23 August 2006

Pro soccer has become like summer camp.

The global season is basically upon us. While MLS and it's minor league equivalent, the USL, have their season during the good weather months, FIFA has a suggested calendar of its own that goes from late-summer to the following early summer, if I remember correctly, with a winter break of a few weeks or so. Therefore, most of the big leagues in the world, from Mexico to Holland to England are all just getting underway for the 2006-2007 season.

In Italy, there recently was a match-fixing scandal that caused several teams to be docked standings points (i.e. 3 for a win, one for a draw). One team involved was Juventus, which has years of success in Serie A, and little to no time in any league below it. However, due to their extended role in the scandal, they were one of the three teams relegated to Serie B for next year, along with two that would have been relegated based on points anyhow. On top of that Juventus will also suffer a points penalty.

Now, FIFA is acting as though the whole Italian system of teams, including the national team, needs to be punished. According to this article, FIFA is threatening all Italian clubs with a ban from international tournaments that they would be eligible for based on league performance if that single team, Juventus, uses Italian sports courts to stage an appeal of its relegation, instead of using FIFA's own appeals court.

Frankly, I think any international sporting body should play by the rules of the constituent country, as long as those rules don't modify the actual game (i.e. MLS's constant threats of old to widen the goalposts for more goals). FIFA is not above the law of the citizens. I'm sure the NHL probably runs a tad bit differently in Canada than down here, in the spirit of operating by Canada's rules. It doesn't mean 2 points are awarded for each goal in a game between Toronto and Ottawa. The game is played exactly the same. But each country has rules for a corporation (including sports bodies) for a reason. The reason isn't always apparent, but the point, perhaps, is to make sure it remains that way.

EDITED TO SAY: So, I guess the more I write on this, the more I realize I support Juventus in its right to appeal to an Italian judicial court. I don't get the reasoning behind Article 61.2 (forbidding recourse in ordinary courts of law) of FIFA's rules of arbitration, and feel it needs to be eliminated. And, like I said, it sucks that this extra punishment is being imposed on Italian football, especially involving their national team. It's like punishing the whole cabin because one camper put a whoopie cushion under their dorm chief's pillow.

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