20 million to one – the FIFA eWorld Cup

Traditionally during the British summer months, sports other than football get to dominate the headlines through the game’s summer break.

Despite recent events in Russia lengthening last year’s football season, this weekend saw a number of non-football related events take the sporting headlines:

One other major event, however, was football related, as Saudi Arabia’s Mosaad ‘Msdossary’ Aldossary, was crowned winner of the 2018 Fifa eWorld Cup in London, securing himself a $250,000 prize as a result.

The rise of gaming and eSports has been covered in some detail on this blog. Yesterday’ event was yet further evidence of its exponential growth.

How many tournaments can claim a winner narrowed down from over 20 million entrants? This is how many entered this year’s tournament in November last year with Aldossary claiming victory at the Grand Final at the O2 in front of a crowd of hundreds.

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A turn of fortune for AC Milan as CAS partially uphold Financial Fair Play Appeal

On 27 June 2018, UEFA’s Adjudicatory Chamber of the Club Financial Control Body (“CFCB”) issued a decision to exclude AC Milan from participating in the next UEFA club competition for which it would otherwise qualify in for the next two seasons.

This meant that AC Milan would be prevented from competing in the Europa League next season, for which the club had qualified.

The CFCB found that AC Milan contravened Financial Fair Play (“FFP”) rules, in particular the requirement for clubs to break-even, balancing the club’s spending with its revenues. This rule aims to restrict clubs from accumulating debt. The CFCB is an independent branch of UEFA and reviews the last three years’ worth of club finances in order to assess whether clubs have complied with the break-even requirement.AC Milan has experienced some difficulty in recent years in re-establishing its dominance in European competitions and at home in Serie A. Deloitte’s Football Money League report in 2017 revealed AC Milan’s total revenue for the season was €191.7m, the 22nd highest of a football club that year. The report notes:

AC Milan’s departure from the top 20 is their first and is remarkable given they had been in the top ten in every edition up to and including 2012/13.”

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Sam Warburton’s retirement from rugby union. What will the sport learn from this?

Two weeks ago former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton retired from rugby at the age of 29. He has struggled with a long list of rugby related injuries, most recently having knee surgery in December 2017 and neck surgery in September 2017 and following which he claimed, “my body is unable to give me back what I had hoped for on my return to training”.

When one considers the retirement of this young player, who chose to prioritise his long-term health and wellbeing, together the growing rate of injuries and concussions in the sport, will it provoke changes within rugby’s regulations to make it safer?

As part of the Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project, the annual injury audit of rugby union analysed injury trends. It found for example that the average time taken for players to return from injury in the 2016-2017 season was 32 days. This was the first time this figure had risen above the expected upper limit of seasonal variation. Further, concussion was the most commonly reported match injury, at 22% of all match injuries. The average time taken for players to return from medically diagnosed match concussion was 18 days and this was a rise on the previous year. Continue Reading

What is biomechanics and how is it useful in athletics?

On Sunday the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) released 38 reports as part of the largest ever biomechanics study in athletics. For those who haven’t heard of this term before, biomechanics is essentially ‘the physics of sports’. It is the science of analysing human movement and examples include analysing how a swimmer’s hand positioning affects their propulsion or how a tennis player’s positioning affects the strength of their shot. At sport’s highest levels where milliseconds and millimetres can determine who is a medallist, this area of research should enable athletes to perfect finer details and improve overall performance. Biomechanics reflects the rise in the use of technology and athlete data we are seeing throughout various sports.

Alongside the thousands of spectators present at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London were 49 high speed and HD cameras. Their recordings were analysed by the IAAF in partnership with Leeds Beckett University. In their results, the reports evaluate the movements of the world’s top athletes such as Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Allyson Felix. Taking the Men’s 100m report by way of example, it goes into meticulous detail down to measuring the angles at which various parts of the eight finalists’ bodies were positioned at touchdown and toe off (i.e. when their foot was in contact with the ground and when that same foot was in the air). The detail can seen in the figures below.

More somewhat digestible data was produced, for example, athletes’ mean speed over each 10-metre split and their mean step length over 100 metres. From this, athletes and coaches can gain a useful insight into the movements of the world’s best athletes, and competitors can try to replicate the same biomechanical movements in their events to improve their performance.

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WADA issue statement to ‘clarify facts’ of the UCI decision

Last week Sports Shorts considered the UCI decision to close the investigation against four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome. In the wake of that decision, criticism of Froome and the decision was still present with the Team Sky rider being booed at the team presentation. Froome ultimately did not get off to the best start at the competition crashing into Richie Porte on the first day.

It appears that suspicions remain in relation to the events that have led to the case being dropped, which can only have be compounded by the closed door process that led to that decision. In the light of this, WADA decided to publish a statement last night on 11 July 2018 to “clarify elements that have been subject to much speculation and misinformation.”

The WADA statement was split into two sections, section one being “The substance, the test and the science” and section two “The process”. The key elements of the statement are summarised below.

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All bets are off, as Italian Ministers are accused of gambling away the future financial security of Serie A?

Italy’s Council of Ministers has approved a blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country, which will take effect on 1 January 2019. The Council of Ministers has the power to pass decrees with legal force in cases where Parliament has expressly delegated legislative authority to the Council. In recent years, there has been a shift in legislative power from the hands of Italy’s parliament to the council.  This means that the ban, as it stands, will come into effect as law in the New Year.

It was reported only a few months ago that “Italian betting is finally moving forward” and “stakeholders currently await with optimism”. However, this blanket ban has shattered these expectations, imposing a complete ban on gambling-related sponsorships.

The decree’s explanatory report reads:

“any form [of gambling advertising] even indirect … is prohibited; however carried out and on any means, including sporting, cultural or artistic events, television or radio broadcasts, daily and periodical press, general publications, billboards and internet”.

The report adds that the ban “also applies to sponsorship”. The ban prohibits all promotional activity of gambling in Italy and so prevents clubs from displaying any marks or branding from the gambling sector.

The legislation aims to fight gambling addiction by banning betting advertisements across all media platforms, including television, websites, radios and the sponsorship of sports clubs. The government hopes that banning advertising in this way will reduce the number of vulnerable members of society from engaging in gambling.

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Chris Froome Cleared to Compete in the Tour

On 2 July, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) announced that the anti-doping investigation against four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome had been closed, clearing him to compete in this year’s edition of ‘Le Tour’.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), followed this announcement with its own, indicating that it would not appeal the decision of the UCI. This decision comes just in time for Froome to compete in the Tour, which starts on Saturday.

In an interview published yesterday, David Lappartient commented on the fact that he had previously thought that the decision would not come before the start of the Tour de France, however the UCI received all of the documents necessary to clear the Team Sky cyclist for the competition:

“We received the final explanation from Mr Christopher Froome on the 4th of June and in line with this we received the  statement from the WADA on 28th June, so we have then all the elements to close the case.“

What were the accusations?

On 7 September 2017, following Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, Froome was subject to a test which showed salbutamol levels in his system over and above the 1,000-nanogram per millimetre limit. Under article 2.1 of the UCI UCI Cycling Regulations (the Regulations) the presence of a prohibited substance in a rider’s sample is an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

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How Not To Celebrate a Goal at the World Cup

Scoring at a World Cup deserves a celebration and we have been entertained by a range of them throughout the tournament. From Fortnite inspired dances by Lingard and Griezmann to Colombia’s choreographed routine and Batshuayi’s self-inflicting kick in the face.

Yet none of these resulted in the same reaction from FIFA as Xhaka and Shaqiri’s celebrations during Switzerland’s victory against Serbia. After each player scored, they made a gesture known as the ‘double eagle,’ which is a nationalist symbol that represents the eagle on the Albanian flag.

Both players have Albanian heritage. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. However, Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Xhaka’s father was imprisoned for demonstrating against Serbia’s government in the 1980s and so both had their reasons to celebrate in such a way when scoring against Serbia.

Under Article 54 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code:

Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of CHF 5,000.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee opened proceedings against the duo but soon concluded they had not breached Article 54. Instead, they had infringed the FIFA disciplinary code for unsporting behaviour.

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FA Announce Restructuring of Non-League

With most footballing eyes firmly on the World Cup, and England’s crunch match with Belgium, the Football Association’s League Committee (FALC) has announced a change in the way the National League System (NLS) is going to be structured going forward in order to create a more consistent system across the country that standardises the movement through the English Football Pyramid.

The changes include reducing the number of clubs in some divisions, creating additional divisions at Step 4 and temporarily suspending the play-off system lower down the pyramid.

How is the NLS Structured?

The NLS, sometimes referred to as ‘Non-League’, is the structure of men’s football that sits below the Premier League and the Football League (i.e. the Premier League down to League 2), see the diagram below from the FA:

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How is President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal related to the FIFA World Cup?

I admit I was disappointed picking Iran in the office World Cup sweepstake. I was even more disappointed when I then discovered the national side had not been supplied with their usual Nike football boots shortly before the tournament.

Nike withdrew their supply of boots to Iran due to US sanctions. In May 2018, Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers. When doing so, he re-imposed the economic sanctions that had been waived when the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. Events on the global stage have resulted in Iranian footballers having to find alternatives, using boots they are not used to playing with and causing frustration across social media.

Nike have been quick to point out they are simply complying with legal requirements and a breach of such sanctions would result in significant fines. Yet this does not seem to concern Iranians as #NoToNike has been used across Twitter, and following the team’s 1-0 win against Morocco, a witty ‘We Just Did It, Without You’.

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