The Monday Briefing - Blatter strengthens position after Champagne goes flat

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The resignation of FIFA International Director Jerome Champagne seemingly strengthens the hand of Sepp Blatter (Getty)
(WFI) World Football Insider rounds up the 10 things you should know about the global football business today.

* FIFA President Sepp Blatter looks to have strengthened his hold on the organization following the exit of International Relations Director, Jerome Champagne. The former-French diplomat was believed to be positioning himself for a run for Blatter’s job when the FIFA presidential election takes place next year. Reports suggest Champagne had fallen foul of confederation heads, who complained that he had “overstepped” his portfolio. Champagne is the second high profile exit from FIFA headquarters in the past month following Hans Klaus’s resignation as Communications Director in December.

* Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter are expected to attend the CIS Cup tournament in Moscow.
The 18 year-old club competition is staged between members of the former-Soviet bloc – or Russian Commonwealth, as organizers call it – and Russia World Cup bid organizers will use the anticipated arrival of Blatter, Platini and several FIFA Ex-co members to press their case to host the tournament in 2018.

* France striker Thierry Henry will find out his punishment when he faces a FIFA disciplinary committee on Monday to answer charges relating to his infamous handball. In a World Cup play off against Ireland in Paris in November, Henry caused consternation by deliberately handling the ball in the build up to William Gallas’s crucial winning goal. Later that month Sepp Blatter told delegates to Soccerex that Henry had no case to answer. He then back-tracked two days later at a specially convened extraordinary session of FIFA’s Ex-Co in Cape Town when he announced the disciplinary proceedings.

* The cost of watching football on pay-TV in Britain looks set to tumble when communications regulator Ofcom is expected to force broadcaster BSkyB after a meeting of its board on Tuesday. The move could bring the cost of Sky Sports packages down from as much as £36 per month to just £15. Critics of Gordon Brown’s government have said the move is politically motivated after BSkyB’s owner Rupert Murdoch switched his support from Labour to the Conservative Party.

* Pele has thrown his weight behind Diego Maradona, defending his poor record since taking over as Argentina manager in 2008. Argentina nearly failed to qualify for the World Cup Finals after a string of poor results – including a 6-1 battering by Bolivia in La Paz – but Pele said that the fault lay not with Maradona, but the Argentinean FA. "Maradona wasn't an experienced coach. He started only last season (2008), so it's not his fault," Pele was quoted by "I don't believe that he's guilty. Perhaps the guilty one is the person who agreed to appoint him as coach."

* Ten man Ivory Coast booked their place in the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations
Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba celebrates his last minute goal against Ghana in Friday's Africa Cup of Nations encounter (Getty)
with a 3-1 win over Ghana. The Elephants were reduced to ten men when Emmanuel Eboue was sent off in the 56th minute, with his team mates leading 1-0 through Gervinho’s opener at the time. Siako Tiene scored directly from a free kick on 67 minutes and Didier Drogba in the last minute with Asamoah Gyan grabbing an injury time consolation. Ghana must now beat Burkina Faso in their remaining group game tomorrow to qualify, but will have to do so without Michael Essien, who will miss the rest of the tournament with injury.

* The new generation of Real Madrid Galacticos slipped five points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona
, after a 1-0 defeat at Atlético Bilbao. Fernando Llorente’s third minute header was enough to separate the two teams. Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Sevilla saw Madrid’s bitter rivals take full advantage of their reverse.

* A resurgent Ronaldinho inspired AC Milan to a 4-0 win over Siena that brings the Rosseneri to within six points of leaders Inter, who drew 2-2 at Bari. Milan also have a game in hand and meet their neighbors next Sunday in the city derby. “Inter are among the best teams in the world right now and [in José Mourinho] they have one of the best coaches in the world," Ronaldinho said. "We have to respect them, continue to work hard and try to beat them on Sunday."

* Juventus deputy director Roberto Bettega gave coach manager Ciro Ferrara
a vote of confidence following the Bioncaneri’s 1-0 defeat to Chievo. "Besides our injury woes, the team is struggling
Ronaldinho and David Beckham celebrate one of Milan's 4 goals in their victory over Siena at the San Siro (Getty)
to adapt to the way in which our opponents approach the game. AC Milan came out of a crisis [this season] by trusting the players and the coach,” said Bettega. "We will try to do the same without returning to the [transfer] market, considering that we have big players. These are games that you lose as a team, not as an individual.” The result leaves the Turin club 13 points behind league leaders Inter Milan and is Juventus’s fourth defeat in five games. Last week Russia coach Guus Hiddink was linked by Italian newspapers to Ferrara’s position, but now looks set to stay in Moscow until the summer, with the EPL a more likely destination beyond then.

* Pressure increased on Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez after Robert Huth’s last minute goal gave Stoke City a deserved 1-1 draw when they met at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Liverpool are now 14 points behind leaders Chelsea and were last week dumped out of the FA Cup by Reading. Visiting supporters nevertheless stayed behind to lend their support to Benitez. Goals by Steven Pienaar and Louis Saha saw neighbors Everton inflict Roberto Mancini’s first defeat as Manchester City boss with a 2-0 win at Goodison Park. Wins by Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal saw the top three edge away from fourth-placed Tottenham, who could only draw at home to Hull.

Written by
James Corbett

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