Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Here is another 2015 MLS controversy for you ...

Orlando City chief soccer officer Armando Carneiro leaves position

Orlando City's chief soccer officer Armando Carneiro has resigned for personal reasons, the MLS club announced on Monday.

Carneiro joined Orlando City from Porto less than two months ago to oversee operations and staff.

"We fully understand Armando's personal reasons for stepping down from his role and respect his wishes. We thank him for his help and wish him luck with his future career," Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said in a statement. ...

Seethe whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: This is not great news for OCSC and comes as a bit of a shock to me. Some have stopped to wonder if the personal reasons were the uncertainly of OCSC and MLS in general. Others have wondered if a move from a football power like Benfica, to well, an MLS team had something to do with it.

Either way, it is a loss for MLS and a stunning reversal after MLS was crowing about the arrival a little over a month ago. This is bigger than OCSC if I had to guess ... and that to me is a real controversy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

(My) Best of MLS Controversies 2015

Best of MLS Controversies 2015

No exciting season comes without a few flaps and dust-ups along the way. Along with the stunning highs of the season and tournaments this year came some equally dramatic controversies, too.

Here are some of the ones that got people talking (and typing) the most, as voted by the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLS.com.

Kicking Back Comments: I duuno ... I think there are a few others in 2015 that caused and will cause a bigger stir.

First is NRP's column on America v. MLS and the stir it caused. While certainly accomplished, Deford is dead wrong and lacks vision in this case. In short, the games he has reported on and worshiped in his lifetime in the next 20 years, will begin to be in decline as others, like soccer and lacrosse continue to gain prominence.

Second, is the MLS relationship with Audi, whose parent company is Volkswagen. Just as Volkswagen is tainted courtesy of Dieselgate, so too may be Audi. While MLS Cup 2015 did not seem to be affected, what the future holds is less than certain.

Finally, the recent DOJ investigation ripping through FIFA has not excluded the Americans. Chuck Blazer and Aaron Davidson know this better than most right now as the later is still seeking a plea deal. While Sunil Gulati did not choose to appear before Congress (and gave a great answer why) there was speculation he too may know about the scandal rocking FIFA. If he or other Americans are implicated, that could be a significant set back for the MLS.

Somehow in the face of such a prospect, a player or two throwing a temper tantrum does not rate very highly for me.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Brilliance from NRAH

See "The NFL made a calculated attempt to exterminate me" from NRAH.

A must read and must see video to (in part) demonstrate how a sports league can try to warp perception on serious issues.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Straight From JAFO ... A Great Christmas Message

Hat tip to JAFO for the video below and the message it holds.

For all those serving, so we can enjoy peace, thank you.

http://biggeekdad.com/2011/02/bob-hope-christmas/

Thursday, December 24, 2015

For Once Sepp is Right

Sepp Blatter dares FIFA's American sponsors to leave

Sepp Blatter, the banned president of FIFA, called out the organization's American sponsors on Tuesday, saying they will not end their sponsorships even if reform demands are not met.

"Companies, commercial partners are queuing up to get in," Blatter told The Wall Street Journal. "If the Americans want to leave, others will come. But they don't want to get out ... They won't leave." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of CNN Money.

Kicking Back Comments: As sad a comment as it is, Sepp seems to be 100% correct. 

I personally take great stock in how people (or companies) act, not in what their press release says. I and scores of other folks have written about the saber rattling the mighty sponsors of FIFA have done saying how unacceptable FIFA's behavior has become. Yet, for all that rattling, there has been no action from many.

In this same way, there are several companies that should be applauded for taking action. Castrol, Johnson & Johnson, Continental, Sony, and Emirates had the courage to stand up and drop their sponsorship of FIFA. While some have stated in a few of those cases the sponsorship was up for renewal, the salient point is, they did not renew due in part to the deplorable mess that is FIFA.

Even in the face of the ethical challenges outright corruption (this is a brilliant video) and employment contract issues human right violationsseveral companies continue to fund these activities. Several others are also cued up ready to hand over the monies they have earned from customers as well.

At this point I can't classify their desire as less than knowingly supporting corruption and human rights violations. While each of these companies has ethical issues of their own (see ADIDAS,  Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyudani, McDonalds, note that Visa to give then their due was recently voted one of the most ethical) their efforts to give monies to FIFA who propagates this corruption makes them no better.

Yet they line up and yes ... Sepp is right, they will not leave. So for all the noise they make about ethical behavior, they do nothing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger to play Sepp Blatter in "United Passions" remake

Sepp Blatter blames United States for his eight-year FIFA ban

Sepp Blatter blamed the U.S. for the eight-year ban handed down by FIFA over ethics violations on Monday, an apparent jab at a federal investigation responsible for several indictments of officials from soccer's international governing body.

"If we had awarded the World Cup in 2022 to the USA, we would not be here,” Blatter said in Italian at a meandering, nearly one-hour news conference.

Blatter was found guilty of violating FIFA’s ethics rules, allegations that centered around a $2 million payment Blatter approved for Michel Platini, a FIFA vice president and head of the Union of European Football Associations. Platini, once the former front-runner to replace Blatter, also received an eight-year suspension. Both had already received provisional bans. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: One of the things I find funny is that Sepp for all his "... it's the USA's fault ..." has hired an attorney from ... yeah, the US. Richard Cullen from McGuire Woods is representing him in the matter. Some may say, the best money can buy. Then again, with Cullen's close ties to the DOJ and FBI, it is a most excellent choice.

My title of course comes from Sepp's exiting line of "I'll be back" when he huffed his way out of the hearing Monday. 


What is certain however is that United Passions was a massive failure, only making $200K at the box office, and having bonafide actors like Tim Roth say United Passions was "awful."  Even the trailer is awful.


I honestly think Hollywood should do a movie on FIFA. Not the shimmering propaganda piece that was United passions, but a real honest to goodness behind the scenes of FIFA.

It has to be better than United Passions ... or the alternate titles they were considering.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Eight years is not enough ... but it is a good start

Fifa: Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini get eight-year bans

Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa boss Michel Platini have been suspended for eight years from all football-related activities following an ethics investigation.

They were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011.

The Fifa ethics committee found Blatter and Platini had demonstrated an "abusive execution" of their positions.

"I will fight for me and for Fifa," Blatter, 79, said at a news conference.

The bans come into force immediately. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: While this is a step in the right direction, it is far from over. Eight years is not nearly enough for what Sepp has been convicted of doing. While in essence this is a life sentence from him given his age of 79 (making him eligible to participate again at 87) not so for Platini who is only 50 and would become eligible at 58.

No of course Sepp blamed everyone but himself and was defiant in the hearing. His next step would seem to be the Court of Arbitration and Sport (CAS) which has ethical issues of its own in my view. Even there however, I think Sepp is in some trouble. Not because he is corrupt, but even worse, the world needs a head on a pike to make people start to feel better about FIFA.

That head it would seem, will be Sepp Blatter's.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Francly my dear ... I don't give a damn

Fifa scandal: Large cash sums frozen by Switzerland

Fifty Swiss bank accounts allegedly linked to world football governing body Fifa have been frozen.

US officials believe "corruption money" may have been moved through the now frozen accounts, the Swiss justice ministry said.

Between 50m and 100m Swiss francs ($50.1m-100.2m; £34m-£67m) was in them, media reports say. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: I continue to find it the height of irony that the country who many in the rest of the world feel is a 3rd rate soccer power, is single handedly cleaning it up.

Will this be our legacy to The Game?

And for any who wondered where the title came from ... 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Who Cares?

Referee Bill Kennedy, following slur by Rajon Rondo, announces he's gay

Veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy has announced he is gay.

"I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo Sports. "I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: So before PC Principal comes to find me, the title of the article is not meant to demean Bill Kennedy for announcing he is a homosexual.

My comment is meant to ask, what difference does it make if Rondo made a slur of any type toward a referee? Why should it matter if the particular referee is gay or not? Rondo should get the book thrown at him for his words, period. 

The punishment handed down to Rondo is, by NBA standards, fairly astounding. I believe this is the first time an NBA player has been suspended for comments to a referee in the last 3 or 4 years, where a fine suffices in such cases.

From reports, the comment Rondo made came after he was given a lightning fast pair of technical fouls and was going to get his moneys worth for being run. These comments included a "homophobic slur" in his rant. That is if Rondo knew Kennedy was gay.

This has a couple of dimensions however as the Celtics and Kennedy have some history. Specifically Doc Rivers and Rondo have had other unpleasant conversations with Kennedy in the past, and some reports have it going both ways. Also, Kennedy's sexual orientation was to many an "open secret" to NBA teams and referees alike. While understandably, Kennedy is a private man and did not share this fact publicly, it was apparently known in NBA circles. 

[For any who care to take the flip side of the coin where no one knew of Kennedy's orientation, then frankly this is not an issue at all other than Rondo's bad behavior.]

Why then does it deserve special treatment from the NBA front office?

So we have a player popping off to a referee ... and who used a slur during the tirade ...
What is so unusual?

How many times have we as referees (or in traffic) collectively had our sexuality, gender, race, family relationships, heritage, and just about anything else a player (or other driver) can think of questioned openly?

Please don't misunderstand me, it is not right, and I am not condoning it, but to say it is rare is just factually incorrect.

Is the NBA now going to suspend, not just fine, ANY player who uses that slur without regard to whom it is directed to? If so, why have they not up to this point?

There is a double standard at play here and if the NBA is going to fine players for calling referees names ... that's great and it seems appropriate. If the NBA is going to start playing PC Principal by suspending players for what they think is "insensitive", not so great and are in for a world of trouble. (As one example, they were in Mexico for this game ... what is Rondo called Kennedy a slur in Spanish that he did not understand? Still a suspension?)

If Rondo was really demeaning Kennedy regarding his sexuality, and the NBA can look into his heart and determine that, a single game without pay is not nearly enough punishment for something so heinous. If this was truly the case (as Tom Ziller seems to believe in his recent article) Rondo should go for a very, very, very long time.

Instructive on this is Roberto Alomar and what his words cost him in time and treasure ... or some may say, ultimately gained him in understanding. For those who forgot, not only did Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck but then made reference to his kids, one who just died from ALS and another who at that time was diagnosed with it. Hirschbeck had to be physically restrained from doing physical harm to Alomar the next day by Umpire Legend Jim Joyce.

Interestingly, I wonder if the whole thing actually forced Kennedy to make the public announcement of his homosexuality. As without Rondo getting popped and the NBA making more of it than they have anything in the past regarding dissent, does this even come up?

I for one am not sure, but would hope it was a discussion with Kennedy on such an intensely personal issue and not a way for the new commish to "show force."

For the dissent however, who cares, Rondo was mad and popped off. Throw the book at him and lets move on. If truly the alternative, get Rondo out, and move on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Will the DOJ's investigation into FIFA hurt our efforts with ISIS?

US attorney general hopes Qatar cooperates in World Cup probe

The United States hopes Qatar will cooperate with the World Cup bidding investigation, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Wednesday, insisting that the Gulf nation being a key ally in the fight against Islamic State militants was irrelevant in any considerations about pursuing a corruption case.

The U.S. is working closely on the FIFA investigation with Swiss authorities, whose case started by probing the dual votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups five years ago. ...

See the whole story here, from Fox.

Kicking Back Comments: I have great hopes that AG Lynch is not so naive that she believes that an investigation which may strip the tiny desert nation of Qatar of its World Cup in 2022, does not have implications regarding the current operations and investigation we have regarding ISIS in the same country.

I learned this lesson long ago from a FIFA referee at a international tournament hosted in the US. While it was in regard to a US v. Mexico U17 match we did, the lesson was impactful that where countries are involved, sport, politics, economics, religion, and a very way of life are part of each match.

Ties between the peoples in Qatar involved in sport and politics are clearly the same ... as I would imagine are several government officials who are aware of various investigations. To think that one will not effect or at the very least, cross paths with the other is preposterous.

Qatar getting an opportunity to host a World Cup is a big deal for them. Countries pay big money for the chance to host ... and while I am speaking about bribes ... I am also speaking about the monies countries lay out to make that happen.

Do I think there are a few good people able to separate out ferreting out corruption from ferreting out bad guys? Yes.

Do I think the majority of people will be able to separate out those two things as distinct from the other and not look for favors in the process? No. Sadly.

To tell you the truth, that may be okay for me. I would rather give up the World Cup and get the bad guys than the other way around. In a perfect world it should be both, but we sadly do not live in such a Utopia.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Yes, it actually can get worse for FIFA

US steps up pressure against banks in Fifa probe

US prosecutors are threatening to punish banks for failing to report suspicious activity on Fifa-related accounts as part of the sprawling corruption probe into world football’s governing body, people familiar with the case told the Financial Times.

The criminal charges could have serious implications if prosecutors proceed. In 2014, JPMorgan Chase paid a $2bn penalty for failing to file such reports in relation to the so-called Ponzi scheme led by Bernard Madoff. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of FT.com.

Kicking Back Comments: The US DOJ is leaving no stone unturned with FIFA. I will be curious to see how many bank "spill the beans" on them in an effort to save their own skin and face very harsh fines if implicated in the matter. Either way, Ms. Lynch is earning her new title as "FIFA Slayer."

There is however a price that may have to be paid with regard to ISIS if the investigation keeps going the way it does. US, FIFA, and ISIS I think are about to intersect in an interesting way. It makes me wonder if Qatar will get its World Cup, so the US can pursue ISIS.

Stay tuned for that though later this week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Classless in Columbus

Columbus Crew supporters throw beer cans at Portland Timbers players during MLS Cup Final

Columbus Crew supporters hurled more than a dozen cans onto the field after Portland Timbers winger Rodney Wallace scored in the seventh minute of Sunday's MLS Cup Final.

The poor sportsmanship by Crew fans came as the Timbers players were attempting to celebrate the goal near the corner flag. The players had to quickly run back to midfield to avoid getting hit by the cans.

Stadium staff quickly cleaned up the cans and play continued. The stadium announcer then reminded the crowd that throwing items onto the field could lead to ejection. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Oregonlive.com.

Kicking Back Comments: I am incredibly disappointed by the fan(atic) reaction to pelt players with beer cans and bottles. I am even more disappointed by the stadium reaction to quietly pick up the discarded cans and bottles and announce to not do it again or we may eject you. I am most disappointed by MLS to not come out and have these folks arrested or at the very least ejected and required to take the "MLS Fan Conduct Class."

Let's face it, this is a way for MLS (among others) to jam up spectators that go way too far in their actions during a game ... like throwing beer bottles into the field. For the non-trival sum of $250, you have to take this on line course to get your "stadium privileges" back. Sounds like a no brainer.

It of course is largely symbolic and means almost nothing as from the web site itself "These are educational courses only. They are not a substitute for medical or psychological advice or counseling. They are not a replacement or substitute for in or out patient treatment for alcohol or substance abuse."

Even with available remedies and a truly no-brainer solution to the serious threat Crew fan(atics) placed on the MLS Cup this year, MLS is seemingly going to do nothing. Not even a mention from Simon Borg in his final episode of Instant Replay this year.

Fortunately, MLS treats its own with substance issues much better. Frankly, the way a league should. I would just like to see this responsibility extend to the safety of the players and referees involved.

Monday, December 7, 2015

FIFA Should Have Stayed At a Holiday Inn Express Last Night

FIFA Corruption: Top Officials Arrested in Pre-Dawn Raid at Zurich Hotel

ZURICH — Swiss authorities began a new series of pre-dawn arrests Thursday in the broad investigation, led by United States officials, into corruption in international soccer. Sixteen people were expected to be charged by day’s end, law enforcement officials said, nearly doubling the size of an already huge case that has upended FIFA, soccer’s multibillion-dollar governing body.

Some of the arrests took place at the same luxury hotel where other FIFA officials were arrested in May. Swiss police entered the hotel, the Baur au Lac, through a side door at 6 a.m. local time. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: Listen, the Baur au Lac looks like a great place, but the Sheraton Z├╝rich Neues Schloss Hotel is right down the street and frankly, less full of police looking to drag you off in the pre-dawn hours.

I do still laugh at the Holiday Inn Express commercials though ... here is one of my favorites.




Trust me folks, we will get to the despicable behavior of Columbus fans in yesterdays MLS Cup match ... I am just seeing what the MLS front office says before I comment fully.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And to complete the MLS trinity ...

... I offer the 2015 refereeing crew for the MLS final.

MLS Cup 2015: PRO announce refereeing crew for final

The 2015 MLS Cup will see Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers go head-to-head at MAPFRE Stadium, and PRO's Jair Marrufo will referee the game after the Organization named him as the center official for Sunday's showdown (4pm EDT).

Marrufo will be assisted at a sold-out stadium by Peter Manikowski (AR1) and Corey Parker (AR2). Chris Penso will be on fourth official duties, while James Conlee is the fifth official.

PRO General Manager Peter Walton told proreferees.com: "We have witnessed some very good officiating performances both in the regular season and throughout these Playoff games. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of PRO.

Kicking Back Comments: There is a good follow up on PRO here focusing on Jair. While named MLS referee of the year in 2008, he has not been without his controversy throughout his career in MLS. Then again, what referee doesn't that has been around long enough. He also has some tremendous shoes to fill from his father, Antonio, FIFA referee from Mexico.

I am happy to see him with this match and wish he and his entire crew a great game!  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

George Gansner, FIFA AR Extradonare, Announces Retirement

George Gansner turns attentions to family after announcing retirement

PRO assistant referee George Gansner says family will fill the officiating void when he retires at the end of the current season.

The 44-year-old has been assigned the Eastern Conference Championship first leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs, but will wave goodbye to the flag after a successful 19-year career at the conclusion of 2015.

Read more: 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs - Conference Championship first leg assignments

His time as an official includes such honors as being assigned to the 2005 MLS All-Star game and the 2007 U.S. Open Cup Final, as well as FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games qualifiers.

Gansner, who made his professional debut as an AR in 1999, is now looking forward to spending his spare time in the company of his loved ones.

“The bottom line on my decision to retire is simple – my family,” he told proreferees.com. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of PRO.

Kicking Back Comments: George is a class act that I have had the pleasure to work with several times and have always find him to be a professionals' professional ... and a hell of a nice guy honestly. He always has a kind word and a smile and frankly helped me to dig a bit deeper with his inspirational words often.

I wish him well in the next part of his refereeing career.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Ever wanted to know what it would be like ...

Ethan Steinman delighted after release of behind the scenes film with PRO

Ethan Steinman of Daltonic Films was the man responsible for the production of the recently-published behind the scenes film with PRO, and we've caught up with him to discuss the making of the short documentary.

In July, Ethan and his crew were at a training camp in Park City, Utah, before following Allen Chapman and his colleagues at Rio Tinto Stadium for Sporting Kansas City's match at Real Salt Lake in MLS. Referee Alan Kelly was also the focus of a gameday, when he took charge of Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers derby at CenturyLink Field. ... 

See the whole story and amazing video here, courtesy of PRO. 

Kicking Back Comments: This is as real as it gets folks ... well worth the 12 minutes.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dear FIFA Sponsors: Are You Listening Now???!!!

Five years of human rights failure shames FIFA and Qatar

Labor exploitation remains rampant in Qatar as the authorities fail to deliver significant reforms, Amnesty International said today before the fifth anniversary of Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Despite massive public exposure of the appalling conditions faced by most migrant construction workers, the Qatari authorities have done almost nothing effective to end chronic labor exploitation.

“Too little has been done to address rampant migrant labor abuse. Qatar’s persistent labor reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. ...

See the whole press release here, courtesy of Amnesty International.

Kicking Back Comments: Straight on the heels of the nonsense from the sponsors being "outraged" and wanting "assurances" we start to see not much has changed in Qatar. Companies like ADIDAS are (or feign) outrage if child labor stitches their balls ... yet are fine as migrant workers die to build the stadiums they will profit from in 2022. I fail to see the difference.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yawn

Fifa sponsors including Coca-Cola demand reform overview

Five sponsors of football's world governing body Fifa have written to its executive committee to demand "independent oversight" of reforms.

Fifa has been engulfed by allegations of corruption since US authorities indicted 14 officials this summer.

The letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Visa and the Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: I am again reminded of one of my personal mantras, facta non verba, or deeds not words.

So far all we have seen from FIFA, which I expect at this point, is words. By now I would have expected more from the sponsors, even one. Clearly I was misguided in my thinking as sponsors like Coca-Cola are clearly apathetic to what FIFA is doing in places like Qatar, to name one.

It is truly all about the money folks and even the one entity (aside from UEFA) that can make a big impact on the World's Game, clearly wants none of it.