Euro­pean league could trig­ger bans

‘Se­cret’ plan puts play­ers at risk of in­ter­na­tional ex­ile Min­is­ters pre­pared to thwart clubs’ pro­posal

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Tom Mor­gan and Sam Wal­lace

Ar­se­nal, Chelsea, Liver­pool, Manch­ester City and Manch­ester United could be warned their play­ers face bans from in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments if they join the break­away Euro­pean Su­per League.

Uefa and Fifa have the op­tion of warn­ing all play­ers in­volved that they could be­come in­el­i­gi­ble for World Cups and Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships if Europe’s big­gest teams press ahead with al­leged se­cret plans to form their own league by 2021.

Bomb­shell claims that break­away talks have reached an ad­vanced stage place the clubs on a col­li­sion course with gov­ern­ments, as well as do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional govern­ing bod­ies.

The UK Gov­ern­ment is un­der­stood to “fully op­pose” any Pre­mier League team pro­pos­als to join forces with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Ju­ven­tus, Paris Saint-Ger­main, AC Mi­lan and Bay­ern Mu­nich. White­hall and the Pre­mier League have been caught off guard by the se­ries of leaked le­gal doc­u­ments pub­lished by Der Spiegel and Reuters.

One se­nior White­hall source said: “The Gov­ern­ment hasn’t been told about any of this, which sug­gests the Pre­mier League has also been kept in the dark. We would ab­so­lutely op­pose this on the ba­sis that it would threaten the cul­ture of sport in Eng­land.”

Der Spiegel has re­ported that the break­away league would see clubs leave their na­tional leagues and foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tions. Brand bosses said the dis­cus­sions have been fu­elled by teams want­ing an even big­ger slice of TV money. The five English clubs could make tens of mil­lions of pounds ex­tra each in new TV rights deals.

Carsten Thode, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer at mar­ket­ing agency Syn­ergy, said he had been aware of the talks, but said an English break­away is “deeply un­likely”.

“These talks stretch back a decade and are sim­ply about ne­go­ti­at­ing lever­age as far as the English teams are con­cerned,” he said. “Last time we saw more clubs in the Cham­pi­ons League as a re­sult of this. Uefa, in par­tic­u­lar, will fig­ure out how to get these clubs more money, and this whole thing is likely to go away. The English mar­ket is just way too im­por­tant to the clubs.”

Ac­cord­ing to the leaks, Bay­ern Mu­nich have ex­plored the le­gal com­plex­i­ties of the break­away pro­posal and one of the doc­u­ments Der Spiegel says it has seen is a “bind­ing term sheet” in which 16 clubs would sign to form the Su­per League.

The new com­pe­ti­tion, it is claimed, would in­volve 11 of Europe’s big­gest clubs, known as the “founders”, along with five “ini­tial guests”. Der Spiegel re­ports that the five “ini­tial guests,” ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, would be Atletico Madrid, Borus­sia Dort­mund, In­ter Mi­lan, Mar­seille and Roma. The so-called founders would not face rel­e­ga­tion and would be guar­an­teed mem­ber­ship for 20 years.

A Bay­ern Mu­nich state­ment said they were “un­aware of re­cent plans for a so-called Su­per League” and had not “taken part in ne­go­ti­a­tions re­lat­ing to such plans”. Der Spiegel says the source of the doc­u­ments they have ob­tained is a whistle­blower who founded the web­site Foot­ball Leaks. Up to 70mil­lion doc­u­ments have been pro­vided by Foot­ball Leaks.

Foot­ball Leaks also al­lege that Manch­ester City and Paris St-Ger­main may have avoided fi­nan­cial fair play sanc­tions with the in­ter­ven­tion of Fifa pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino.

Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons City said they would not com­ment “on out-of-con­text ma­te­ri­als pur­port­edly hacked or stolen”.

Asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of a Su­per League, Jur­gen Klopp, the Liver­pool man­ager, said: “I have no real opin­ion. I am com­pletely fine with the league how it is at the mo­ment.”

The English clubs in­volved have been con­tacted for com­ment.

There was only 50 Dan­ish kro­ner – about £6 – on the me­ter of their Copen­hagen taxi when Nick­las Bendtner and his girl­friend, Phi­line Roep­storff, de­cided to get out in the small hours of Sun­day, Sept 9, one small de­ci­sion in a life­time of bad de­ci­sions for the man who once pre­dicted he would be one of the world’s finest strik­ers.

The con­se­quences of that early morn­ing, when Bendtner, 30, and Roep­storff, 24, came to a head on Fri­day when the for­mer was sen­tenced to serve 50 days in jail by a city court in Copen­hagen. The bare facts of the case were that a dis­agree­ment had en­sued and Bendtner had hit the taxi driver, he said in self-de­fence, and whom Dan­ish law has for­bid­den the me­dia from nam­ing, re­sult­ing in a con­vic­tion that will have con­se­quences for the player him­self, in­clud­ing, most likely, rul­ing out a Ma­jor League Soc­cer swan­song.

If it sounded on the face of it like peak Bendtner then no­body, not even the player him­self, should be sur­prised. This is the man on whom Dan­ish foot­ball, and to a lesser de­gree Ar­se­nal, pinned con­sid­er­able hope for some time. Dur­ing that time he picked up a drink-driv­ing con­vic­tion, stum­bled out of a night­club with his trousers at half-mast and then, at Euro 2012, con­tin­ued the un­der­crack­ers theme with a goal cel­e­bra­tion in which he ex­posed his bet­ting com­pany en­dorsed pants.

There were other in­ci­dents, too. None of it was on the level of a GBH con­vic­tion but demon­strated pretty con­sis­tent mis­take-mak­ing, fol­lowed by the same old apolo­gies, fol­lowed by the same old mis­takes.

As for his per­for­mances on the pitch, they never reached the level that might off­set the low-level ob­nox­ious­ness of his mis­judg­ments.

He be­came a cult fig­ure for some, although the Lord Bendtner moniker was funny for about five min­utes.

His fail­ure to ful­fil ex­pec­ta­tions was harder for Dan­ish foot­ball, which had him pegged as some kind of saviour for a while. He went from Ar­se­nal to Wolfs­burg via loans at Sun­der­land, Ju­ven­tus, Birm­ing­ham City and then on to Wolfs­burg, Not­ting­ham For­est and Rosen­borg, where he did man­age to fin­ish top scorer in Nor­way’s Elite­se­rien last sea­son.

All in all, it is the kind of foot­balling CV that sug­gested word got around pretty quick.

But back to the morn­ing of Sept 9, when Bendtner and Roep­storff stayed late at a club and then, the court heard, the two had a dis­agree­ment.

Bendtner, in­jured at the time, wanted to go home while Roep­storff was re­luc­tant.

They were still ar­gu­ing when they got into the cab and, for rea­sons that seem un­clear, the taxi driver got in­volved, in­sult­ing both of them.

There was a dis­agree­ment over the route. All in all, they were in the taxi for a very short time, as demon­strated by the £6 fare which, as any­one who has ever taken a cab in Copen­hagen will know, might just get you to the first set of lights.

They got out by Den­mark’s Na­tional Bank and cam­era footage showed the driver turn­ing round and pur­su­ing them. He threw some­thing at them – a can or a bot­tle, it was never es­tab­lished which – and that was when Bendtner hit the driver, break­ing his jaw. It was not found to have been the case by the three judges pre­sid­ing that, as al­leged, Bendtner kicked the man on the ground. He de­nied that and the footage in ques­tion was in­con­clu­sive. The taxi driver’s in­juries were not con­sis­tent with a kick to the head. The taxi driver was him­self charged with in­ten­tion to cause harm by throw­ing what­ever he did and was cleared.

It seems likely that he will be stripped of his li­cence to drive a taxi and one could ar­gue that pro­por­tion­ately his mo­ment of mad­ness will have a much greater cost than a rich foot­baller’s fine and jail sen­tence.

Bendtner, who is ap­peal­ing, has main­tained through­out that he was act­ing in self­de­fence, that he as­sumed Roep­storff was in dan­ger and, be­ing in­jured, and there­fore less mo­bile, he took the most ef­fec­tive mea­sure. The judges did not seem to buy the sce­nario, cre­ated by Bendtner’s lawyer, of a man in a fight-or-flight mo­ment try­ing to pro­tect his younger girl­friend. They pre­ferred the ver­sion of the wronged taxi driver pur­su­ing his wealthy pas­sen­ger for his fare and get­ting his jaw bro­ken for his trou­ble.

Un­der Dan­ish law, there are stiffer pun­ish­ments for as­sault­ing pub­lic­fac­ing work­ers such as po­lice of­fi­cers, teach­ers, bus drivers and taxi drivers.

For Bendtner, the story is more com­pli­cated, and the de­tails cer­tainly paint a more nu­anced sit­u­a­tion. It is the kind of hor­ri­ble chain of events that might be­fall more than one per­son with an ar­gu­ment sim­mer­ing and a few drinks in­side them.

Bendtner, how­ever, has con­sis­tently put him­self in a po­si­tion over his ca­reer where these things might hap­pen. His record in re­cent years has been bet­ter, the most no­table cock-up be­ing ap­pear­ing late for train­ing at Wolfs­burg and then post­ing pic­tures of him­self with a Mercedes when the Volk­swa­gen club’s con­tracts stip­u­late oth­er­wise.

All mi­nor mis­de­meanours that pale in com­par­i­son with GBH, and while the story is more com­plex than it might seem at first glance, there is prob­a­bly a Dan­ish proverb some­where that says if you keep on mak­ing the small mis­takes, the big one comes along even­tu­ally.

He has been cleared to carry on play­ing for the na­tional team, al­beit at a time when they re­al­is­ti­cally no longer need him, hav­ing made the sec­ond round of the sum­mer’s World Cup fi­nals while he was out in­jured.

Rosen­borg have stood by him, too, and Dan­ish pris­ons are noth­ing like those he might face in the United King­dom or other parts of Europe. The pro­gres­sive ethos is heav­ily on re­form rather than pun­ish­ment, with all in­mates bar a few kept in rel­a­tively open en­vi­ron­ments – a grown-up strat­egy for a grown-up civil so­ci­ety. It might be just what Bendtner needs, although it will be too late for his foot­ball ca­reer.

His con­vic­tion will have con­se­quences, prob­a­bly rul­ing out an MLS swan­song

Mis­guided: Nick­las Bendtner made bad choices at Ar­se­nal, but none as bad as the one that landed him in court (below) on an as­sault charge

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