Tue. Jan 18th, 2022


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Hello sports fans. My week was once again dominated by Novak Djokovic‘s ongoing struggle against the Australian government, which made a second attempt to remove him from the country. The saga is detrimental, not to mention attention-grabbing, to not only the tennis star but also the Australian Open ourselves, and we have a special message from Nic Fildes, the FT’s Australia and Pacific correspondent on the political consequences.

In our second item, outgoing sports editor Murad Ahmed meets the owner of ACF Fiorentina, the Italian-American billionaire Rocco Commisso, which opposes the business status quo in A league. Read more – Sam Agini, sports business reporter.

Send us tips and feedback at scoreboard@ft.com. Haven’t you already received the email newsletter? Sign in here. For everyone else, let’s go.

Djokovic’s court battle in Australia

Novak Djokovic: No wax, no tennis? © AP

This week’s Australian Open in Melbourne has quickly turned into one of the world’s greatest sports stories for all the wrong reasons.

Novak Djokovic, a nine-time champion of the tournament, overshadowed the rest of Australia’s summer of sport. The Serb will overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadalto catch up with his trophy, and probably position himself as the greatest tennis player of all time, if he wins again.

But no one talks about tennis. By late Friday, Djokovic had his visa revoked for a second time by the Australian government, throwing the men’s draw into uncertainty amid an ongoing international battle over the Serbian star’s vaccination status.

Let’s rinse back. Last week, the Australian Border Force held the world’s number one player at Melbourne’s airport and initially withdrew his visa after failing to provide enough evidence to justify a medical release that would allow him to enter Australia as an unvaccinated visitor.

If it looked like an overreaction overseas, it was not in Australia. Melbourne has just come out of the longest confinement in the world, Omicron is walking through the country and the move to give Djokovic – a vaccine skeptic – a release at a time when state governments have ordered vaccines has caused genuine outrage .

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose Liberal Party is at the back of the polls during an election year chose to go on the offensive. He raised the prospect of putting Djokovic home on the first plane – before his incoming flight even landed.

But Djokovic’s setback against the Australian government was unexpectedly strong. His visa cancellation was overturned by a federal judge and the publication of a transcript of his border interviews sparked sympathy for the star. While enjoying a late night hit in the Rod Laver Arena, Serbian supporters rioted in the streets outside his lawyer’s offices for fear that their hero was not yet safe.

They were right. Djokovic admitted on Wednesday that he had an interview with The team last month while knowing he was positive for Covid-19 and further revealing that his agent had incorrectly filled out his documentation – which is a serious offense – causing a new wave of insults.

Djokovic may have a mixed record on the tennis courts and courts, but in the court of public opinion he is taciturn: a poll conducted by News Corp of 61,000 people found that 84 percent of respondents said he should be deported.

The government’s decision to serve another deportation order yesterday means Djokovic will be back in, rather than on, the courts before he can think of beating records. A trial late at night in Melbourne has revealed that Djokovic is likely to face new arrests ahead of another appeal on Sunday – the eve of the tournament which is open.

Rocco Commisso’s fight for the future of Fiorentina

Rocco Commisso: man on a mission © Bloomberg

Rocco Commisso joins Italian Serie A football club ACF Fiorentina 2019 for € 170m. The American billionaire thought he was doing an act of service and pumping money back into the country of his birth and the sport he loves.

As featured in this FT Weekend Magazine story which Commisso profile, he became incensed about how the football business is run.

One of his biggest problems is with the agents who represent football players. One example is ongoing problems with Fiorentina’s star striker, Dusan Vlahovic, which draws strong attention from competing clubs, such as Arsenal of the English Premier League.

First a little background. The so-called Bosman ruling, a 1995 ruling by the European Court of Justice, opened up rules about players moving between clubs, leading to the richest teams traversing the world to stack their teams with the best talent.

Since then, cash has flown away from owners and to their workforce.

In European football, most clubs spend about 70 to 80 percent of their income on football player salaries. According to Fifa, international football’s governing body, global spending on player transfer fees in 2019 was around £ 5.5 billion, while fees paid to agents organizing moves amounted to around £ 550 million.

This booming trade in players is also largely unregulated. Agents can essentially charge what they want.

In an example in 2016, Fransman Paul Pogba moved for a then world record transfer fee of £ 89.3 million from Italy’s Juventus to England’s Manchester United. But the player’s agent, Mino Raiola, himself secured £ 41m for the mediation of the move, including commissions from Juventus, Manchester United and Pogba.

Commisso supports proposed reforms by Fifa – opposed by people like Raiola – to limit commissions to just 10 per cent of a transfer fee, while also ending ‘double representation’, so that an agent is no longer involved in a transfer by multiple parties can not be paid.

When Vlahovic’s contract expires in 2023, he could leave for free, giving him a strong hand to negotiate better terms with Fiorentina or any club he moves to next.

People informed of the talks say Fiorentina offered Vlahovic a salary worth € 5 million per season, more than any other player in the club’s history. This amount was rejected as too small. Yet the real problem seems to be the demands of Vlahovic’s Belgrade-based agency International Sports Office.

Those familiar with the talks said the agency wants; a € 8 million fee to renew Vlahovic’s contract with Fiorentina, an “exclusive mandate” to sell the striker in the future, a 10 percent commission on any transfer fee and a further 10 percent fee from any buying club. In other words, a payday worth tens of millions of euros to facilitate just one transfer.

A person close to the International Sports Office said the provisions were “in line with industry-specific standards”. Commisso reckons it shows how “screwed up” the football business is. He’s probably right about that.

Highlights

Man City: rising blue moon © AP

  • Manchester City, the Abu Dhabi-controlled Premier League football club, surpass rival Manchester United in the race to generate the most revenue in English football. This is the first time that any club in England is at the top of United’s revenue.

  • The Premier League won it A Supreme Court payout of at least $ 212 million from its former broadcast partner in China, a sign that the world’s richest domestic soccer competition will take legal action to enforce contracts where necessary. However, court documents have shown that Hong Kong-based PPLive has stopped making payments to its legal representatives, with the league starting the process of recovering its fees and costs.

  • The PGA Tour, the North American Golf Organization, teamed up Netflix to produce a documentary series on the lives of the world’s top players, as more sports become the success of Drive to survive, the streaming platform’s behind-the-scenes look at Formula One. The show is credited with exciting interest in the motor racing series.

  • State funding for English cricket must be cut if the sport’s governing body can not show that efforts against racism are working, according to a proposal by MPs. The report by the House of Commons’ Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport follows revelations of whistleblower and ex-player abuse Azeem Rafiq last year.

  • appeal wants in on live sports rights and is in talks with Major League Baseball about broadcasting games, According to the New York Post. Such an agreement will have to wait until the league and the MLB Players Association provisions agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. Both sides are still negotiating and team owners excluded the players last month.

Final whistle

Less than a month from now, the best skiers, skaters, curlers and snowboarders will flock to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. a dog or horse is pulled together. Partly horseback riding, partly freestyle skiing, it already has a dedicated trailer and deep pockets supporters like Credit Suisse. Never seen? Mush on ear to this track of (yes) the Cowboy Channel.

Scoreboard was written by Samuel Agini, Murad Ahmed 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 FT’s worldwide network of correspondents and data visualization span

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