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Business briefing

Premier League to set administration punishment

The Premier League's 20 chairman are to meet on 29 January to vote on the issue of a points deduction for any top-flight club which falls into administration.

The new rule, which is expected mirror the forthcoming 10-point punishment in England's lower divisions, will not come into effect until next season, which is good news for Leeds who could be forced into administration on 19 January.

While the punishment will be designed to act as a deterrent some chairman believe there should be grounds for leniency.

One chairman who opted to remain unnamed said 'If there is a genuine and unavoidable reason - for example, another club in Europe has not paid them money they are owed - then it would seem unfair to treat them in the same way as a club which has just spent money without regard for the consequences.

'The situation with Leeds is not black and white either. The people now running the club have, by and large, come in to be faced with a big, black financial hole that was not of their making'.

However, if Leeds fail to stave off administration this month they could still face disciplinary action under powers the Premier League claims it already has it its disposal.

The Premier League said 'We don't have a hard-and-fast policy in terms of a member club entering administration, but our rule book does give us a range of options to deal with that eventuality'.

£15m Beckham to front £100m Pepsi campaign

Pepsi has extended its endorsement of Real Madrid star David Beckham in a deal believed to be worth around £15million to the England captain over the next three years.

The US soft drinks giant has also signed deals with Roma's Italian striker Francesco Totti and Barcelona's Brazilian forward Ronaldinho.

Pepsi, which already has deals in place with Beckham's Real team-mates Roberto Carlos and Raul, as well as with several other top internationals, plans use their stars to spearhead thier £100million 'Dare for More' marketing campaign.

Now Ferdinand quits SFX

Manchester United central defender Rio Ferdinand has become the latest high profile England international to split with the SFX sports agency.

Ferdinand, who is facing an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test, follows David Beckham and Michael Owen in opting to end his relationship with the UK-based agency.

The 24-year-old has signed a new management deal with Jerome Anderson's Sport Entertainment & Media Group. SEM will handle all Ferdinand's commercial and marketing deals, while his long-term agent, Pinhas Zahavi, will continue to handle footballing matters.

Man Utd to subsidise Northampton's FA Cup ticket prices

Manchester United, in a move that will cost the club £12,000, have decided to knock £10 off all tickets for fans planning to travel to the fourth round FA Cup tie against Northampton Town on January 25.

Third Division Northampton, who are likely to scoop £500,000 as the match is being televised, have been slammed for pricing tickets for thier 8,000-capacity Sixfields Stadium at between £30-£35 for the tie. Tickets for matches at the Sixfields usually cost around £14-£17.

Mark Longden, of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, said: 'We can understand why Northampton would want to maximise the revenue from this game but we feel they are being unreasonable.

'One of the main reasons we look forward to games like this is that we get a different kind of atmosphere and match-day experience than we do at a Premier League game, including lower ticket prices.

'The prices being charged are more than all of us pay to watch United at Old Trafford.'

Kahn wins EA-Fifa image rights case

Oliver Kahn, the Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper, has won his civil court case against US computer games group Electronic Arts.

Kahn filed a lawsuit against EA over their use of his image in their game 'FIFA 2002'.

The software company insisted that they were entitled to use the names and images of players after obtaining a license from FIFPro, the international players' union, however Kahn argued that union were not entitled to sanction such a deal.

For Fifa and EA the ruling could have serious repercussions as it opens the possibility for thousands of players featured in the game to file similar suits.

EA has signalled its intention to appeal the decision with the German Federal Court.

Real Madrid to net €10m for South Africa match

Real Madrid will net €10million from the South African government after agreeing to play an exhibition match in the country to promote its bid to host the 2010 World Cup, reports Soccer Investor.

'[South Africa] is a new market where [we] can project our international image,' said Real's sporting director Jorge Valdano. 'At the moment we are juggling the dates, but the most likely one is sometime around 2 March'.

Platini backs Champions League ban for indebted clubs

Michel Platini, the former captain of the French national team, has suggested that heavily indebted clubs should not be allowed to compete in the money-spinning Champions League.

Platini, now a member of the world governing body Fifa's executive committee, singled out Italian Serie A outfit Roma, who despite being massively in arrears are still able to recruit top international stars.

'If a team tries to respect the rules, while another continues to run up more debts, the competition is unbalanced,' said Platini. 'In France, clubs who have big debts get relegated to the lower divisions and can't buy players.

'I understand it is difficult saying Roma must go into Serie C, but it isn't right that there are clubs which try everything to control their balance sheets, while others continue to incur losses.

'There hasn't been this worry for a few years, but in the end we must decide on Champions League exclusions for those clubs not respecting economic rules.'

TV problem sparks Bundesliga scheduling row

A row has broken out at Bayern Munich between the club's chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and president, Franz Beckenbauer, over plans to switch the time matches are played in order to make the Bundesliga more attractive to TV broadcasters.

Soccer Investor reports that proposals have been tabled to move kick-off times following the decision of Swiss-based sports rights agency Infront not to take up an option to acquire the rights for the next two seasons - leaving clubs facing considerable financial uncertainty.

Rummenigge, who supports a change, has suggested that some games could be broadcast at lunchtimes or in the evening - mirroring other European leagues - rather than simultaneously with other fixtures, thereby creating a television market of football fans who would otherwise be attending live games.

However, Beckenbauer has taken a traditionalist view: 'Saturday and two games on a Sunday is what people have got used to. I don't care for games at 11am, midday, 4pm or midnight. I believe in a strict calendar like the one we have now.'

Bundesliga players 'to face reality of pay-cuts'

Following reports that Bunesdliga clubs are in €700million in debts and European football as a whole has debts of €7billion general manager of Bayern Munich, Dieter Hoeness, has warned players to face up to the possibility of pay-cuts.

Speaking to Germany's Kicker magazine Hoeness said 'I am trying to make players see reality, because I have the feeling they are leaving in a dream world.

'I have been predicting this fatal development for years. Times have changed. The soccer land of milk and honey doesn't exist anymore'.

Mawhinney eyes transfer window showdown with Blatter

Sir Brian Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League, could meet next month with Sepp Blatter, president of world governing body Fifa, in an effort to abolish the domestic transfer window.

The Football League, which governs the three divisions below England's top tier Premier League, is desperate to remove the restrictions, which have crippled the finances of many lower-division clubs who rely on trading players to balance their books.

'We have 72 clubs who historically have been sustained in part by the ability to sell players as and when they please. This ability has been taken away,' said Mawhinney.

Fifa's controversial close-season and January windows have effectively banned clubs from trading for all but a few weeks of the year. The League believes domestic transfers for home-grown players should be allowed all year round.

Last season transfer revenue among lower-league clubs dropped by 47 per cent compared with the previous five-year average.

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