ups and downs, but also quite a few moments when you’re not really sure if you’re enjoying the ride…” The former international said that he loved playing for his country and that it had been a privilege. He continued that players never gave anything less than 100% and then as now it is about getting to the Finals and then progressing. Neville added that back in 2001 at Villa Park England had beaten Spain 3-0, they weren’t feared then and that time would come again. Balague asked Gary Neville what were the lessons to be learned with the way that Spain had developed in terms of quality coaching and football foundations. In reply Neville wondered if talent was being produced in this country or was it being blocked. He added that he was proud that the Premier League is global in the talent it attracts and the audience around the world. However, Neville said that there must be world-class talent out there in Manchester. Despite being a massive fan of the Premier League, Neville said that we had gone beyond the ‘tipping-point’ in terms of the balance between foreign and home-grown players. He continued that in La Liga 63% of the players were Spanish and that here in England we had to find a balance that worked for us, but thought the level in Spain was about right.

Balague asked Neville how he viewed Academies and their ethos of getting the best players together. He responded that the issue for him was the lack of competitive football lower down. Neville continued that when he was with Manchester United playing in the ‘A’ team you came up against first team ‘old pro’s’ in the opposition which meant the fixtures were hard and you got genuine match experience. He continued that he believed that the 17/18 year olds now were too protected and are not getting ‘hardened’ in the current system. Neville added that over the years he had commentated (whilst still a player) for MUTV on the FA Youth Cup Finals and had seen very little talent emerge from those teams. Staying on the subject of young talent, Guillem Balague wanted to know how easy it was for clubs to retain their elite youngsters. Gary Neville thought that it was impossible to work for all 92 League Clubs. He added that contracts made it very difficult, as players didn’t want to be locked into long contracts, whilst if a players signs a 2 year deal and had an excellent first season, any renegotiation would be at a higher level.

The session closed with Balague enquiring as to what Neville did away from football. He said that even in his twenties he had been involved in business outside of the game in such areas as development and renewables. Neville said that football has been his life, but knew that there is more to life than it.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): The League Leaders

Day 2 – Thursday 11 April 2013

12:00 – 13:00       The League Leaders

–      Emanuel Medeiros, CEO, European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL)

–      Francisco Roca Perez, CEO, La Liga

–      David Dein, Former FA and Arsenal Vice-Chairman

–      Moderator: Matt Lorenzo, Head of Media, Soccerex

Matt Lorenzo introduced this session which aimed to look at the English Premier League and the La Liga in Spain, as well as discussion about the issues affecting European football in general.

English Premier League

David Dein introduced a video which promoted the English Premier League, adding that the rights to broadcast the Premier League had been sold to 210 countries. After watching the video, Francisco Roca Perez said that the quality and leadership of the Premier League was incredible and had a significant financial impact across the globe. He continued that other European leagues were trying to play ‘catch-up’ in that respect and the Premier League had an international reach that was twice that of Spain. In focusing on La Liga and Spanish football, Roca Perez said that in the last 15 to 20 years, they had generated talent and invested money in training grounds and associated facilities. He added that he believed they had the best coaches in the world especially with young players that had created a talent pool which has resulted in the recent strength of the Spanish National Team. Roca Perez did accept though that there had to be better control on spending by clubs and that there had to be a change to the way television rights are sold (currently on a club by club basis). He finished by saying that discussion was underway so that in the future there might be a collective deal similar to that in England.

Matt Lorenzo asked how the England National Team reflected on the talent available in the Premier League. David Dein said that the talent in the league was amongst the best in the world and that the National Team had to aspire to improve. Dein though wanted to focus more on the league itself and provided some statistics. Firstly in terms of Revenue Growth, there was a total annual income of €2.5million with a turnover of €1.6million. Secondly, at Premier League grounds they had a 92.5% capacity rate, whilst in Spain it was around 80%. He added that there were also schemes at improving capacity or building new grounds at Spurs, Everton and Liverpool which would continue to raise ground standards. David Dein then went on to show that in terms of Broadcasting Revenue the Premier League had a fairer distribution. He detailed how for last season (2011/12) Champions Manchester City received £60.6million compared to bottom club Wolves who received £39.1million. In La Liga by comparison Real Madrid received £140million whilst for Granada it was £12million. Dein said that Manchester City received 1.5 times that of Wolves whilst Barcelona and Real Madrid had 14 times that of some clubs. Continuing he said that Premier League clubs received equal shares of the domestic and overseas contracts and then addition money based on appearances in ‘live’ games and on final league position.

Spanish La Liga

Francisco Roca Perez started his response by saying that some of the figures quoted were not wholly accurate. However, he acknowledged that the financial domination of Barcelona and Real Madrid was a real issue and concern for the clubs themselves. Roca Perez added that there have been discussions in the last 3 to 4 years in order to work towards a collective television agreement, as the issue of distribution has to be resolved. As part of these discussions Barcelona and Real Madrid had already agreed to a cap in terms of redistribution rights. Roca Perez hoped that in the next 12 months that all teams would come on-board which would make future contracts easier to organise. He continued that as a result he hoped that the league itself would become more competitive because Spain doesn’t have the money to create ‘parachute payments’ as existed in the Premier League and as a result relegation from La Liga is regarded as catastrophic for a club. However, the La Liga CEO pointed out that ‘El Clasico’ was undoubtedly the biggest and most famous football fixture in the world.

European Professional Football Leagues

Emanuel Medeiros said that quite clearly La Liga could compete on the pitch with the Premier League, but off it there was no comparison. He added that as the CEO of the EPFL it was his duty to ensure that his organisation in looking after the 30 most important leagues in Europe (around 1,000 clubs) met the ‘Global Challenge’ of the sport being the catalyst for social change. Medeiros then showed a promotional video by the EPFL which featured action from the various member leagues under the strapline, “I LOVE IT”

Matt Lorenzo next asked the panel if they believed the game was ‘under-attack’. Emanuel Medeiros replied that our way of living was changing and that across Europe there was social, economic and political crisis in some areas. He continued though that football had been pretty resilient due to the vision of the leagues and through working with UEFA in the introduction of the Financial Fair Play Rules. However, Medeiros said that the use of rights without consent was a threat and would only be resolved by the involvement of government. He continued that the game was not self-sufficient and that vital income was lost to unauthorised activities. Medeiros added that football employed 15% of the European workforce and therefore the EU and governments needed to act to protect the industry and the jobs. Francisco Roca Perez said that La Liga was dependent on the Pay TV money, but that income was being lost through TV Piracy which was costing them an estimated 300,000 viewers. He continued that in Spain every league game was available to watch, but thought this should be changed in the future. Roca Perez added that many Spanish grounds were old, but there was no money to invest. He said that in the Bundesliga they had shown a correlation between better stadiums and improved attendances.

Matt Lorenzo asked David Dein whether England had better stadiums that those in Spain and Italy. The Former FA Vice-Chairman responded that the English Premier League had the finest grounds in the world and could hold a World Cup tomorrow. Dein added that the match-day experience for all fans had improved, especially for away fans. As an aside he said that over the next 4 years £320million from the television money would be allocated to Youth development.

Before moving onto the topic of betting in football, Emanuel Medeiros wanted to raise a point about the ‘club v country’ and ‘too many foreigners in the Premier League’ debates in England. He said for him it was a non-issue, since 1966 was the last time a major trophy was won and that nothing had been one since, even during the periods when English teams had very few players from other countries.

Matt Lorenzo moved the debate onto the influence of betting in the game. Emanuel Medeiros made the initial response saying that the passion of football lay in the perception of the public that the game was authentic and fair and it was therefore imperative to keep football ‘clean’. He continued that the betting industry had to pay more respect to the football business as they were effectively exploiting the rights of the game. Medeiros added that the French Government had introduced legislation that meant that organisations could only be granted a betting licence if the sport concerned consented and also had an input into which type of bets could be created. He said that a campaign was being developed to unite efforts in looking at the issues with betting in the game. Francisco Roca Perez pointed out that betting was affecting players in the lower leagues, ‘hooking’ players in, so that if they progressed up through the structure, it was providing a danger for the future. Emanuel Medeiros added that one case of match fixing was one case too many and European governments had to get involved in tackling the influence of the South Asian betting markets.

David Dein

The next question from Matt Lorenzo was why were so many clubs ‘skint’. David Dein pointed out that the Financial Fair play Rules would be in place to curb the excesses and hopefully avoid the situations that in recent years had arisen at teams such as Rangers, Leeds United and Portsmouth. Francisco Roca Perez detailed that in Spain, the most recent case involved Malaga. However, he added, in terms of Spanish football, business was not bad despite the economic position. TV ratings were high, attendances were steady, although understandably Sponsorship was slightly down. Roca Perez continued that there was a pressure to succeed and therefore lead to clubs spending which they don’t have. Now La Liga were monitoring club budgets for next season and if they didn’t ‘add-up’, and so were not approved, it meant that clubs could not sign players.

Emanuel Medeiros pointed out that football has a growing future, with a global brand and clubs with a global image. He added that people were living longer and wanted entertainment and that football was the number one entertainment in the world. This would be established through the two way relationship between football and television.

Matt Lorenzo said that in Italy there were 9,000 registered Football Agents, and asked how is it possible to control such numbers. Emanuel Medeiros said that deregulation had not worked and therefore the EPFL had proposed to FIFA a registration system. In this system agents had to be registered to the respective Associations in the countries they wished to work as well as other criteria set by FIFA. He continued that there needed to be transparency which would be aided by the establishment of a ‘clearing-house’ for all payments. Francisco Roca Perez added that in his opinion agents were a real problem since players rely and trust them. He continued that many retired players were broke because of the bad advice provided by agents and therefore quality standards were required.

In the final part of the session the audience were invited to ask questions. The first question from the floor said that in the German Bundesliga teams only played 34 games and had one domestic cup competition and as such was this a better model. Emanuel Medeiros replied that it was difficult to make a judgement and added that the EPFL did not in any way dictate the way leagues were structured. He continued that if there was a desire to reduce the number of games, then ideas such as doing away with cup replays had to be looked at. Medeiros pointed out that the increase in fixtures on the International calendar was becoming an increasingly bigger issue.

Next the panel was asked about the financial controls on the game. David Dein responded that he believed the Premier League would approve the Financial Fair Play Rules, but these would only be useful if ‘loop-holes’ were not looked for and therefore vigilance was of the upmost importance. Emanuel Medeiros added that he thought these were the most important football rules to be introduced in the last 20 years as clubs had to learn to live within their means. Francisco Roca Perez stated that football is a ‘closed business’, so it was dangerous if teams vanished as it did ultimately impact on the other members and the overall health of the league.

The final question was to Francisco Roca Perez about the progress of Goal-line technology in Spain. He answered that it had started 3 or 4 years ago, where they provided analysis of the all the games in the top two divisions. As part of this there was access for all teams to various cameras. He continued that La Liga supported the use of technology and that over the next 2 or 3 years they would either develop what they had in place or look at introducing a new system.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): The Future of Scottish Football

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

15:30 – 16:30       The Future of Scottish Football

–      Gordon Strachan, Manager, Scotland National Team

–      Stewart Regan, Chief Executive, Scottish Football Association

–      Rod Petrie, Chairman, Hibernian FC

–      Mark Wotte, Performance Director, Scottish Football Association

–      Moderator: David Davies, Senior Consultant, Soccerex


Moderator: David Davies

David Davies opened this last session of Day 1 with his reminiscences of Scottish Football. He for instance recalled that the first European Cup he watched growing up was that at Hampden Park in 1960 between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. Davies added that it should be remembered that the first British club to raise the European Cup was Celtic in 1967 and that Scotland were the first team to beat England after the 1966 World Cup Final. His favourite Scottish players included John White, Jim Baxter and Martin Buchan and Davies was also an admirer of the Scotland teams that qualified for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.

The first question to the panel was whether the rich history of Scottish was indeed a burden to the modern game and its players. Stewart Regan replied that it did provide a huge weight of expectation. He continued that technically, operational and financially countries like Scotland (with only a population of 5.5 million, similar to that of Yorkshire) could not compete at the top level these days. David Davies probed further by asking if the public expectation was realistic. Mark Wotte responded there had been a reality check recently with the results endured by Scotland, but countries with similar populations such as Denmark and Uruguay had made progress and that Scotland had to take their example to aspire to be better. Davies then asked Wotte as a Dutchman as to whether he was aware of the history of Scottish football. He replied with a wry smile that he remembered when Scotland beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Wotte said this could happen again in the future, but that it would take time and people would have to be patient.

Next David Davies asked if there was a moment in the 70s or 80s when Scottish Football had ‘taken a wrong turn’. Gordon Strachan answered this question by saying whilst others turned left and right, Scotland just went straight-on. He continued that countries like France and Belgium had explored the rules in terms of players’ nationality and so been able to get in greater numbers of quality individuals, whereas Scotland hadn’t. Strachan also added that part of the success of previous Scottish teams was their ability to play in an aggressive manner, which in the modern arena was just not possible. Finally the Scotland manner said that most of the Scottish talent that he looked at for the squad now played in the Championship rather than the Premier League, in contrast to the 70s and 80s when most First Division clubs had top Scottish talent on their books.

Left: Gordon Strachan. Right: Mark Wotte

Mark Wotte was next asked where the future players were to be found – Academies, Regional Performance Schools and how they would be spotted and nurtured. The SFA Performance Director said that there was talent everywhere, but that youngsters needed time to develop. Wotte added that there was no patience in football and that it would be 8 years before the new talent emerged into being internationals. As part of this process, Wotte added that the various age-group teams were playing the best international opposition.

David Davies next asked if clubs were happy to release players for youth internationals. Rod Petrie said that clubs were supportive and wanted the positive progression it provided for their players. He continued that clubs had pride in providing young players for national squads. Mark Wotte added that they wanted to instil a philosophy that winning was not everything and that educating players and developing individuals was important at the U12 and U13 level.

Next Davies asked if the point of nurture was important. Gordon Strachan responded that Scottish players generally don’t travel and tend to be home-grown. Stewart Regan added that getting players in the top leagues was important, as many were plying their trade in the Championship and League One.

Moving away from players, David Davies asked if there were enough coaches in Scotland. The SFA Chief Executive said that you could never have enough coaches, but these needed to be backed by more ‘Quality Mark’ clubs, referees and volunteers. Regan continued that the work had to be tracked and done in conjunction with clubs and that in schools. Picking up on the mention of schools, Davies said that Sport at school these days was so different and would never be what it was. Gordon Strachan replied that you have to love the game and that there was nothing like school football where it was a group of lads together. He added that it was a problem for Academies, where they train for an hour, are brought there on their own and with parents pushing for their sons to be the best. Strachan added that this doesn’t bring camaraderie and only created isolated players, whereas school was about enjoyment. He finished by saying that you were made better by the players around you.

Hibernian Chairman, Rod Petrie was asked about Scottish clubs in Europe. He replied that Celtic had to be commended for their progress in the Champions League this season and gave praise to all the other Scottish teams as they strove to progress and gain points for the UEFA coefficient. He added that Hibernian had struggled in Europe, with qualification games coming too early in the season but that it was always difficult to reconcile ambition with resources. Davis continued by asking if it was conceivable that anybody else in Scotland could currently make any progress in Europe. Rod Petrie said it was what clubs were in the game for, but accepted in the current financial climate it was difficult.

Gordon Strachan was asked about the ‘European nights’ at Celtic. He said that that they had two seasons where they got to the last 16 and that was realistically as far as they could be expected to progress. He added that it was a special job and that the atmosphere on those nights was something else. However, Strachan remembered that as a player at Aberdeen, the wages were the same as at Celtic. When he was Celtic manager, the club paid 20 times more that of the players at Hibernian. He concluded that clubs must not overreach and that at the end of the day, the development of grassroots players was the way forward. Stewart Regan added that football was no different to other businesses, with ‘big brands’ getting bigger and dominating the market. He added that the ‘big’ clubs had a responsibility to ensure the league survived and that meant supporting the ‘smaller’ clubs. The aim had to be to create a vibrant league which fans wanted to watch and contained exciting players.

David Davies turned to Gordon Strachan and asked him how special and how big a challenge was the job of National Team Manager. Strachan responded that he wanted to put something back into the game and bring ‘heroes’ back to Scottish Football. He added that it was so different to club football in that you had to get to know players in a very limited time. Strachan continued that he didn’t mind even it all he achieved was a platform for the next manager. He went on to say that it was part-time hours for full-time stress and he would have to take a few ‘slaps’ along the way. Ultimately he had a vision of how he wanted the team to play, but currently didn’t have the players to do it. David Davies then asked if Strachan believed he would get time and would get to carry out a long-term plan. The Scotland manager replied that in the short-term he had to bring some respectability to their World Cup Qualifying campaign. They were building for the future and for Euro 2016 in France, but he saw the job as a long-term project building foundations for the years to come.

David Davies then asked about the McLeish reforms which relate to governance of the game and which have mostly been implemented. Davies asked if anybody, especially fans and sponsors actually care about them. Stewart Regan answered that fans want to see the club and national team do well and want to see the game run fairly. He added there was no such plan 8 years ago and now the Former First Minister Henry McLeish had made 163 recommendations across a wide range of football related areas. Regan said they would allow on-pitch activities to improve.

The next question asked about the vote to restructure the league which was due next week. Rod Petrie thought that the change being voted through was likely and was part of a process which started 3 years ago. He added there was still significant discussion to be had, but there was a willingness to change. However, every club could have its say. David Davies asked if the current structure was helping. Mark Wotte said that the young players needed to play first team football and in a league that was competitive.

Gordon Strachan, Scotland National Team Manager

Gordon Strachan said that he spent the majority of his time watching Championship football, whilst Mark Wotte kept him informed of the talent North of the Border. Strachan acknowledged that Scotland wasn’t flush with great players at the minute and therefore it was important to get young players in and getting using to the pressure and hardening them to the realities of first team football. He added that David Beckham went on loan at Preston, whilst Jack Wilshere had time at Bolton, spells Strachan believed helped develop them as players.

David Davies asked if there were major worries that the atmosphere and quality in Scotland was now very poor. Rod Petrie responded that many people were very quick and good at talking the game down and reinforcing the perception that history was a burden to the Scottish game. He said that Scotland had the highest attendance per capita in Europe. Petrie added that the league needed to bring in television and support the game.

The next question was in relation to the events at Rangers and what lessons could be learnt. Stewart Regan said that the impact was felt across the country and not just in the football community. He added that between February and June 2012 problems started to emerge and once Rangers went into administration the real investigation started. Regan continued that with 6 weeks to the start of the new season they had to deal with the situation and said that on reflection they tried to handle too much including league reconstruction. He added that the SFA should have just dealt with Rangers and so created less animosity.

David Davies then asked Stewart Regan if he could comment on the racism charges levelled at Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green. He said that the SFA didn’t condone any form of racism and Green had been issued with two notices of complaint in relation to breaking Disciplinary Rule 66 and Disciplinary Rule 71 which guard against comments which bring the game into disrepute and those which are not in the ‘best interests’ of the SFA. Davies asked whether racism was an issue in Scotland. Regan replied that it has re-emerged recently across Europe but it was not a high profile issue as it was in England.

Returning to the issue of Rangers, David Davies asked if there were lessons to be learned for other clubs. Rod Petrie said that other clubs were also experiencing problems, but fundamentally they had to live within their means and the Financial Fair Play Rules and Club Licensing would be vital in achieving this.

The question of Celtic and Rangers moving to England was next put to the panel. Gordon Strachan said that the most important thing was that both these clubs were involved in helping create a healthy league structure, which Stewart Regan agreed with. Rob Petrie added that clubs were always looking at those above them and those below them, but they had to aspire to be the best they could be as Scottish clubs.

David Davies asked if Gordon Strachan was looking forward to the England v Scotland game at Wembley in August, especially as there hadn’t been many in recent years. Strachan said he thought Craig Brown was the last Scottish manager to win at Wembley. He added he was looking forward to it, as it was at the start of the season and the players would be fresh. Mark Wotte was asked for the Dutch view of the game, who replied it was just an ordinary game, but could understand the passions the fans had for the game. David Davies ended the session by asking if there would be a return of the Home Internationals. Stewart Regan replied that the game had moved on and there were no gaps in the footballing calendar. He added that he didn’t believe that clubs would release players, but that after August game at Wembley there maybe discussion for a one-off return fixture at Hampden Park.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): A Unique Russian Perspective

Day 2 – Thursday 11 April 2013

10.00 – 10.45       A Unique Russian Perspective

–      Alexander Djordjadze, Deputy CEO of Russia 2018 LOC

–      Moderator: Jeff Powell, Chief Sports Features Writer, Daily Mail

Russia 2018 Logo

Jeff Powell opened the first presentation of Day 2 by saying that the World Cup in Brazil was only a year away, but that this session looked further ahead to Russia in 2018. He then introduced Alexander Djordjadze, Deputy CEO of Russia 2018 LOC. The Russian explained that the CEO, Alexey Sorokin had been due to carry out this engagement, but had been called to Moscow to provide the latest update on the progress of the World Cup Project to President Putin.

Powell added that this was the first time that the details of the 2018 World Cup were being made public outside of Russia and he asked how the announcement of the successful bid was received in the country. Alexander Djordjadze replied that few people actually believed they would win the vote, but that it now had the public support. In the latest opinion polls, 65% people now knew about the World Cup in 2018 with 89% supporting and seeing the benefits, which included better infrastructure, improvement in sport, as well as social and emotional boosts. Alexander Djordjadze said that there were critics of the successful bid, but this was merely political rhetoric. He reinforced the point that ‘Social Change’ is achieved through ‘big’ projects. Djordjadze continued that President Putin was on the LOC and that it showed the bid had the support of the government.

Djordjadze was asked if there was pride in Russia that they would be the first Eastern European country to host a World Cup. He answered that yes there was enormous pride at the opportunity, but right now the focus and attention in Russia was on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Once this is over and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is completed, then the feeling about 2018 will grow. He added that Sochi would be one of the four venues (Moscow, Kazan and St Petersburg being the others) used for the 2017 Confederations Cup. Djordjadze continued that he accepted that the development of the necessary infrastructure would be a challenge and that their Bid was on the basis they were not in  a position to host the tournament tomorrow. The plan is to have 11 host cities with 12 stadiums. Alexander Djordjadze said that 5 stadiums were currently being built and that 7 more had the funds allocated to start the design phase. He acknowledged though that the FIFA requirements for stadiums were different to that for ‘standard’ builds and therefore the timescales were challenging.

Powell asked if the rumours that President Putin and his friends were putting money into the World Cup were true. Alexander Djordjadze said that this was a myth, as the finance was all Federal money.

Next Jeff Powell wanted to know if the ‘old’ Russia of his travels had changed. Djordjadze said that the last 20 years had seen enormous change in the country and the awarding of the World Cup in 2018 was a historic event. He continued that in 1991 a ‘new’ democratic Russia had emerged, but despite this much of the outside world was still critical about Russia and believed it to be a country of different cliques, oligarchs and tycoons; this he maintained was all myth. Djordjadze said that the World Cup would continue the process of further opening-up the country and change the perception of the world. A video was then shown which sought to promote the idea of ‘One Story of Russia’, a country of mixed cultures, history and emotion.

Djordjadze was then asked about the travel arrangements and how the Groups would be organised given the vastness of Russia. He explained that to play a World Cup across the country just wasn’t feasible and therefore the tournament was focused in the West where 80% of the population was. He added that it was hoped to keep the flight time to 2 hours or less for players and fans. Djordjadze continued that President Putin had guaranteed that all ticket holders would not require a Visa to enter the country and would also be entitled to free rail and coach transport for games between cities. The idea of allowing fans into the country without a Visa had worked wonderfully well during the 2008 Champions League Final when 30,000 supporters came into Moscow. However, Djordjadze said that by then he hoped that Visa’s would be abolished altogether. Finally he added that in order to avoid the problems of Ukraine during the 2012 European Championship Finals, hotel room prices would be frozen. In light of events in Poland and Ukraine last year, Jeff Powell asked if the World Cup would be a ‘rip-off’ for fans. Djordjadze said that Moscow is expensive, but is only like any other major city in the world in terms of cost and as an event the 2018 World Cup would be like any other financially.

The next question related as to how the Organising Committee would handle the threat of hooliganism, crowd violence or racism. Alexander Djordjadze said that it was a concern for the authorities and the public. He added that there would be legislation passed about crowd behaviour called ‘Fans Law’ in terms of fines and bans. Djordjadze added that an Educational Programme was also being put in place to ensure that host cities and stadiums were family friendly. Powell asked if the perception of Eastern Europe and the associated crowd problems could be turned round in the next 5 years. Djordjadze replied that the general attitude was against violence and crowd problems. He added that the laws would apply to both Russian Nationals and Foreign Fans. However, Djordjadze said that the fan population is different at World Cups and would present potentially fewer problems.

Jeff Powell said that he had fond memories of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the Berlin Mile where fans of all countries gathered and enjoyed the atmosphere. Alexander Djordjadze said that in 2018 they wanted to create a true festival and for instance use the Squares in Moscow and St Petersburg where the fans would be “treated like Kings”

Powell went on to ask if the World Cup would be good for Russia in ‘opening-up’ the country. Djordjadze countered that Russia was not a ‘closed-country’ and that many young people now spoke English and added it was a psychological position that had to be broken.

Attention then turned to the numbers of visitors that were likely to attend the World Cup. Alexander Djordjadze stated that South Africa had attracted 400,000 visitors, but that because of the easy access from Europe and Asia to Russia that a figure nearer 1million was envisaged. He said that there would be 3.2milion tickets available.

Jeff Powell asked what business opportunities would be created for companies in delivering the World Cup. Djordjadze said that Russia had already engaged overseas companies and they had so far been involved in stadium design and associated technologies. Going forward there would be a need for Project Management in Planning and Sustainability, skills and expertise mostly held in the West. Alexander Djordjadze added that he had a meeting with the 2012 London Olympic Organisers to learn about their experiences and that soon there would be tenders going out in relation to telecoms, transport and infrastructure.

Alexander Djordjadze, Deputy CEO of Russia 2018 LOC

Djordjadze briefly explained that the role of the LOC (Local Organising Committee) was to oversee the World Cup as an event, with the Host Cities having their own organising committee for the games in their area.

Alexander Djordjadze was asked about the scale of budget for the 2018 World Cup. He responded that the Government was currently working on the Infrastructure Programme and carrying out an audit. This would lead to a budget decision in June.

Powell asked how important the success of the Russian National Team was during the 2018 Finals. Alexander Djordjadze replied that it was hugely important as at Italia ’90, once Italy went out the mood around the event died. He added that of course the Russian fans dreamt about success as hosts and as winners of the competition. Djordjadze added that the Russian U21s were a promising team and had qualified for the European Championships in Israel this summer.

Jeff Powell then enquired as to whether there was a unified patriotic pride in the country as in previous years Russia was a country that was isolated and not understood by the outside world. Djordjadze said that Russia was a historically important country and was very much a football nation which had played its first International match in 1912 against Finland.

The final question to Alexander Djordjadze was with regard to how the face of Russia will change as a result of the World Cup. He replied that it was all about the legacy, which in recent years had becoming the defining point for ‘Hosting’ any World Cup. Djordjadze added that the usual improvements in infrastructure, facilities and football would all be attained, but it was in the intangible that Russia hoped to make a breakthrough. He said that the country was very much seen as an enigma, but hoped that the visitors to the country and the watching world will keep the feeling in their hearts after a successful and friendly tournament and that in time would change how Russia is viewed.

Jeff Powell closed the session by saying how grateful Soccerex was for the presentation and discussion with Alexander Djordjadze.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): Life After the Final Whistle

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

14:00 – 15:00       Life After the Final Whistle

–      Gaizka Mendieta, Pundit, Sky Sports

–      Ledley King, Ambassador, Tottenham Hotspur FC

–      Edwin van der Sar, Marketing Director, Ajax FC

–      Edu Gaspar, Director of Football, Corinthians FC

–      Moderator: Guillem Balague, Sky Sports Presenter


Guillem Balague began this session by providing a brief introduction of the panel members to the audience and asking if the ex-players had reached a point know where they were no longer recognised in the street and how this made them feel. First up was Gaizka Mendieta who was one of the most expensive players in the world after his move from Valencia to Lazio. Mendieta said that he took a year out after retiring to decide what he wanted to do. Next on stage was Ledley King who said that he had not had time on dwell on it really as he went straight from retiring as a player into an Ambassadorial role at Tottenham. On his introduction to the audience, Edwin van der Sar said that he never went out to seek the limelight and was happy at not being recognised. He added that in England the press pretty much left you alone if you kept a low profile, unlike Italy. Finally, Balague introduced Edu, who was best known in this country for his time at Arsenal and was now Director of Football at current World Club Champions, Corinthians in Brazil. Edu said that being involved in football in Brazil meant you were always recognised.

Left: Ledley King, Ambassador, Tottenham Hotspur FC

With the panel introduced, Balague put to them all how they felt on that first morning when they realised they didn’t have to go training. Ledley King responded that he had retired prior to pre-season which had always been his favourite time in terms of training. He added it was the first time he had not had to attend since he was 15 or 16 years old and although he missed it, you simply have to get on with accepting it. Gaizka Mendieta said that he was ready to retire and had business interests even before he stopped playing, so had prepared for the end of his career. For Edwin van der Sar and reaching 40 years old he knew he had a decision to make. He continued that he could have played on at a lower level, but instead finished his career in a Champions League Final (albeit a losing appearance) and that it was his decision to stop playing. Edu said that he returned to Brazil to finish his career, but that last season didn’t go well as he wasn’t fit, so he knew it was time to finish.

Guillem Balague next asked the panel about what they were currently doing. Edu said that initially after retiring that he was going to work outside of football. However, when the chance came to work at Corinthians, it was too good an opportunity to miss. Edwin van der Sar responded that he had done his Coaching Badges in his final season at Manchester United and believed he could have gone on and been a goalkeeping coach. However, he returned to Holland and studied and then an opportunity arose at Ajax as Director of Marketing. Given the last two answers, Balague asked about the influence of clubs in assisting players after retirement. Ledley King replied that as a player he was solely focused on playing and had not really given much thought about his career after playing. He acknowledged that he had been fortunate at Spurs, as since retiring he was working with the Club in the Community and doing his Coaching Badges. King said he had been at Spurs for 17 years and it is a very privileged and structured ‘bubble’ that means it can take time to find yourself once you retire. Coaching was a possibility for him in the future and he had done some sessions in South Africa recently.

Gaizka Mendieta was asked by Guillem Balague if he was walking in a park and a ball rolled in front of him, would he want to join in the game. Mendieta said that as a player back then, the answer would be ‘No’, but now that he had retired the answer would be ‘Yes’. He continued that he knew it was the time to end his playing days and he needed a break. Mendieta continued that he had various options now, as he worked as a pundit for Sky, had his badges if he wanted to coach and had his hobby of being a DJ. He continued that he enjoyed life in England as his private life was respected and his opinions as a pundit were respected.

Edu, Director of Football, Corinthians FC

Guillem Balague then turned to Edu and asked about the injuries and pain that people don’t see or consider once players retire. The ex-Brazilian international replied that he still has to deal with it daily, but that his career was worth it. Edu added that in order to control the injuries and pain a certain level of fitness has to be maintained. Balague then asked if Edu could understand what others thought it was like to be in the ‘bubble’ of being a professional football. He answered that he explained to people that football was hard, as was life in and out of the game and hoped they respected and understood this.

Balague then put to the panel whether the ‘silence’ of home now that they were no longer playing was strange. Edwin van der Sar said that he didn’t miss all the noise, adulation and recognition that followed games and that home felt ‘normal’. He continued that he was now in a new phase of his life and that his working day was that of an office worker. Van der Sar admitted that he did miss the training sessions, but knew that he couldn’t physically do them to the required level nowadays.

Ledley King was asked by Guillem Balague whether he had dreams about playing. King replied that he had always had to do a great deal of mental preparation because he was unable to do the full physical training. Now obviously there was no need to go through that task.

Next up Balague asked if as a result of retiring, they realised who their friends were. Gaizka Mendieta acknowledged that since ending his playing days, his ‘real’ friends had remained. For Ledley King, he still had some people around him from his playing days, but recognised for other ex-players not to have some ‘attention’ could be difficult to handle. Edwin van der Sar joked that at last he didn’t have the hassle of sorting out tickets and pass outs for family and friends. He continued though that with a busy working and family life, time was limited and therefore friends had to be ‘planned in’. Edu agreed with the Dutchman that family time was important and that he was as busy now as he was in his playing days.

The panel was then asked if they felt like they were ‘kids’ now having to grow up and be adults now that their careers had finished. First to respond was Edu who said that your mind-set had to change as there were serious decisions to be made, which no one else could make for you. Balague additionally asked whether they changed according to whether they were surrounded by non-players. Gaizka Mendieta replied that personally he dealt with everyone in the same manner, but returning to Edu’s earlier answer acknowledged that once away from playing, some struggled with making their own arrangements. Ledley King reflected that as an apprentice at Spurs he working cleaning out the dressing and training rooms and cleaned players boots. He wished that this was still the case as he believed it gave young players a sense of pride and an idea of growing up. King continued that young players today now went from school to clubs without coming into contact with the ‘real world’. He added that he had no regrets about his career and that he had worked hard, but was now looking for a new passion. Edwin van der Sar added that since retiring he had thought about the loses, the Finals he played in, but was enjoying life and the responsibility of his new role. Guillem Balague asked the former Dutch International whether rumours of a comeback at Ajax were true. Van der Sar said that there had been a bit of a crisis recently with one keeper injured and another suspended, but that the third-choice goalkeeper had stepped-up. He continued that the pace would have been too great for any really chance of making a comeback.

Balague then asked Edu whether he would have done anything differently in his career. The Brazilian replied that he had played for his country and ‘big’ clubs in his homeland, England and Spain and that his dreams had come true.

Edwin van der Sar, Marketing Director, Ajax FC

Guillem Balague next asked the panel about the advice they would give to young players. Edu replied that they should focus on education, train hard for football, but ultimately be themselves. For young players, Edwin van der Sar said that it was important they enjoyed the experience and listened to their coaches. He also added that he lamented for the fact that children no longer played on the streets which he believed impacted on young players today. Ledley King reinforced that hard work and dedication was important, as was the ability to deal with the set-backs of rejection by clubs and things such as injuries. Gaizka Mendieta joked that the rest of the panel had not left him with anything to add, but said on a serious note that young players needed to understand there was more to life than football and therefore education was important. The former Spanish international added that they should listen to the right advice and respect the profession.

The session was concluded with Balague asking if the idea of football being more important than ‘life and death’ was different as a player as non-player. For Gaizka Mendieta it was no different as although he loved football, he could always switch ‘on and off’. Ledley King added that when playing of course the game was high on the list of priorities as was family and health, but the issue was trying to find the balance. For Edwin van der Sar, as a young player he was very focused and added that as an older player he was more relaxed as he understood the level required. Edu had the final word, saying that as a manager in Brazil, football is life and death.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): Knights of the Football Realm

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

Soccerex is an event which is very much about the future of the game, but does also like to pay its respects to the footballing legends of the past. In this session, two international greats Bobby Charlton (ex-England and Manchester United) and Eusébio (ex-Portugal and Benfica) were brought together for a discussion moderated by Jeff Powell. Whilst set out below is my report on the conversation that took place, I felt compelled by some of the things I saw and heard to provide this reflective introduction.

During the course of this session, clips were shown of two classic encounters which featured the two greats; the first was the 1966 World Cup Semi-Final in which England beat Portugal 2-1 with Charlton scoring both for ‘The Three Lions’ and Eusébio a penalty for ‘A Seleção’ with the second the 1968 European Cup Final in which Manchester United triumphed over Benfica 4-1 with Charlton scoring twice for United. As I watched the black and white footage I genuinely felt privileged to be in the same room as the two stars.

However, those images of fit, fleet-footed athletes of the 60s belonged to a period nearly 50 years ago. Time is a cruel master and therefore it was sad to witness the impact of it on these two giants of the game. Eusébio hobbled into the arena using crutches for support whilst Bobby Charlton (who by his own admission) lost his thread when recounting his tales of the past on a number of occasion. Despite this though, it was still a humbling experience to be in the presence of such world footall legends. Gentlemen – thank you. 


12:30 – 11:15       Knights of the Football Realm

–      Sir Bobby Charlton, Legend, Manchester United & England

–      Eusébio, Legend, Benfica & Portugal

–      Moderator: Jeff Powell, Journalist, Daily Mail

Jeff Powell and Sir Bobby Charlton

Jeff Powell introduced Sir Bobby Charlton, England’s leading goal-scorer and Portuguese legend Eusébio before the audience was showed brief highlights of the 1966 World Cup Semi-Final game between England and Portugal. Sir Bobby then recounted the story of how he was asked to perform a certain role in the 1966 World Cup Final. He described how Sir Alf Ramsey had said to Sir Bobby that he wanted him to ‘man-mark, Franz Beckenbauer. Charlton added that Sir Alf always did his homework and if it meant England would win the game he was more than happy to carry out that role. When the game kicked-off Beckenbauer ran straight over to Sir Bobby – West German manager Helmut Schön had asked Franz Beckenbauer to ‘man-mark’ Charlton! Sir Bobby added that he worried when England would next win the World Cup.

Eusébio and Sir Bobby Charlton

Charlton continued that he had known Eusébio for over 30 years and like himself loved the game of football. Sir Bobby added that he remembers watching the 1962 European Cup Final in which Eusébio outshone the stars of the great Real Madrid team.

Jeff Powell went back to the 1966 World Cup tournament and said that it was hard to believe that it was possible to pay at the turnstiles for England’s opening game against Uruguay. He added that after the post-war boom had died off, the competition hadn’t caught the public’s imagination. However, with England becoming World Champions, society latched on to football and the transformation in how the game was perceived had started.

Sir Bobby reflected that Sir Matt Busby was a visionary who wanted change in the game. He remembers Sir Matt had been to the USA and had seen stadiums with early examples of hospitality boxes. Upon his return he wanted these at Old Trafford as Sir Matt demanded that United to be the number one in all aspects of football. Charlton added that Sir Alex Ferguson had the same vision.

In looking at football today, Sir Bobby said that the game was unbelievable and was not surprised at its global appeal. He added that he had many friends in the Far East who would get up in the early hours to watch Manchester United and Premier League games live.

Sir Bobby reminisced about the late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who he regarded as a great tactician who had a fantastic attitude to the game. He remembers Shankly calling in at his home and staying to talk football with his wife Norma, whilst Bobby went and played a game! He added that he was lucky to have been trained and coached by Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy and remembers one particular piece of advice from Murphy which was that he always encouraged Sir Bobby to take a shot when the chance arose. Murphy said the crowd would always forgive a player who took the opportunity.

Jeff Powell asked Sir Bobby whether Wayne Rooney would surpass his England record of 49 goals. Charlton replied that he was an enthusiastic and talented player and that Rooney did listen to advice given to him. Sir Bobby said he was proud to hold the record, but would be ‘gutted’ if it was beaten.

Charlton was then asked by Jeff Powell about Duncan Edwards. Sir Bobby said they shared the same digs when they first started at Manchester United and also did their National Service together and were even posted in the same billet. He remembered how they would leave camp on 5.30 on a Friday night to travel back for the game on a Saturday. Charlton added that Edwards could play anywhere and did so without question and was excellent with both feet as well as his head. There was hardly any footage of Duncan Edwards in action, but Sir Bobby said that he was still the best player he had ever played with. Jeff Powell wondered how difficult it was following the Munich disaster in 1958. Sir Bobby said that it was incredibly difficult for everyone involved at Old Trafford, as nobody knew if the club would actually survive.

Reflecting on his early career, Sir Bobby shared with the audience how as a schoolboy there were 18 clubs after him. It was though Joe Armstrong who spotted Charlton up in Durham and signed him for Manchester United. Sir Bobby explained that he was more than prepared to move from the North East to the North West as United had a great reputation for Youth Coaching. He moved into digs in Sale at a time when Trafford Park was the biggest industrial park in Europe.

Jeff Powell asked about how Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson compared. Sir Bobby replied that they both had the same aims and both recognised they were coming to a ‘big’ club. In addition both men knew how to handle the Directors. Charlton continued that United had a small number of Directors who shared the principles of the manager in wanting excellent players at the club. As a group they dealt with the business side which allowed Sir Alex to deal with the football matters. Sir Bobby said that Ferguson was successful in winning trophies, but had failed at retirement! Charlton added that Sir Alex had the same energy and enthusiasm as he had at day one and would go on forever! Powell asked whether the recent emergence of Manchester City had reinvigorated the Manchester United boss. Sir Bobby replied that Ferguson hated losing and the loss on Monday in the ’derby’ game would have hurt. He knew that Sir Alex was motivated by the production of young players; a different approach to that of neighbours City. Jeff Powell added that whilst Sir Alex held back selecting young players, he had been instrumental in providing a number for England in the current squad.

Jeff Powell then took Sir Bobby back to Estadio Nou Camp, León in 1970 for the World Cup Quarter-Final between England and West Germany and the point at which he was substituted with England leading. Charlton said that he was so upset to be taken off as he and England were playing well and looking like they were heading to the Semi-Finals. Sir Bobby said that he had struggled with the altitude throughout the competition but felt in excellent condition for the game in León. The subsequent defeat 3-2 in extra-time was the last time Charlton played for England and Sir Bobby told the audience Sir Alf Ramsey apologised for the events in Mexico after the game.

For the next question, Jeff Powell moved away from football to ask Sir Bobby about his charity work. Charlton responded that he has become involved with landmine clearance work after visiting Bosnia. Sir Bobby added that the location was a nightmare, with deserted houses and the football stadium full of mines. As a result he set up his own charity ‘Find a Better Way’ which works to rid the world of landmines and help people affected by these devices.

Returning to football, Jeff Powell asked Sir Bobby what he thought about the future of the game. He replied that it was the biggest business in the world and was the game that people wanted to see for the intensity provided by individual players and teams; it was quite simply ‘The World Game’.

The next question from Jeff Powell was related the prospects for England in the 2014 World Cup. Charlton responded that the English game was respected, but he felt obliged to say that we had a chance to win in Brazil. However, Sir Bobby continued that England needed more good players and with the amount of foreign players in the game currently, that was very difficult. We had to believe we could be Champions, but that Spain and Germany were the favourites. Charlton added that the Barcelona midfield had changed the way international football was played.

Eusébio, Sir Bobby Charlton and Jeff Powell

In closing the session, brief highlights of the 1968 European Cup Final were shown before Eusébio joined Sir Bobby Charlton on stage. Eusébio joked how it was the only time ‘Mr Bobby’ scored with his head. He added that Alex Stepney had not wanted to shake his hand after making a great save from the Benfica forward as the United keeper wanted to get on with the game. Eusébio said he admired Sir Bobby, but also remembered George Best in 1966 when United thrashed Benfica 5-1 in Lisbon. The closing memory from the Portuguese great was in relation to the 1966 World Cup tournament where Eusébio was the leading scorer with 9 goals.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): Captain of Industry

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

11:00 – 12:00       Captain of Industry

–      Sir John Madejski, Chairman, Reading Football Club

–      Moderator: Andrew Main Wilson

Andrew Main Wilson (AMW) introduced this session in what he hoped would be a ‘relaxed fireside chat’ with the Reading FC Chairman Sir John Madejski; a man who has taken the club from the ‘old’ Fourth Division to the Premier League.

First up AMW asked Sir John about his desire for a minutes silence at games as a mark of respect following the death of Margaret Thatcher. He responded that it was very much a personal view in that he believed she had put the country on the map and the good achieved outweighed the bad. However, Madejski recognised that in reality it would be too divisive and it was not possible at Reading as they had already planned a minutes silence at the weekend as a mark of respect to the Hillsborough tragedy.

Turning to business, AMW wanted to know what lessons Sir John learned from his building of Auto-Trader. Madejski said that to have a great idea and know how to execute it was vital, ensuring that there was enough people out-there who agreed with that concept. He was of the opinion that marketing was crucial as was retaining 51% of the business. If ownership lay with somebody else, they would ‘call the shots’ not you. Finally Sir John said that you had to believe in what you do and be dedicated in making it successful. AMW wanted to know how he had enabled the business to grow. Madejski explained that at the start they charged £5 for taking a picture of the car to be sold and if it didn’t sell in the first week, the customer got the second week free. The important thing was that by charging upfront there was an immediate cash-flow and in reality a profit from day one.

AMW asked how Sir John became involved in Reading. He explained that in 1990 the club was going bust and got a call from Colin Brooks asking if Madejski would step in. He added that he wasn’t a particularly ‘big’ fan but did it for the community. Reading is the fourth oldest club in the country and he believed it was worth saving.

Sir John was then questioned about the recent change of manager at Reading, given that on the surface it looked like Brian McDermott had managed the club well. He responded that being a football manager was a risky business, but that he was an advocate of continuity. However, Madejski added that it was all about winning matches. Ultimately the sacking of the manager was the decision of the owner Anton Zingarevich. AMW pointed out that at Wigan Athletic they had stuck with Roberto Martinez and they had been rewarded with an appearance in the FA Cup Semi-Final. Sir John agreed, but then poised the question as to whether Reading should have stuck with Brendan Rogers; who knows how things will turn-out. He continued that fans want their club to win as it was their respite from the working week, but that Reading was lucky to have such forgiving fans.

AMW next quizzed Sir John about what in his opinion was the best basis for a relationship between manager and Chairman. Madejski replied that he didn’t believe there was a formula as such, but from his perspective he didn’t know enough about football to tell the manager what to do. The footballing side of the club was the responsibility of the manager, but Sir John did add that everyone has their views. He continued that at Reading there was an ethos, an esprit de corps, which the new owner had bought in to.

It was noted by AMW that when Steve Coppell was manager there was a wage cap at the club. He asked Sir John was this what was needed by the clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League. Madejski stated that in his years as Chairman the biggest increase was in players’ wages and player moves were generally all about who paid more. Therefore given this situation the drive to create a level playing field was nigh on impossible.

Next AMW asked how Reading go about building a global brand and fan-base. Sir John accepted that for an ‘emerging’ club like Reading, that it was difficult. Having a Russian owner had brought in interest of fans from that country and the club was striving to do business in the Middle East. Having players from abroad also sparked interest beyond these shores, but most importantly being in the Premier League gave the club global exposure. Being in the top league in the world was good for the morale of the area. Madejski added that the Premier League was the UK’s best export.

Discussion then turned to parachute payments and the rumour that AMW had heard that next season the bottom club from the Premier League would receive more than Manchester City did when they won the competition. Sir John said that he couldn’t comment, but added that clubs had to be realistic and make the necessary adjustments to contracts etc. if they were relegated.

AMW said that in their first season back last year Reading almost qualified for the Europe League competition. He asked whether for Reading that would have been a mixed blessing. Sir John acknowledged that it was a contentious issue, given that the travel undertaken can mean that money is lost taking part in the tournament. So whilst this season for Swansea, Wigan and Millwall the possibility of European football was attractive, there was a chance that it was not a money-spinner.

For the last part of the session AMW invited the audience to ask questions. The first to Sir John was related to players’ wages and asked why Reading had been against the Financial Fair Play (FFP) Rules. Madejski explained that the reason was that he didn’t believe it would work. He continued that it would be an immensely complex situation attempting to control ‘free trade’ and apply the rules, especially since Sir John believed that ‘big’ clubs would attempt to find ways round the regulations. AMW asked whether change or balance could only be achieved if FFP was applied across Europe. Madejski countered that the attempts to introduce the regulations was highly divisive and that change had to be ‘organic’. He added that we were lucky to have the Premier League and the talent it contains and to try and place restrictions on it would harm the point of the competition.

The next questions asked that with it being difficult for the ‘minnows’ to compete, should there be more done by The FA and the Premier League to level the playing field. Sir John responded that attempting to level the playing field was just not feasible. He continued that Reading owner Anton Zingarevich was going to invest in the Academy set-up at the club so that finding their own talent was the priority, enabling Reading to help themselves.

Whilst on the topic of owner Anton Zingarevich, AMW asked how the Russian had got involved at Reading. Sir John explained that Anton has gone to school in the area and had watched the club. His father bought the club for him and it seemed a ‘good fit’. Madejski added that in the current climate, it was not enough to be a millionaire in the football industry, potential owners needed to be billionaires.

AMW moved onto the subject of the continuing decrease in the number of English players in the Premier League and the fact that it would take 15 years to get a new generation of home-grown talent into the game. He asked Sir John if there was a long-term plan and whether the tide would turn. Madejski said that most clubs saw the benefits of having and developing their own Academy, but added that foreign players had enhanced the game. He continued that any way forward had to be ‘organic’. Ideally clubs would nurture talent and the players would grow up within the organisation, just as happened at FC Barcelona.

The Reading Chairman was then asked for his opinions of Agents. Sir John said they were a bit like Estate Agents, but had become a ‘must-have’ once David Beckham had started the trend. He added that previously the Professional Footballers Association had done a good job, but that Agents were now integral to the game and whilst describing them a ‘parasitical’, recognised they were here to stay.

Madejski was asked if he supported the idea of a European Super League which had relegation and promotion. He acknowledged that there were some people who were keen on the idea, but personally he was against it, adding that it was hardly a ‘green’ option with the increased flying it would necessitate as well as the cost for fans. AMW added that he believed fans in the domestic leagues would be up in arms, especially those in the bottom half.

Sir John was asked if he could understand why some areas of the country were not keen on the idea of a minutes silence for Mrs Thatcher. He responded that because of the good she did she deserved respect, but acknowledged that the view of the former Prime Minister varied greatly in different parts of the country. In closing the session AMW picked up on a quote from Madejski in which he said that when selling a company, you should leave something for the new owners; a form of legacy. Sir John joked that with Reading it was debt, but answered more seriously that after 23 years of the ownership he was immensely proud of the club and it was a relief to be able to go along and enjoy the football and the club, without the responsibility.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): UEFA General Secretary 1-2-1

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

09:30 – 10:30       UEFA General Secretary 1-2-1

–      Gianni Infantino, UEFA General Secretary

–      Moderator: David Davies, Senior Consultant Soccerex

This session began with David Davies welcoming Gianni Infantino and stating that the UEFA General Secretary was a man who didn’t just talk about what needed to be done; he was in fact a man who got the job done. In the last twelve months Infantino had overseen the challenges on the pitch of the 2012 European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine, the Champions League Final and the Europa League Final. Off the pitch he had been instrumental in the implementation of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. In terms of the current issues for the General Secretary, these included the recent allegations of match fixing, racism, the ‘club v country’ debate, the 2016 and 2020 European Championship tournaments and the possibility of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

David Davies, Senior Consultant Soccerex

David Davies asked Gianni Infantino was the radical change to qualification and the Finals for Euro 2016 an admission that the success of the Champions League had become too great and that this club competition dwarfed the international scene. The UEFA General Secretary replied that the expansion of the Finals to 24 teams and the revamp of the qualification calendar was the most important decision of recent years. It was to create a passion outside of just the Finals itself and was to get away from the situation where qualification for the tournament was just squeezed in rather than having any attention or focus. He said that the changes would see 12 match days over 14 months. Currently qualifiers take place on a Friday and Tuesday which leaves the rest of the week to other sports. With the introduction of the Week of Football, teams would play games on one of the following pairs of days, Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday. Infantino added that this would allow fans to watch a number of the 8-10 games a week. He went on to say that there would be a standard branding across all the games with UEFA guaranteeing that all matches would be broadcast free-to-air. David Davies said that he could remember when the European Championship Finals only consisted of 8 teams and suggested that the increase to 24 teams could take away some of the ‘specialness’ of the tournament. Gianni Infantino said that nowadays there was more than just 8 quality teams in Europe and this was reflected in the increase in qualifying teams. He added that it would mean more countries feeling the euphoria from the point of qualification right the way up to the Finals and would help develop countries.

Moving onto the 2020 European Championship Finals, David Davies asked whether the real reason for holding the tournament across the whole of Europe was that because in these difficult economic times there was no country willing to take on the financial burden of hosting it alone. The General Secretary responded that this was not the case as it was easy to find willing bidders. He added that Michel Platini had the idea whilst attending the 2012 Finals and saw at first-hand how difficult the travel was across Poland and Ukraine. Gianni Infantino believed that it was good news for fans as with 13 host cities, more people could share the thrill of seeing the tournament ‘live’. David Davies wondered though whether it will be expensive for fans travelling across Europe. Infantino countered that host cities would get two ‘home’ games and that flying between venues would be limited to 2 hours maximum. He added that the low fares between cities that existed meant it would not be such an expensive experience. Gianni Infantino continued that 2020 would mark the 60th Anniversary of the European Championships and it would be celebrated in this unique manner of hosting. David Davies asked whether the statement made by Sepp Blatter that because of the various host cities the 2020 tournament would ‘lack soul’, was a valid one. The General Secretary said that of the 53 Associations in UEFA, 52 have voted in favour with only Turkey against it and therefore it was a democratic decision and one they were all happy with. He added that countries could bid either to host Group fixtures or a Semi-Final and the Final, but not both. 26 April 2013 would see the Bid Regulations being produced, with the Associations having until 11 September 2013 to decide what they want to bid for. On 25 April 2014 Associations will be asked to present their bid documents. David Davies asked that even given this significant change for the 2020 Finals could international football be lifted to compete with the Champions League. Gianni Infantino believed that the magic will return to international football by promoting the heart and passion of national teams. The General Secretary believed that there was already an appetite for international football and pointed out that there was a higher television audience in October 2012 for England v San Marino than for the Champions League fixture between Manchester City and Real Madrid and the FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Manchester United.

David Davies stated that Michel Platini had talked about the possibility of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and asked what Infantino thought about the idea. He said that in his opinion (and it was his personal view) that a winter World Cup was a possibility because of the concerns regarding the heat in the summer. However, ultimately that was a decision for FIFA. David Davies added that he had heard that the European Leagues were worried that this would have an impact for up to 3 years before their competitions returned to normality. Gianni Infantino acknowledged that there was much discussion to be had. He also stated how he believed that June was not used enough by football and that there should be a look at playing longer into the month.

The next subject to be raised was that relating to the progress with the FFP regulations. Gianni Infantino said that it was progressing positively and that its biggest success was that the notion and principles of FFP were implanted in the heads of Chief Executives, coaches and players alike. They all recognised that it has to be managed and now there are bodies to support this process to ensure the regulations are met. He added that the mechanism existed to hand-out sanctions, but success was not measured in terms of kicking clubs out of competitions, but in changing the mind-set. David Davies asked if the General Secretary expected the sanctions to be used in the near future, who replied that they had already been used and that for instance Malaga would be suspended next season from European competition. He added that next year will also see the introduction of the Break-even ruling.

Gianni Infantino, UEFA General Secretary

Turning to the issue of racism, David Davies asked whether UEFA was doing enough to combat it, given that as an organisation they stated that despite all the progress being made, it was still “widespread”. Infantino replied that racism had to be defeated and that one case, was one case too many. He added that in May, UEFA would be amending their disciplinary rules focusing on two areas. Firstly, there would be an increase in campaigns and activities in areas such as awareness and education. Secondly, there would be new sanctions. Players and officials guilty of racism would be suspended for a minimum of 10 matches. Supporters who engaged in racist behaviour would see sections of the ground where this occurred closed for a first offence. If a second offence occurs, then the ground would be closed entirely and a fine of €50,000 imposed. Referees would also be given the power to stop, interrupt and ultimately abandon games for racist incidents. Gianni Infantino was asked whether following Kevin-Prince Boateng walking-off in the friendly game, that in future players would be discouraged from doing the same. The General Secretary said that with the new procedures coming into force this type of action would not be necessary as players would now be able to speak to the referee and that clubs would be hit with ground closures as the ultimate sanction.

The next topic of discussion centred on the report that emerged in February this year which claimed that 380 European games had been affected by match fixing since 2008. David Davies asked why the story didn’t seem to have a massive impact as it quickly vanished from the headlines. Gianni Infantino explained that it quickly became ‘old news’ since UEFA were aware of the accusations and had acted on the cases highlighted. He added that match fixing had to be eradicated so that the integrity of the game was maintained. Even though the percentage of games highlighted as having some irregularity was low (0.7%), results were the soul of the game and it would need other organisations such as the police and governments to work with UEFA to deal with the problem. David Davies asked the General Secretary whether he believed games were still being fixed today. He answered that he did not believe that it occurred in top-level competition but that maybe it was still going on at a lower level.

Moving away from the issue of match fixing, David Davies asked whether the UEFA President Michel Platini would be looking to move into the role of FIFA President in 2015. Infantino responded that he did not know, but believed that Platini was still busy in driving through all the current UEFA reform. The final question from David Davies was with regard to Gianni Infantino’s ambition going forward. The General Secretary said that he loved football and therefore wanted to continue in his role and carry it out to the best of his ability.

The session closed with questions from the audience. The first asked whether UEFA had on their agenda the future formation of a European Super League. Gianni Infantino responded that the Champions League was as near as that concept would get and that the clubs were happy with this. It was the best club competition in the world and therefore it is the right way as it is. The next question posed whether there were different skills required to win the Champions League as compared to a domestic league. Infantino said that in terms of Champions League football that it was more difficult to win it as teams had to overcome potentially difficult draws all through the competition and the dangers that knock-out football holds. He added that in terms of a domestic league, the luck balances out over a season and therefore was an easier trophy to win. The final question was centred around the fines that were handed out to Nicklas Bendtner at Euro 2012 and that handed out to Serbia after the racist incidents in the U21 fixture with England – why was the fine the same when surely the racism issue was a more serious one? The General Secretary explained that UEFA was now changing its regulations and that its intention now was to target the fans as currently fines don’t affect them directly and therefore ground closures was the way to go in combating the issue of abuse and racism.

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): Opening Ceremony

Day 1 – Wednesday 10 April 2013

09:15 – 09:30       Opening Ceremony

–       Matt Lorenzo – Head of Media, Soccerex

–       Sir Howard Bernstein – Chief Executive, Manchester City Council

–       Adrian Bevington – Managing Director of Club England and Group Communications Director, The FA

–       Tony Martin – Chairman, Soccerex

Matt Lorenzo: Head of Media, Soccerex

The Soccerex 2013 European Forum opened with Matt Lorenzo welcoming all the attendees to Manchester a location he stated that could arguably to be called ‘the footballing city’ in England. He then introduced Sir Howard Bernstein, the Chief Executive of Manchester City Council.

Sir Howard Bernstein: Chief Executive, Manchester City Council

Sir Howard recalled when Manchester won the rights to host the European Forum and how it has over the years attracted 1,200 delegates and brought £6million into the local economy. He added that from 2014 until 2017 Manchester would be the venue of the Soccerex Global Convention, which he hoped would attract 3,000 delegates and generate £200million over that period. In that regard he believed this event would cement further, the inextricable link between football and the city. Sir Howard said that in 2010/11 football in the form of visitors, manufacturing and commercialism had brought £300million to the local economy and 8,500 jobs. He continued that the global success and reputation of the Manchester clubs had led to further investment in the city, such as Etihad opening their European Service Centre in the location. Manchester City had invested in facilities including a 6th Form College and Manchester United contributed to the city through their Football Foundation work. Sir Howard closed his address by welcoming The FA to the event; especially given the organisation is currently celebrating its 150th Anniversary.

Adrian Bevington: Managing Director of Club England and Group Communications Director, The FA

Next to speak was Adrian Bevington, from The FA who started by acknowledging the pride felt at England hosting the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley as well as the UEFA Congress during such a special year for The FA. He added that The FA was honoured to be involved at Soccerex in Manchester and sponsoring The FA 150 Lounge. Bevington added that it was important for The FA to talk about the game at all levels, but said that 2013 would be a special one at international level. This included the Men’s Senior team as they sought qualification for the 2014 World Cup Finals and the Women’s Senior Team and Men’s Under 21s and Under 20s as they take part in their respective European Championships tournaments in the summer. He added that Soccerex as an event provided an arena for discussion about football’s past and well as its future and it was important for The FA to be involved, to be accessible and listen and be aware of what was happening in the football industry. Bevington reiterated that The FA was a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation and that finance generated is reinvested into areas such as promoting grassroots football and increasing participation. He closed his speech by thanking Manchester City Council and Soccerex for the invitation and their hospitality.

Tony Martin: Chairman, Soccerex

Before introducing the final speaker, Matt Lorenzo reflected that since its inception 17 years ago, Soccerex had continued to get bigger and better. Tony Martin the Chairman of Soccerex then provided the final part of the Closing Ceremony. He opened by stating the football is the most important and richest game in the world and that Soccerex had a part to play in providing a platform for the discussion about the future sustainability of the sport. Martin detailed that Deloitte’s estimated that European Football Clubs currently had a turnover of €20billion, a five-fold increase in the last 20 years, a figure which excluded international football and associated products. He added that over the next two days there would be sessions which would provide insights into the UEFA 2016 and 2020 tournaments, the FIFA 2014 and 2018 World Cups as well as The FA’s vision for football. He finished by detailing that following the European Forum, there was the African Forum in Durban in October with the Global Convention hosted by Rio de Janeiro in November.