European Super League holdouts are gearing up for a fresh start

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Buongiorno from Milan, stopping briefly for a few meetings on a fall swing through Europe. It’s the last brief window of opportunity to visit the continent before the US sports calendar really heats up: college and pro football are already underway, the baseball playoffs are about to begin, and so on national basketball federation The season begins later this month.

As it should be, the NBA preseason alone is already causing a stir. Everyone talks about it Victor Webanyama, the 18-year-old French hoops sensation who scored 37 points in her first exhibition game on US soil this week. Speculation is now rife that NBA teams may be “fueling” their seasons for a chance to land the 7’4” one-time power forward in the 2023 draft. And in a league already packed with international stars, a young beacon for France could make him an icon ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

This week we examine two facets of global football, beginning with signs of life in the European Super League zombie, followed by a breakout of the fallout from a disastrous investigation into abuse in US women’s football. Continue reading – Sara Germano, US sports correspondent

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Perez and Agnelli try to make friends and influence people

Florentino Perez: Search for allies © FT Montage; AFP, UEFA via Getty

If you’ve seen this Figo affair On Netflix you know that Florentino Perez is not to be underestimated. In the documentary that tells the story of the most controversial football transfer in history, the real Madrid The President proves to be someone who can do the impossible. And if you haven’t seen it yet – you really should.

Perez, the chief architect of the European Super League project, was on manoeuvres. Last Sunday he gave a speech to Real Madrid’s general meeting, in which he railed against it Uefa, who accuses the governing body of offering too much European club football of questionable quality (an issue we elaborate on here). The result is a sport that is “sick” and losing fans.

Drawing comparisons to other sports, Perez suggested that football needs to focus more on pitting elite teams against each other (which was the core premise of ESL). Imagine if Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer only faced each other two or three times in the last two decades? Well, Perez believes that’s Uefa’s approach.

“Young people are asking for a quality product, which unfortunately football doesn’t currently offer because the ongoing competitions as they are today don’t arouse the interest of the spectators except in the final stages,” he said.

That wasn’t just a long moan, it was also the beginning of an apparent charm offensive. Perez invited the world of football to come together to formulate a new plan to stop the rot. All options are on the table, no ideas are discarded. Perhaps a new multi-level European league with promotion, relegation and dozens of members could be the basis for a fresh start for the ESL. The most important thing, he says, is to start talking.

So, what’s up? Perez seems to be courting allies for a new attack on Uefa. At the moment Perez is standing with straight Barcelona and juventus in the trio of pariahs bent on tearing down the current system. Sure enough Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli made up for on Thursday. In a letter to members, he echoed Perez’s comments and said the club wanted to start a dialogue on reforming European football.

Opposition to the trio seems as deadlocked as ever. league boss Javier Tebas said Perez was speaking from a position of “ignorance” and was threatening to “kill” the rest of football.

We can expect more posturing in the coming days and weeks. In December, a recommendation from the European Court of Justice is to be presented on whether Uefa operates a monopoly on pan-European football competitions. A full decision is expected sometime early next year.

Depending on the outcome, the governing body could be pressured into relinquishing some of its powers. The ESL holdouts position themselves in case this happens.

US women’s soccer: time to think © AFP via Getty Images

It was supposed to be a highlight in women’s football last night: the reigning European champion, who lionesses, hosting current world champions USA for a friendly at Wembley. The tickets for the eagerly awaited duel were sold out within 24 hours.

The game alone could be a shining example of the growth in women’s football were it not for a report released this week on behalf of US Soccer extensive and systemic abuse in the domestic professional league, the National league women’s football.

The independent investigation, conducted by former Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates and consisting of more than 200 interviews, found extensive reports of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse in women’s football at all levels.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s football, beginning in the youth leagues, that is normalizing verbally abusive coaching and blurring the lines between coaches and players,” the report noted. Authorities in sport “not only have repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse, they have also failed to take basic steps to prevent and address it.”

The fallout from the report’s findings was swift and escalating: Club Portland Thorns fired two senior executives, and team owner Merritt Paulson (son of former US Treasury Secretary Hank) said he was stepping down from day-to-day operations. Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whistler also resigned from his NWSL administrative duties, and the team board voted to remove him as chairman.

Unfortunately, abuse scandals are not uncommon in sport. But the extent of the damage within the NWSL, the most competitive professional league in women’s football, could threaten its viability. Previous iterations of women’s professional soccer in the US have collapsed amid disorganization and mismanagement; the NWSL itself is only 10 years old.

Of even greater concern is the extent to which the rush to set up the NWSL – which aims to capitalize on the robust popularity of US women’s 2012 Olympic gold – could be correlated with a failure to curb abuse. The Yates report found that the US Football Association “has conducted limited financial due diligence on the potential owners of the new league and has not put in place the infrastructure or planning necessary to support the league over the long term.”

Other participants could not refute allegations of abuse directly due to underfunding. Independent nonprofit watchdog SafeSport, which has been hired by several US sports to investigate allegations of abuse, “employs about thirty investigators to study 11 million athletes,” according to the Yates report — just 8 percent of cases were reported within a year SafeSport referenced period reached formal resolution.

Most NWSL league and team sponsors have yet to withhold their support, although the Yates report is only the first of two expected investigations; The NWSL and its players’ union have commissioned their own independent report, which is pending.

So far, the players are not satisfied. United States captain and Thorns defender ahead of Friday’s friendly in London Becky Sauerbrunn she said was not confident that the current establishment could change. “I don’t know if the right people are there to do what is necessary,” she said.

An invitation

It’s less than a month until ours Business of Sport Summit in New York on October 24. Milwaukee Bucks Owner Marc Lasry and Philadelphia 76ers Owner Josh Harris will be among those to share her insights. As a Scoreboard subscriber, you can claim your free digital pass with promo code Premium22 and purchase access to our personal VIP discussions and drinks reception. Register for your pass today.


Lars Windhorst: on the road in Berlin © AP

  • Lars Windhorst said he would end his involvement in German football Hertha Berlinafter the financier was revealed in an FT report to have hired corporate spies to coerce the club’s president.

  • That Indian Premier League‘s Royal family from Rajasthan say they are willing to lose “many years” from their international ventures and defend their expansion in response to criticism that Twenty20 tournaments weaken international play.

  • Elliott administration suddenly found himself under control Series A‘s once-big-but-sick AC Milan in 2018. After a series of management and sporting changes on and off the pitch, the hedge fund was able to revitalize the club’s fortunes, a saga detailed in our latest FT Scoreboard film.

  • LIV golf is looking for a US broadcast partner to broadcast its events. But the Saudi-backed project has so far struggled to find one despite being home to many of football’s top talent.

  • More drama from the world of Chess. A report published this week suggested that Hans Niemann, the 19-year-old who recently defeated the game’s top player, had cheated in more than 100 online games.

Finally off

Aaron Judge: Leaping into the history books © AP

That Major League Baseball The regular season ended in dramatic fashion this week New York Yankees Bat Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the year in the penultimate game. The feat is an American League record, beating Yankee Roger Maris’ 1961 record of 61 home runs in a season. There is debate within baseball as to whether Judge’s AL record is a more authentic feat achieved outside of the steroid era Barry Bonds Set the all-time all-division mark of 73 home runs. The banter rages on, but for now enjoy the call – and the reaction from the home side of rival Texas Rangers – as Judge makes history here.

Scoreboard was written by Josh Noble, Samuel Agini and Arash Massoudi in London, Sara Germano, James Fontanella-Khan and Anna Nicolaou in New York, with contributions from the team producing the Due Diligence Newsletter, the global network of correspondents and data FT visualization team

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Adam Bradshaw

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