Saturday, May 31, 2008

FIFA Makes Some Hasty Decisions...

There is little point in doing the right thing if you do it wrong. FIFA at its Congress managed to do a number of right things the wrong way. The FIFA Congress, the body made up of 208 Member Associations, depends on its Executive Committee and President to provide guidance for legislative action. Both failed to thoroughly analyze the issues as it rushed the Congress into making decisions that impact on World Cup Qualifying, player eligibility and fixing local and regional problems with worldwide legislation and action.

We are packing for the trip to Wellington, New Zealand now. As Chairman of the FIFA Organizing Committee for the Women's U17 World Cup, I will help in conducting the draw tomorrow night.

The issues of the FIFA Congress are important to understand and to see how those decisions can be made better. I plan to share those thoughts with you during the week to come as this trip draws to a close.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Charlie Dempsey Offers Thanks for the Truth...

I was engaged in a conversation with Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the opening banquet of the FIFA Congress at the Sydney Opera House, when Charlie Dempsey, the former President of the Oceania Football Confederation, pushed his way through and said with gleeful exuberance, "Thanks Chuck... your report on opening day of the World Cup in Germany told the truth and the way it was".

Frankly, I never realized that Charlie Dempsey had ever read my "Inside the World Cup" blog and particularly the story A Tribute to Charlie Dempsey on Opening Day. Now, two years later, Charlie had the first opportunity to thank me for setting the record straight and no one was going to stop him.

FIFA Congress opens in Sydney...

The opening ceremony was concluded by this powerful rendition of the FIFA Hymn. Tomorrow the formal Congress session begins at 930am.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Grant Leaves Chelsea...

His face said it all after the Champions League match with Manchester United on Wednesday and today, Chelsea made the following announcement:

Sat, 24th May 2008
Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Avram Grant has had his contract as manager terminated today (Saturday, May 24). This follows meetings over the last two days.

Everybody at Chelsea FC would like to thank Avram for his contribution since taking over as manager last September.

We will now be concentrating all our efforts on identifying a new manager for Chelsea and there will be no further comment until that appointment is made.

It is Saturday Morning Again...

This Saturday I have selected the Usual Suspects as the movie of the week. I hope you enjoy it.

This was a pre-scheduled posting. We have just landed in Sydney (it is Saturday night) and will post Moscow stories in the morning. To my friends who read this blog outside the USA, I didn't realize that this movie could only be seen from IP addresses inside the States until I arrived this evening in Moscow for the UEFA Champions League Final. I will work on a solution in the future, possibly not with Hulu, but in the meantime, Saturday mornings at the theater is restricted to those who can receive it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Miller Beer talks about relationship with CONCACAF

US: CONCACAF soccer campaign for Miller Lite

23 May 2008| Source: editorial team

Miller Brewing is to launch a soccer-themed marketing campaign for its Miller Lite brand this summer, targeted at Hispanic consumers.

The company said the soccer-themed promotional push is aimed at building on the brand̢۪s status as the official beer sponsor of the new CONCACAF's Champions League. Advertising for the brand is to feature current Mexican soccer champions Omar Bravo and Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

The company said its partnership with CONCACAF enables Miller Lite to connect with legal-drinking-age Hispanics within the world of soccer in the US, as well as in Latin America. In addition to the US, the 40-member CONCACAF association covers Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

"Our goal is to make Miller Lite synonymous with soccer for our Hispanic consumers, and the scale of this programme will help do that," said Jesica Duarte, senior manager of Hispanic marketing at Miller. "We're looking forward to a summer full of activities that will help us connect with Hispanics in a way that is fun and relevant to their interests."

Television, radio and out-of-home advertising is scheduled set to launch on 1 June, centered on Blanco and Bravo. In addition, Miller is to offer collectable single-serve cans featuring the two players. A national consumer promotion will give soccer fans a chance to win a soccer viewing party where Miller Lite will provide the television, food and refreshments to share with a champion soccer player and 20 of the winner's friends.

Miller Lite also will have branded content during the summer on TeleFutura's "Contacto Deportivo" and digital elements such as branded sponsorship of exclusive online content. A further digital element will be the update of, a website created last year to support the 2007 Gold Cup tournament sponsorship.

Friday is for travel and travel and travel...

We leave this morning, before the crack of dawn in Moscow, to London's Heathrow Airport (4 hours). From there, it is on to Sydney, Australia and FIFA meetings and Congress via Singapore (20 hours). Look forward to my postings of these great few days in Moscow when we land in Australia.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The People...

Until the other postings are done...

Until I recover from last night's excitement and the very late night here in Moscow and have a chance to post some of the great experiences of the last couple of days, I thought I would share these unique video perspectives I had following the match.

The Game...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Game Day...

We awoke to rain. Heavy rain. Moscow had turned from a sunny welcome to a cold and dreary place which may have been good timing for the concerns over two groups of English fans arriving that day, with each supporting either Red or Blue.

The city was on alert and traffic was backed up in the center of town with Moscow's normal overuse of city streets by mechanized surface transport. It took ours almost an hour to get around Red Square from the Marriott Grand to GQ, the restaurant where our friends from ESPN were hosting a lunch and had graciously invited us to join them.

On our arrival day, Mary Lynn, Italo and I snuck away to the Vogue Cafe, another one of Moscow's stylish posh places to be seen with an equally exquisite menu. Despite the distraction of the model types at the adjacent table, we really liked revisiting this discovery from 2006. GQ, was also the chic club at late night and restaurant through the day and evening. A good choice by ESPN which brought us together with their heads of programming acquisition for TV, Radio, Deportes and almost everyone we have been dealing with from Bristol and Manhattan.

After a short nap back at the hotel, knowing that at best we would see the latest finish to a Champions League final in UEFA history, the jet lag notwithstanding, we managed to catch a few zzzzz's until it was time to head to Luzhniki Stadium.

The ride to the stadium went faster than anticipated and when we got to the hospitality center, we were clearly early but that gave us a good opportunity to get settled. It would be hours until the game would start. Until then it would be talk, chatter, speculation and a lot of just waiting for what everyone was there for... the Game.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Official Banquet...

Official banquets are at best tedious and rarely fun experiences. The UEFA Champions League dinner was a combination of some extraordinary moments mixed in with a lot of too long speeches. It started out great with a very well produced video highlighting the two contestants of the Champions League Final match. The production values and the images were fantastic.

Then, our governmental host, Mayor Yuri Lushkov, a man who plays football twice a week before coming into the office and who I had met on my previous trip to Moscow when they hosted the FIFA Women's U20 World Championship in 2006, spoke for his allotted time and more. All speeches were consecutively translated, either from Russian to English or the reverse. So, it took twice as long.

Michel Platini on his way to the stage, proudly told me he would do his entire speech in English. To his credit he did and we only had the translation to Russian to go along with all the necessary words of thanks which he obligatorily offered to our hosts, the teams, the owners, the players, the entertainment, well... everyone. In addition, he exchanged gifts with Mayor Lushkov. The Russian mayor always gives something nice. I know, I have a lovely gift from him, while we football people exchange a plaque or other symbol of ourselves. The cities give nicer things.

In between, there was interspersed entertainment. Some of it was quite good. The dancers were resplendent in great costumes and the girls were beautiful too. There was a juggler who quite frankly was one of the best I have ever seen but, unfortunately didn't hold the attention of the crowd who were suffering with two further speeches by Peter Kenyon of Chelsea and David Gill of Manchester United.

There is a better way. Something I will share with my collegue David Taylor, the General Secretary of UEFA. Presentations need to be made and the hosts need the opportunity to put their social best foot forward, but when the number of hours exceed the match time plus overtime and penalties, it is time to revisit the organization of official banquets.

Game Day minus One...

We set off to visit Red Square. We knew that the exhibits set up would be attracting attention and it is the natural place where visitors go on their first day in Moscow. While St. Basil's looked normal enough, other views of the square screamed football, football, football!

As we approached the area, the amount of ambush marketing and just normal advertising around the event was very evident. Samsung was very active using Russian National Team coach Gus Hiddink in major billboards all over the city. In fact, Mary Lynn actually found Gus in Red Square, doing a little personal football diplomacy and promotion. Gus is a very personable Dutchman and attracts attention wherever he goes in Moscow. You can see he created a crowd everywhere. Traditional sponsors were also making good use of the time in Moscow. Sony had their colorful rabbits and soccer ball on almost every wall where they could fit. In fact, Sony was an official sponsor of the Champions League, but in the streets it was war for the hearts and minds of the football spectator.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday is all about Time...

You give up 8 hours in time difference, a loss they guarantee I will regain when returning to New York; you give up two hours of delay since the flight from Moscow to New York arrived late, these two hours you never make up; and another 9 hours of flying from New York's JFK Airport to Moscow, a long flight but consoled by the fact that I had longer ones coming up later in the week.

We arrived in the late afternoon, a couple of hours later than scheduled, but I for once actually managed to sleep about 6 of the 9 hours of travel time. Flights go much faster that way, but rarely do I get to enjoy that type of repose, I am normally awake portal to portal. A staff member of Team, UEFA's partner on their Championships, met us at the gate and escorted us to the VIP lounge where they took our luggage claim checks and had us wait a remarkably short time to collect them and take us through a nearby exit where our car met us and took us into downtown Moscow. This familiar trip went quicker than most since we were running against the rush hour traffic. Street banners and advertisements indicated that the city was ready for the big event only two days away.

Moscow has four Marriott Hotels. During our visits in 2006, we were at the Aurora, a very comfortable smaller hotel. This time, we were at the Marriott Grand Hotel. A really good choice and upon arrival were met by the UEFA staff who presented us with our information package and let us know that as of the morning we would have a dedicated driver and car to help us get around the city. We checked in and were led up to a very comfortable suite. We then settled in and began finding our way into this new time zone, 8 hours ahead. It is all about time and the best way to deal with jet lag is to go to bed at bedtime in the local zone. So, some Russian Borscht and a light dinner and it was off to bed and getting ready for the exciting days ahead.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday is all about Packing...

You would be surprised to know how much clothes, cameras, gifts, computers, accessories, books, documents and paperwork are needed to cover a two week working road trip. Two of us circumnavigating the globe with a load of meetings, games and functions in between. At my size and the number of different outfits required, I need two suitcases just for the clothing. Mary Lynn has to manage with one while we reserve a hard cased shoe box for computers and electronics.

Today's international travel is more complex when it come to setting up temporary offices. Being in Moscow and Sydney, each for at least five days calls for an array of hardware to support the multiple computers and communications systems. Power strips in the right voltage, transformers and power supplies for the computers, cameras and phones are normally the heavy weights, but now with Mary Lynn's enhanced camera lens collection, photography has now topped the scales.

At JFK Airport, the luggage handlers stacked our bags as we went aboard Aeroflot's flight from New York to Moscow. I don't comment too much about airlines these days. There isn't much good to say about most of them. I learned a couple of years ago while commuting to Moscow in preparation for the FIFA Women's U20 World Championship, that the best food was surprisingly found on the Russian national airline. I am happy to report that I wasn't disappointed and everything from the appetizers, the soup, the salad, the choices of main courses and dessert rivaled any of the better know airlines and surpassed most of them. I have been cautioned in my enthusiasm to say that this is only applicable to the routes of Moscow/NY, Moscow/London and Moscow/Zurich. Beyond that, it seems they are in a similar class to budget conscious airlines that have long since forgotten about their passengers.

More from Moscow...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Morning Theater...

Good morning. On Saturday mornings, as a kid, I used to go each week to the Utopia Theater on Union Turnpike and 188th Street in Queens. I have fond memories of those double features and the special movies we would see. Well, this Saturday morning, without the popcorn or the candy, I am offering you a little break from the world and the opportunity to watch a movie that can take you away to a place of entertainment. Enjoy.

To my friends who read this blog outside the USA, I didn't realize that this movie could only be seen from IP addresses inside the States until I arrived this evening in Moscow for the UEFA Champions League Final. I will work on a solution in the future, possibly not with Hulu, but in the meantime, Saturday mornings at the theater is restricted to those who can receive it. Italo is thirty four...

It may not sound like a Feist background tune in promotion of the iPod, but, it is a good way to say Happy Birthday to my Colleague and friend Italo Zanzi, who 1,2 will become 3,4 tomorrow on Sunday. Since he and his father are traveling today to Moscow to be part of the Champions League we were forced to celebrate on Friday night, 2 days early, at Elaine's on 2dn Avenue between 88th & 89th. Aside from Italo's favorite Spaghetti Bolognese, there were some new appetizers like meatballls of veal and pistachio nuts. For me, a full Veal Chop was pounded and turned into a great veal chop parmigiana Delicious.

His Father, Dr. Italo Zanzi, is just as excited about going. Chelsea and Manchester United in this dream final is one not be be missed and on we are happy about joining them on this sojourn with Mary Lynn and Myself the guests of UEFA. We begin our own special CONCACAF Champions League this August with Europe providing much of the model and guidance in our new venture. We hope to use the opportunity of this final help promote the inauguration of the CONCACAF Champions League. For sure, it will be a great event with friends on both teams.

College classmate at the University of Chicago with Italo, Ryan Morfin has been Italo's friend and even his finance manager in last year run for the House of Representatives. Here he is pictured with his long time girlfriend Diane with NBC Digital. They are good people and a lot of fun.

Elaine Kaufman, the owner of the estimable Bar and Restaurant on 2nd Avenue and 88th Street joined the celebration and contributed a delicious Nouget Ice Cream and Strawberry Whipped Cream birthday cake. Yummmmmmmy!!!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paul Gardner Celebrates with Friends

Seventeen of us gathered together on Thursday night at Scaletta's Restauratn on West 77th Street to celebrate Paul Gardner's 78th Birthday. Even though this was immediately following a full day of meetings with our Executive Committee, it wasn't a dinner that I, nor my friends like Clive Toye, Sunil Gulati or Ted Howard would have missed. Our friendship with Paul goes back over 25 years. Others too, like Ben Boehm, Emil Cohill and Milton Espinoza of the Cosmopolitan League in New York, wouldn't miss the opportunity to share our friend's birthday. Lawrie Miflin with the NY Times and Mike Woitalla of Soccer America were also there and others of literary hand and an appreciation for beautiful game.

Paul is full of opinions. Many of the correct, othes not as much so, but he is never shy or retiring when it comes to his expressions on how we or others should be doing things better.

Other critical writers were also at the big table where we were hosted by restaurant owner former Cosmo and Arrow's player
Freddy Grgurev.

A publisher's description of one of Paul's books sounds like this...

  • The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer

    by Paul Gardner

    About this title: The Simplest Game is the definitive reference to soccer, the world's most popular sport. Fully revised to coincide with the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and the continuing explosion of American interest in the game since the 1994 World Cup, The Simplest Game explores the game, its players, and its history. Paul Gardner provides an authoritative and entertaining view of soccer's colorful history and lore. Originally published in 1976, The Simplest Game was heralded as "a storehouse of valuable information" by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Now completely revised and updated to reflect the changes the game has undergone since then and published for the first time with photos of the most memorable and talented players, the book offers a wealth of facts, figures, and anecdotes that enable one to become part of the knowledgeable fraternity that speaks intelligently about the sport. The Simplest Game traces the evolution of soccer from a crude, rustic pastime into a sophisticated worldwide business. It sketches the history and achievements of soccer, highlights world competitions and important players, examines the growth of divergent national playing styles, and spells out what is needed for the United States to develop an indigenous style of play and players of international caliber. The Simplest Game is for anyone searching for an introduction to, or a better understanding of, the world's most followed sport.

Paul is a great observer and over years of my developing leadership role in the sport, Paul has helped me develop a view of what I feel is best for the game and in sync with the needs of the people who watch and report on it. Paul can be read in New York in the Daily Sun and Soccer America in his Soccer Talk column. Paul also contributes to World Soccer.

Thanks for your help over the years. Your continuing support and assistance continues to be greatly appreciated. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CONCACAF Executive meets in NYC

NEW YORK (Thursday, 15 May 2008) - The CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Executive Committee met today at the offices of the General Secretariat in New York City.The meeting was presided over by CONCACAF President Jack Warner, who just days earlier was in Chengdu, China during the earthquake that struck the city. President Warner opened the meeting by thanking his colleagues and constituents for all the messages of concern that were sent to him during the past few days. He also praised the leadership of the Asian Football Confederation for their efforts in facilitating his departure from China which enabled him to arrive in time for the CONCACAF Executive Committee meeting. President Warner also expressed his sincere condolences to all those affected by the tragedy.

The CONCACAF Executive Committee was briefed on several issues, including:

• Reports on the recently concluded 2008 CONCACAF championships such as the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup™, the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Qualification
, and the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship
• Developments related to upcoming CONCACAF championships such as the 2008 CONCACAF Futsal Championship, the 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 and Under-20 Championships, and the 2009 CONCACAF Under-20 and Under-17 Men’s Championships
•Updates on the inaugural 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League™, including information on qualifyingcriteria, commercial guidelines, and stadium standards
• Summaries of recently concluded broadcast and marketing agreements for several tournaments
• Plans for the upcoming XVII Extraordinary Congress of CONCACAF to be held in Sydney, Australia on 28 May 2008 and the 59th FIFA Congress to be held at Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas in May 2009.
The next meeting of the CONCACAF Executive Committee will take place in November 2008 in the Cayman Islands.

CONCACAF Exco Meets Today...

After Jack's safe arrival yesterday in New York and a great dinner last night at BLT Market, the Executive Committee of CONCACAF will meet in its New York offices today and go through an agenda of 31 topics. High on the agenda is the organization of new competitions.

The Exco will also make final preparations for the CONCACAF and FIFA Congresses later this month in Sydney, Australia. More on all of this after the meeting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Celebrating Agreement on Fox English Language rights for the Champions League

Dermot McQuarrie, Senior Vice President of Fox Sports International is pictured here with Italo Zanzi, Executvie Vice President of CMTV. We hosted the Fox execs at a dinner at Bice on East 54th Street, btween Madison and Fifth, to celebrate the successful conclusion of an agreement between CONCACAF and Fox for the English Language rights of CONCACAF Chmapions League games with an English speaking team participating. This important slot fills important airspace for the USA fans who want to see the games covered in English. They will broadcast into the Caribbean as well.

Also at dinner were Raul de Quesada, David Sternberg and Frank Uddo (now in Italo's ex-post at MLB International.)

David was the prime negotiator for Fox while Italo and Stefano Turconi did most of the heavy lifting on our side.

We are happy with this deal since it services an important segment of the market.