Goal-line Technology Coming Soon to a Soccer League — and Stadium TV Screen — Near You

Here at last:
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — FIFA will allow goal-line technology decisions to be shown to fans on big screens in stadiums and television viewers.

In a document to be assessed by soccer’s rule-makers on Saturday, FIFA has reversed its previous stance that referees could be undermined
if the results from the high-tech aids were revealed.

FIFA will allow leagues, such as Major League Soccer to decide whether to use replays that are shown to fans. However, referees will have the power to ignore the goal-line decisions.

“The question of whether and how replays are shown on TV or on an LED screen in a stadium should be one of the first discussion points when starting the implementation of goal-line technology in a competition,” says a FIFA document on the implementation of goal-line technology.

English FA General Secretary Alex Horne said he would welcome television viewers being able to see how a device ruled on a disputed goal.

Goal-line technology had divided meetings of soccer’s rule-making panel for years until FIFA President Sepp Blatter reversed his opposition and it was officially sanctioned last July.

The big decisions will now center on which goal-line technology systems to use.

As FIFA’s leadership was arriving in Edinburgh, the organization announced on Friday that a fourth system had been licensed. GoalControl-4D, which uses seven high-speed cameras aimed at each goalmouth, joins another camera-based system, Hawk-Eye, and two other projects — GoalRef and Cairos — which use magnetic field technology to judge if the ball crossed the line.

All four systems meet FIFA’s requirement that a signal is transmitted to the referee’s watch within one second if a goal should be awarded.

Hawk-Eye and GoalRef were approved last year and used at the Club World Cup in Japan in December. FIFA has invited tenders for selection to be used at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June and the 2014 World Cup.

Domestic competitions are also racing to introduce technology, with the English Premier League on course for systems to be installed by the new season in August.

Horne said the Community Shield, the season curtain raiser at Wembley in August between the FA Cup winners and Premier League champions, will be the first time technology is used officially in a match in England.

But FIFA also disclosed in its latest document that referees harboring doubts about the accuracy of technology in a particular stadium can decide up to 45 minutes before kickoff to switch it off.

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Diamond Bar’s Morgan, Hermosa Beach’s Wambach Discuss their FIFA World Player of the Year Nominations

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar has more:

GENEVA (AP) — Lionel Messi can break another soccer record on Monday by being  selected the world’s best player for an unprecedented fourth time.

The Barcelona and Argentina forward, who scored 91 goals in 2012, is the favorite to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or prize ahead of club teammate Andres Iniesta and rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.

A fourth straight title would lift Messi above FIFA World Player of the Year three-time winners Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo of Brazil.

Since the original Ballon d’Or was launched in 1956 as a European award, Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten also earned a hat trick of titles.

The U.S. gold medal-winning team at the London Olympics could dominate the women’s awards at FIFA’s annual gala ceremony.

Forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan are competing with five-time winner Marta of Brazil for best player, and former coach Pia Sundhage is favored to be selected best coach of a women’s team ahead of two male rivals: Norio Sasaki of silver-medalist Japan and Bruno Bini of France.

Wambach, who finished third in the FIFA voting last year, and Morgan seek to become the first American winner since Mia Hamm got the 2002 award. Wambach scored five goals at the Olympics and Morgan got three as the U.S. took its third straight gold medal. Marta’s Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Japan.

Sundhage, who has since returned home to coach Sweden’s women’s national team, is favored after losing out on the award last year to Sasaki after Japan won the World Cup.

Victory for Messi would fuel renewed debate over how his talent compares with Pele and Diego Maradona, whose careers were over or peaked before FIFA started its award in 1991. The South American greats were never eligible for the old Ballon d’Or run by France Football magazine. The awards merged in 2010.

“(Michael) Jordan dominated his sport and Messi dominates this one,” former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said last year, in comparing his protege to the basketball icon.

Iniesta starred at the European Championship last summer as Spain’s relentless passing game won a third straight major tournament title.

Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA award winner and twice runner-up to Messi, impressed with prolific scoring to help Madrid take away Barcelona’s Spanish league title, then carried Portugal to the Euro 2012 semifinals.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is a candidate for the men’s coaching award, along with the Madrid-Barcelona duo of Jose Mourinho and Guardiola, who left the Catalan club in May.

The four main awards were voted on by coaches and captains of national teams worldwide, plus invited journalists. The votes were filed in November before Messi gained yet more praise in his successful pursuit of Gerd Mueller’s milestone of 85 goals in a calendar year.

Messi’s total included 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina, to overtake Mueller’s tally for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.

“I’m delighted for him,” Mueller said. “He is an incredible player, gigantic. He’s such a nice and modest professional.”

Messi also answered criticism that he underachieves for Argentina with five goals in five World Cup qualifiers and impressive hat-tricks in exhibitions against Brazil and Switzerland.

Ronaldo scored 46 goals in Madrid’s title march and would have boosted his Ballon d’Or claim by leading Portugal to win Euro 2012, where opposing fans often taunted him by chanting Messi’s name.

Iniesta excelled in the final as Spain silenced critics of its possession play to beat Italy 4-0 in the most lop-sided result of any World Cup or European Championship final.

All three Ballon d’Or nominees will likely be named in a World XI lineup chosen by the FIFPro group of players’ unions comprising around 50,000 members worldwide.

Brazil star Neymar seeks a repeat victory in the Puskas Award given to the best goal of the year, offering consolation for again missing out on the Ballon d’Or shortlist. FIFA President Sepp Blatter acknowledged that it is difficult for players based outside Europe to attract voters’ attention.

Neymar is nominated on a three-goal shortlist for a spectacular solo effort for Santos, dribbling past several Internacional opponents in March.

Radamel Falcao scored an acrobatic volley for Atletico Madrid against America de Cali in an exhibition in May, and Miroslav Stoch of Fenerbahce struck with a volley in a Turkish league game against Genclerbirligi in March. Fans voted online from 10 candidates proposed by FIFA.

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Video Highlights: U.S. V. Russia

Usual defensive frailties. Spectacular Michael Bradley strike. Lucky draw.

From the Associated Press: Mix Diskerud gave the U.S. soccer a team a thrilling end to 2012.

Playing just his third game for the Americans, the 22-year-old midfielder scored his first international goal on a 20-yard shot deep into four minutes of injury time, giving the United States a 2-2 tie against Russia on Wednesday in an exhibition game at Krasnodar.
Michael Bradley, who scored in the 76th minute, sent a long ball into the penalty area toward Terrence Boyd. Defender Sergei Ignashevich tied to clear the ball but his header went on one hop to Diskerud. His right-footed shot took a bounce and spin in off the left hand of goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.

“It was a long ball and I was hoping with all my heart that it would come back to me and it did,” Diskerud said. “I got a nice strike.”

Diskerud, whose mother is from Arizona and whose father is from Norway, was a member of the American under-23 team that failed to qualify for the London Olympics.

“We can compete with very good teams in the world,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “The way our team fought back twice after being down a goal was great. It showed a lot of personality. It showed a lot of character. This is a young team, and a team that is growing.”

Fedor Smolov, making his Russian national team debut, gave the hosts the lead in the ninth minute following a giveaway by Danny Williams, who mis-hit the ball badly trying for a quick free kick in his own half.

Bradley tied it on a stunning 19-yard volley, his 11th international goal. Maurice Edu passed to Juan Agudelo in the penalty area, and Agudelo headed the ball back to an open Bradley for a right-footed shot that clanked in off the post to Gabulov’s right.

“I caught it perfect,” Bradley said.

Roman Shirokov put Russia back ahead 2-1 when he converted a penalty kick in the 84th minute after a foul by Clarence Goodson, who pushed over Artem Dzyuba in front of goalkeeper Tim Howard following a free kick.

“I think we came in at halftime frustrated with ourselves,” Bradley said. “We were too casual from the start and good teams make you pay. Maybe we were a little lucky after the first 15 minutes that it was only 1-0.”

The 27th-ranked United States, missing regulars Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Steve Cherundolo, are preparing for the final round of qualifying next year for the 2014 World Cup. They finished the year at 9-2-3 with a .750 winning percentage that tied
their best in the modern era, set in 2005. The U.S. had two big firsts, beating Italy and winning at Mexico City, and its only defeats came in an exhibition against Brazil and a World Cup qualifier at Jamaica.

“We only had two losses, a bunch of wins, some really tough-fought draws and we topped the group,” Howard said of the Americans’ finish in the semifinals of World Cup qualifying. “It was a really fantastic year. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s a really good, positive year for this group.”

The ninth-ranked Russians are 4-0-2 since former England coach Fabio Capello took over last summer.

Howard had six saves, including two nifty stops in succession in the 66th when he batted away an open shot by Renat Yanbaev and then parried Vasily Berezutskiy’s shot over the crossbar.

Jozy Altidore started at forward for the U.S. after he was dropped from the roster for last month’s qualifiers following poor performances against Jamaica in September.

“Jozy Altidore today was a handful,” Klinsmann said. “He gets a big, big compliment for his performance.”

Timmy Chandler started at right back. He had not played for the Americans since last November, uncertain whether he wanted to commit to the U.S. program, and would not be tied to the program until he plays in a competitive match such a qualifier.

“I think the team has grown a lot in a lot of ways,” Altidore said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I think we’re finding our identity again and that’s important going into the nature of the final qualifying round. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve grown a lot.”

NOTES: U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra left in the 18th minute with a strained left hamstring. He was replaced by Clarence Goodson, who paired with Geoff Cameron in central defense. Bocanegra’s 110th career game moved him into a sixth-place tie on the
U.S. list with Paul Caligiuri, who had 110 appearances from 1984-98. … The starting lineup marked the first time since June 19, 2011, the U.S. team had no starters from MLS clubs. The previous game was a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold
Cup. … Josh Gatt, a speedy 21-year-old midfielder, started in his national team debut and was replaced by Agudelo in the 63rd minute.

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Chivas USA’s Aguedelo makes U.S. Roster for Wednesday’s Russia Friendly

Also on the youngish squad, former Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan and former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez.

No Landon Donovan, of course, with the Galaxy still in the MLS Cup hunt.

Promising, if vacillating, defender Timmy Chandler returns to the U.S. squad for the first time this year.

The game against No. 9-ranked Russia kicks off at 7 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 and Univision.

Listen to Jurgen Klinsmann talk about the return of Jozy Altidore and more:

 

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U.S. Olympic Team Victory Tour in Carson

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Photo by Staff Photographer Sean Hiller

This wasn’t a game. It was an occasion.

The gold medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic team duly beat Australia Sunday afternoon in Carson – although they had to come from behind to do it and could have been down by four goals, not one – but really the result was secondary to the event itself.

And a joyous, if hot, day it was, too, with a crowd full of moms and kids happy just to be at Home Depot Center with no pressure or expectations.

Which is also paradoxically the bane of the women’s game, a theme I will explore further in Tuesday’s column.

For now, check out the game story from Staff Writer Phil Collin and a gallery from Staff Photographer Sean Hiller here.

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Do you know which channel your overseas soccer game is on this weekend?

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Now you see him, now many of you won’t: U.S. television viewers will have the same problem this weekend that defenders in La Liga have had for many years — finding the likes of Lionel Messi. Read on to find out why (AP File Photo).

It’s not an easy question, by the way. Those of you like me who subscribe to DirecTV will soon discover if you haven’t already that GolTV has moved to make room for beIN, the new channel that’s causing the switcheroos. For a full line-up of this weekend’s games click on the Live Soccer TV link at top right. Associated Sports Writer Ronald Blum helps decode what games are on what channel and why:

NEW YORK (AP) — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend.

That’s because the U.S. television rights to Spain’s La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of El Segundo-based DirecTV and DISH Network.

And it’s not just Spain’s soccer that is affected.

Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, England’s second-tier League Championship and England’s League Cup also have moved to high-spending beIN Sport, which is taking over all of them from News Corp.’s Los Angeles-based Fox Soccer.QA

The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable,” said Marc Ganis of the Chicago-based Sports Corp. Ltd., consulting firm. “Considering the push that European soccer is making in the United States, taking additional money and losing exposure becomes fools’ gold. They need to have a long-term strategy, not short-term.”

The new network will not be rated by Nielsen at the start, but hopes to be at some point,
according to managing director Yousef Al Obaidly. It also will be available online to
authenticated subscribers of DirecTV and DISH.

“There will be more announcements coming soon,” he said Thursday. “We are in a discussion with all the cable operators. Hopefully, we can reach an agreement so we can keep everyone happy.”

Now that the European seasons are starting, at least some clubs are worried their leagues made a mistake by taking dollars over distribution. Complicating the matter, a dispute broke out in Spain, with some clubs saying their television rights were sold by a company that doesn’t own them.

“I know Madrid and Barcelona are already concerned by what has happened domestically,” AC Milan director Umberto Gandini said in a telephone interview. “We were trying to maximize revenues ahead of visibility. Frankly speaking, we were not aware of such difficulties reaching viewers in the United States and the fact that we are going to be penalized highly by the difference in viewership.”

The big Spanish and Italian clubs will have their Champions League and Europa League midweek games available in the U.S. on Fox. In addition, RAI USA distributes Serie A matches with Italian commentary and Ligue 1 games will be available with Spanish commentary on Univision Deportes.

All of this could make the U.S. market a soccer Tower of Babel.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho said. “I’m glad I’m just a coach and no more than that, and I think about football and the game and prepare my team.”

The English Premier League, which has the biggest American following, sells its international rights directly. Serie A, which didn’t centralize rights as a league until just a few years ago, sells them through the agency MP & Silva. La Liga sells them through Mediapro — but until an agreement this week to share domestic rights for three seasons, rival Prisa claimed it represented nine of the 20 clubs.

Imagina USA, a Miami-based company that is part of the Mediapro Group, is beIN Sports’
production partner. The English network launched Aug. 3 in an online preview at www.beinsport.tv and beIN Sport announced Wednesday — the official launch date — it will be carried on DirecTV’s sports tier in high and standard definition and beIN Sport en Espanol will be distributed on DirecTV Mas in standard definition. A day later, it said
DISH Network will televise beIN Sport on its America’s Top 250 and DISHLatino packages.

Looming ahead is bidding for the U.S. rights to the Premier League. Networks anticipate a request for proposal next month for the package starting in 2013-14 and running for three seasons. Fox currently holds the rights and sublicenses some to ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

“We might get into it. We might not,” Al Obaidly said. “We have to look into scheduling and financials.”

The EPL averaged 185,000 viewers for 118 live telecasts on Fox Soccer last year, 321,000 for 48 broadcasts on ESPN2/ESPN and 58,000 for 54 games on ESPN Deportes, according to data from Nielsen Media Research and the networks. Serie A averaged 54,000 viewers for 96 live telecasts on Fox and Ligue 1 53,000 for four broadcasts on Fox.

GolTV averaged just 29,000 viewers for 75 La Liga telecasts among its Hispanic audience, the only portion Nielsen measures. ESPN Deportes averaged 115,000 people in its Hispanic audience for La Liga, but viewers swelled to an average of 770,000 for the two league “clasicos” between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“It’s going probably from a better distributed network to lesser distributed network,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes. “Therein lies the real difference to the viewer. Some of this product is going to be unavailable to many fans for which it was available to before.”

Without La Liga, GolTV’s only European league is the German Bundesliga, which had a rating in the network’s Hispanic audience that was too low to measure. There has been speculation that beIN Sport USA would like to take over GolTV, if the price is right.

Play-by-play man Phil Schoen and highly excitable color commentator Ray Hudson have moved from GolTV to beIN Sport.

“GolTV has greatly enhanced its portfolio of soccer from the Americas,” Rodrigo Lombello, GolTV’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Reaching new agreements to air matches from the Argentinian, Brazilian and Mexican club leagues, Gillette Brazil World Tour, CONCACAF tournaments and even the U.S. Open Cup, the network has placed an emphasis on this region in the past year as the United States Hispanic population continues to grow.”

Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, is making a giant push in soccer. Qatar beat out the U.S. two years ago in bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, and the Qatar Investment Authority took control of Paris Saint-Germain and has spent about $200 million in transfer fees for players to strengthen its roster.

In France, Al-Jazeera bought rights to Ligue 1′s Friday and Sunday night package from 2012-16; to most Champions League games from 2012-15; and to the 2012 and 2016 European Championship tournaments. In Spain, Barcelona agreed last year to a five-year, 170 million euro (then $225 million) sponsorship deal to carry the Qatar Foundation logo on its famous blue and red jerseys.

If the Premier League wants both beIN Sport’s money and greater distribution, it could split its American rights into different packages for different time slots, as it does in Britain and as several U.S. leagues do at home. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore declined to comment ahead of the bidding.

“They are a little bit more sophisticated than us because they have been on the market as a collective-selling entity far longer than us,” Milan’s Gandini said. “We are still very far behind the Premier League.”

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Highly-paid, low-scoring Galaxy striker Barrett heads to Norway on loan

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The Galaxy today loaned forward Chad Barrett and his $250,000 salary to Norway’s Vlerenga through the end of their 2012 season, which concludes in November.

The 27-year-old has just one goal and three assists in 18 games with the Galaxy this season.

“The guys were on fire here and we’re really deep at forward,” Barrett told the Galaxy’s website. “I was approached by my agent, who said there was interest overseas and it was a team that I almost went with when I was with Toronto.

“Obviously, I didn’t produce as well as I should of, so there are a lot of factors that go into it,” he added, observing that he is in the final year of his MLS contract. “Ultimately, this is probably what is best for me at this particular juncture. Like I said, I hate bringing politics into this locker [room], but that’s why we have agents and sometimes you got to do it.”

Barrett, who trained with Vlerenga for a week earlier this month, travels to Oslo on Wednesday to link up with the club, which lies sixth in the league with a 7-6-4 record.

In total, Barrett has eight goals and eight assists in 45 regular season games for the Galaxy since joining the club from Toronto in January 2011.

He missed last year’s MLS Cup with an injury.

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Tuesday Kicks: Hot summer soccer tix

*The Galaxy announced today the upcoming home game against the Colorado Rapids was pushed forward two days to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 (live on KDOC) to give players extra time to recover before their first road Sept. 19 CONCACAF Champions League game against the Puerto Rico Islanders.

The MLS game was originally set for Sunday, Sept. 16.

“We have made this decision, with the support of Major League Soccer and our opponents the Colorado Rapids, for purely competitive reasons,” said Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein. “We want to position our team as best we can to be successful in our trip to Puerto Rico on September 19 to face the Islanders in the CONCACAF Champions League and felt that we would be more adequately prepared for that important game with two extra days of rest and training ahead of it.”

*Meanwhile, it’s city of Torrance Night at the Aug. 26 Galaxy-Dallas game at Home Depot Center.

*El Salvador will play Guatemala Aug. 11 at Home Depot Center. Tickets starting at $30 went on sale Monday.

*Chivas USA will give away 2,500 backpacks to children attending KIds Day Out, the unprecedented 1 p.m. Wednesday MLS game against the Portland Timbers at the HDC. The forecast high Wednesday for Carson: 72 degrees.

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Money-spinning Euro 2012 begins Friday

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Soccer pride: Polish lawmaker Robert Biedron holds Euro 2012 soccer championships mascots during a gay rights parade last weekend in the Euro 2012 cohost nation (AP Photo).

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I have returned from vacation (thanks to those of you who noticed the lack of blogging) just in time for my favorite soccer tournament, Euro 2012

Eurosnobs will tell you this ESPN-televised tournament is the best on the planet involving national teams generally of higher quality across the board than the World Cup.

And they’d be right.

What’s more, the tournament is rivaling the World Cup when it comes to money, too.

How big is it? Associated Press sports writer Graham Dunbar breaks down the numbers (and I wonder what the Galaxy’s cut is for Irish striker Robbie Keane):

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The European Championship begins Friday boasting the numbers to back its reputation as one of world sports’ elite events.

UEFA will earn commercial revenues of at least $1.6 billion for the 16-team tournament in Poland and Ukraine, rivaling FIFA’s 32-nation World Cup for average match value.

With each match slot expected to draw an average television audience of 150 million fans
worldwide, Euro 2012 will bring a near-daily diet of ratings bigger than the Super Bowl.

A 237 million audience for the Euro 2008 final was worthy of a Summer Olympics opening
ceremony.

“You can see it is mega,” said David Taylor, chief executive of UEFA Events, which has contracts with 203 broadcasters. “Certainly, when we are talking to sponsors and others, they are interested in the wider global impact.”

Such global popularity allows UEFA to be a generous host and budget to earn a nine-figure profit. Teams get a bigger participation fee than at the World Cup and clubs get a bigger share than FIFA gives from World Cup revenues.

It also helps explain why six of FIFA’s major sponsors team with UEFA for the quadrennial
Euros.

“We would never claim to be bigger than the World Cup,” Taylor told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “But you can see in certain territories, if your own national team is doing well you get some very good numbers.”

When champion Spain and semifinalist Russia starred four years ago, the national ratings set records.

UEFA’s financial figures for Euro 2012 also stack up well despite a global downturn and doubts lingering over the co-hosts.

The 31-match tournament is set to reap $51.6 million a game, compared with FIFA’s average earnings of $56.7 million from the 2010 World Cup. In South Africa, FIFA banked $3.6 billion in commercial revenue tied to its 64-match prize asset.

“It’s very robust and a good performance commercially to come up with these numbers,” Taylor said. “Particularly given the environment in which we were working and the countries concerned. At the outset we were unsure how our sponsors would react to go to eastern Europe, and going to these countries in particular, but the reaction has been positive.”

UEFA gambled going behind the old Iron Curtain, even as its Champions League becomes a popular and commercial juggernaut which could ultimately undermine national team soccer.

A fashionable view values the Champions League above the World Cup, and its commercial revenues will top $1.6 billion for each of the next three seasons.

Fans’ appetite for week-in, week-out drama has also made England’s Premier League a cash cow with 20 clubs sharing almost $1.54 billion in prize money last season.

Still, UEFA will profit from Euro 2012, though short of the $394 million banked last time in
risk-free Austria and Switzerland.

“The actual net left for UEFA will be less than Euro 2008, but the actual operational
performance in terms of revenue will be at or about the same level,” Taylor said.

UEFA spent more than expected helping Poland and Ukraine authorities manage the Euro 2012 project. A $49,750 payment per match was also added for teams who must fly between the neighbors to games.

UEFA also chose to spread $124 million among clubs worldwide as daily-rate compensation for releasing their players to take part. FIFA will pay just $70 million to bring twice as many players to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

UEFA will pay a further $244 million in participation and prize money to the 16 national
associations. A team can earn a maximum $23 million for lifting the trophy having won all three group games. Spain got $30 million from FIFA for its 2010 World Cup title.

And UEFA gives FIFA its taste of Euro 2012 revenues — a 1 percent levy on total sales of the 1.4 million tickets available. That’s estimated to be worth $1.43 million for soccer’s world governing body, UEFA said Tuesday.

Yet for all the outlay, there’s more money looming in UEFA’s near future.
Euro 2016 in France will have 24 teams and 51 matches. At today’s rate, that’s a $2.6 billion tournament.

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