TIME U.K.

Soccer Club Will Not Let Convicted Rapist Train

The club was criticized for initially agreeing to allow the soccer star to train

British soccer club Sheffield United has withdrawn its offer to let convicted rapist Ched Evans use their training facilities following his release from prison, according to a statement made Thursday.

Sheffield United had agreed to allow Evans to train with them again after the Professional Footballers’ Association argued the soccer star should be free to resume his career.

MORE: Soccer star convicted of rape returns to training amid angry debate

The club has now reversed the decision, citing the unexpected intensity of the public reaction.

A string of patrons resigned from the club and more than 165,000 members of the public signed a petition calling on the club not to allow Evans to play again.

Evans played for Sheffield United for three years before he was convicted in 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman. He served two and a half years of a five-year sentence and was released from prison last month.

 

 

TIME Soccer

FIFA Alleges Misconduct in World Cup Selection

The organization has faced allegations of bribery in previous years

FIFA filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland Tuesday against unnamed individuals, alleging “international transfers of assets” that “merit examination” in connection with the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The international soccer organization, now in the accuser seat, has in the past faced accusations of a lack of transparency and corrupt practices in choosing World Cup venues.

“There are indications of potential illegal or irregular conduct in certain areas, which must now be followed up both internally by FIFA and by the relevant national criminal prosecution authorities,” said Hans-Joachim Eckert, co-chair of FIFA’s ethics committee, in a question and answer.

The complaint follows the completion of an internal investigation into the selection processes. While the report has not been released in its entirety, Eckert admitted that it contained some evidence of wrongdoing.

TIME U.K.

Soccer Star Convicted of Rape Returns to Training Amid Angry Debate

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2012.
Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2012. Stu Forster—Getty Images

More than 163,000 people have signed a petition against his return

Correction appended Nov. 15.

The story told by Ched Evans in an Oct. 22 video statement posted on YouTube features two victims. First among these is his girlfriend Natasha, who nestles alongside him in the film and remains in the relationship despite the crime Evans committed in a Welsh hotel room in 2011 which he terms “my act of infidelity.” The second is Evans himself. The soccer player, released from prison last month, uses the video to deny the rape verdict that put him behind bars. “The acts I engaged in on that night were consensual in nature and not rape,” he says, pledging to “continue to fight to clear my name.”

There is, of course, another victim—the unnamed 19-year-old woman Evans assaulted. Since Evans left prison, heated debate around whether or not he should be allowed to return to work at his former club Sheffield United risks creating further victims still. “Jean Hatchet”—her name is a pseudonym—has been subjected to online abuse since starting a petition calling on Sheffield United to drop the player.

And on Nov. 14 police started an investigation after a Twitter troll posted a tweet about Jessica Ennis-Hill. The Sheffield-born athlete, who won gold in heptathlon for Britain in the London 2012 Olympics, has threatened to remove her name from a stand at the Sheffield United grounds if the club reinstates Evans. “Those in positions of influence should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example,” she said in a statement. “I hope [Evans] rapes her,” the troll responded.

Heat and hostility threaten to obscure the deeper questions at the heart of the discussion. Evans has served his time—or at any half of the five-year term originally meted out—and now seeks rehabilitation. Isn’t that the way the justice system is supposed to work? Evans seems to think so. “It is a rare and extraordinary privilege to be able to play professional football,” he says in his YouTube non-mea culpa. “Now that I’ve served the custodial part of my sentence of two-and-a-half years, it is my hope that I’ll be able to return to football. If that is possible, then I will do so with humility having learned a very painful lesson. I would like a second chance but I know not everyone would agree.”

That last point is undeniable. More than 163,000 people have signed Hatchet’s petition in support of her view that “to even consider reinstating [Evans] as a player at the same club is a deep insult to the woman who was raped and to all women like her who have suffered at the hands of a rapist.” Charlie Webster, a sports television presenter, lifelong fan of Sheffield United and patron of the club, resigned that after learning that the club had allowed Evans back to train. A victim of sexual abuse as a teenager, Webster has used her public profile to try to encourage other victims of sexual abuse to speak out. In her view Evans’s public profile means that he cannot simply be allowed to return to his old life. “We cheer him on as a role model and he’s influencing the next generation of young men who are currently making their decisions on how to treat women and what sexual mutual consent is,” she told the BBC.

Neither Sheffield United nor the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the players’ union, accepts this view. Sheffield United issued a statement on Nov. 11 confirming that Evans was back in training, but denying any final decision about his future. “The club rejects the notion that society should seek to impose extrajudicial or post-term penalties on anyone,” the statement said loftily. “In a nation of laws, served by an elected parliament and duly constituted courts of law, there can be no place for ‘mob justice’. The club believes that the only penalties following from a conviction on any charge should be those set forth in law and deemed appropriate by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

PFA chief Gordon Taylor made a similar point in more demotic language: “I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything.”

Such discussions are hardly unique to English soccer. Across the Atlantic two prominent National Football League players are currently serving suspensions after admitting acts of violence. In September, the Baltimore Ravens dropped Ray Rice, already suspended by the NFL for hitting his then-fiancée, now wife, after publication of a second and more graphic video of the attack. Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, is waiting a decision on his status as a player after pleading no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault for whipping his four-year-old son with a switch.

Sporting history is garnished with individuals who serve as role models not only in their chosen disciplines but through their life choices: philanthropists, activists and all-round good eggs such as Ennis-Hill. But the same history is also full of flawed heroes and monstrous egos and yet darker tales. A question largely ignored in the current discussions is why that might be. Is sport simply a microcosm of the world, for good and ill, or might the people who run sports bear a greater share of the responsibility?

Football teams—soccer and American football—recruit kids young and work the raw material to create winners, but not necessarily rounded human beings. Joey Barton, a soccer player who returned to the professional game after serving a jail sentence for assault and affray and now aims to be a manager, gave a revealing interview when he retired as a player in September.

“I used a lot of the dark energy to make myself a footballer,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “If I’d been a balanced person I’d never have been an elite-level sportsman. There were a lot of players more technically gifted than me but what I had was an ability to harness my anger at the world. I used anger like a fuel, a propellant, to turn in to performances.”

He argued that his flaws—and criminal record—should not rule him out as a role model. “I realized, wow, I can’t be a role model for the squeaky clean because I’m not squeaky clean. There are a lot of kids out there who feel disconnected, a bit lost. They relate to me.”

That, of course, is only a good thing if the lesson they draw from Barton is to learn from mistakes, or hopefully to avoid them in the first place, because such mistakes often take a toll not just on the person who commits them but on other people.

These are lessons team managements and sports bodies must do better in imparting to their rising stars. Their messaging must be clear and unequivocal. That is why many people believe Sheffield United should not reinstate Ched Evans.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the career of Joey Barton. He is currently a player with Queens Park Rangers.

TIME Soccer

Soccer Governing Body Wins World Cup for Chutzpah

FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Dec. 2, 2010.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Dec. 2, 2010. Philippe Desmazes—AFP/Getty Images

FIFA's announcement clearing the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes scores a series of spectacular own goals to clinch the title

Fans know football as “the beautiful game,” not just a sport but a metaphor in which—given a level playing field, clear rules (well, and this one) and an impartial referee—the best team wins. Ugly scenes sometimes mar the romantic vision, but players who commit fouls are duly punished.

It can often be hard to square this ideal with the off-pitch maneuvers of the bodies responsible for the sport but a Nov.13 statement by the ethics committee of FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the Zurich-based governing body of world soccer, took the World Cup for chutzpah. The statement purported to summarize the investigation commissioned by FIFA into numerous allegations of irregularities behind bid processes that decided Russia would host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar—where daytime temperatures during the summer months of the competition routinely exceed 40°C (104°F)—would stage the tournament in 2022. The announcement trumpeted findings that put Russia, Qatar—and FIFA—in the clear. England’s Football Association (FA), by coincidence one of the organizations to raise concerns about the bid processes, came in for criticism. The FA had tried to “curry favor” with a key official as part of its doomed efforts to win the 2018 competition for London, said the ethics committee statement.

FIFA welcomed “a degree of closure.” The FA rejected FIFA’s criticism. Social media erupted with a mixture of bemusement and contempt. “Is there any grouping of 3 words more certain to induce tears of laughter than FIFA Ethics Committee?” tweeted British journalist @BryanAppleyard. Gary Lineker, a former top soccer player-turned-NBC pundit, also took to Twitter to launch a series of well placed kicks against FIFA and its autocratic President Sepp Blatter.

Lineker may have captained the England team in an earlier life, but some of the angriest responses to Fifa came from people without a dog—or country—in this particular fight. The most startling emanated from Michael Garcia, the former New York district attorney mentioned in one of Lineker’s tweets, who conducted the two-year investigation on FIFA’s behalf. FIFA’s interpretation of his report “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions,” Garcia complained in a statement of his own. He plans to appeal—as Lineker wrote—to FIFA.

Meanwhile Russia greeted news that its bid had been cleared with equanimity. It had failed to provided much documentation to the investigation because, said FIFA, “computers used at the time by the Russia Bid Committee had been leased and then returned to their owner after the bidding process,” without preserving the email correspondence on them. “We were always sure that they would not find anything unlawful,” Alexei Sorokin, head of Russia’s World Cup bid, told R-SPort news agency.

 

TIME World Cup

FIFA Clears Russia and Qatar to Host World Cup

FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, in Dec. 2010.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, in Dec. 2010. Philippe Desmazes—AFP/Getty Images

No proof was found of long-standing allegations of bribes and voting pacts

(GENEVA) — A FIFA judge has cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption in their winning bids for the next two World Cups.

German judge Joachim Eckert formally closed FIFA’s probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests on Thursday, almost four years after the vote by the governing body’s scandal-tainted executive committee.

Eckert noted wrongdoing among the 11 bidding nations in a 42-page summary of FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia’s investigations.

However, Eckert ruled that the integrity of the December 2010 voting results was not affected.

No proof was found of longstanding allegations of bribes and voting pacts. Eckert concluded that any rule-breaking behavior was “far from reaching any threshold” to require re-running the contests.

Eckert wants Garcia to prosecute cases against individual FIFA voters and bid staffers.

TIME ebola

Morocco Won’t Host the Africa Cup Amid Ebola Fears

Nigeria v Burkina Faso - 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final
John Obi Mikel celebrates holding the trophy during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations Final match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso from the National Stadium in Johannesburg on Feb. 10, 2013. Lefty Shivambu—Gallo Images/Getty Images

Organizers have disqualified the country in response to its refusal

Morocco will not be hosting the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations after being removed by organizers due to the country’s Ebola fears.

Morocco had a deadline of Nov. 8 to confirm whether it would host the soccer tournament, and instead, the country asked for the tournament to be postponed. The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which organizes the event, refused Morocco’s request on Tuesday, and has insisted that the tournament will start on schedule, kicking off Jan. 17.

“Following the refusal of the Moroccan party, the Executive Committee has decided that the national team of Morocco is automatically disqualified and will not take part in the 30th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations in 2015,” CAF wrote in a statement. A new host has not been identified, but CAF says it’s received “some applications” from other countries wanting to host the competition.

The move comes amid growing fear and stigma of the Ebola outbreak which is affecting Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Sierra Leone’s soccer team was hailed with chants of “Ebola, Ebola” while playing in games in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, and the team has been forced to stay in hotels with no other guests, the New York Times reports.

Ebola is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an affected person, and individuals are not contagious until they start showing symptoms.

 

TIME Morocco

Morocco Barred From 2015 Africa Cup of Nations

FBL-AFR-2013-BUR-NGR-MATCH32
Nigeria's national football team players hold the trophy as they celebrate winning the 2013 African Cup of Nations final against Burkina Faso on Feb. 10, 2013 at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. Issouf Sanogo—AFP/Getty Images

Nation had requested postponement over Ebola fears

The Confederation of African Football confirmed Tuesday that the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations tournament would not be held in Morocco, which refused to do so over Ebola fears, and that Morocco’s team would be disqualified.

Morocco had asked the confederation to consider postponing the game until health workers had managed to contain the spread of the virus across West Africa, which the World Health Organization reports has killed some 5,000 people so far. The request was denied, the BBC reports, which gave Morocco until Saturday to reconsider.

The confederation also announced that Morocco’s squad would be automatically barred from the games and that its executive committee had already been convened in Cairo to consider alternative sites for the games, scheduled to begin on Jan. 17 and end on Feb. 8.

TIME england

How English Soccer Could Take a Page from American Football’s Playbook

Manager Chris Powell during a Huddersfield Town home game on Oct. 21, 2014 in Huddersfield, England.
Manager Chris Powell during a Huddersfield Town home game on Oct. 21, 2014 in Huddersfield, England. Gareth Copley—Getty Images

Advocates look to NFL to address racial disparity in coaching ranks

It’s not often that England’s football clubs look across the Atlantic for answers, but a new report suggests doing just that. Ethnic Minorities and Coaching in Elite-Level Football in England: A Call to Action, launched on Nov. 10, highlights a glaring whiteness in the upper echelons of management at England’s 92 professional football clubs. There are just two black or mixed race managers in English football, Chris Powell at Huddersfield and Keith Curle at Carlisle, and although as many as 30% of players come from minority ethnic backgrounds, only 3.4% of top coaches—13 of the 552 individuals employed running first teams, developing young talent and in other, similarly key roles—are non-white. The report holds up the National Football League’s Rooney Rule as a possible way to redress than imbalance.

The procedure—nothing to do with Manchester United and England player Wayne Rooney, but named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who helped to formulate the rule and get the NFL to adopt it—requires all NFL teams to interview at least one black or minority ethnic candidate for any head coach and general manager vacancy. In 2003 when the rule came into force, only 6% of NFL head coaches were of black or minority ethnic heritage. Within three years, the proportion had risen to 22%. This has not been the only bonus, says Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), co-publisher of the report. “The research from the U.S. tells us that if you implement the Rooney Rule, which is in essence about putting capable and qualified people in front of the people doing the recruiting, that opens up the system even to capable white coaches who might be excluded.”

English football recruitment lacks transparency. Positions are rarely openly advertised and often work through existing contacts. Jason Roberts, a former elite footballer and founder of the Sports People’s Think Tank, joint publisher of the report with FARE, told the British Sunday newspaper, the Observer, that he believes this system allows racist assumptions to go unchallenged. “It starts when black players are characterized by their athletic ability. You will not hear a black player referred to in the same sentence as the words ‘intelligent’, or ‘technique’. It’s always power and pace. This narrative goes right the way through. We’ve seen it in the past – ‘black players are not good in the cold’, ‘not good at certain positions.’ You can see how the decision-makers look at it and say: ‘Well, he’s just not the type.’”

Other prominent non-white figures in English football have expressed skepticism that a Rooney Rule would work in the English context. The former England striker Les Ferdinand doubted that clubs would open up their interviewing process sufficiently. Carlisle’s Curle fears black candidates might be called in “just to tick a box.” Researchers, who spoke to Rooney and many other key figures in the NFL in compiling the report, did encounter similar worries in the U.S., says Powar, but overall the feedback was positive. “There are always suspicions that some people are being interviewed for the sake of it, that some franchises could do more, but in the end this one mechanism has led to a very clear change of the type we want to see here.”

FARE will be publishing more research later this year that surveys the situation across Europe. France and the Netherlands both do better than the U.K., says Powar, who has already seen some of the data. He argues that this represents “a bigger failure” by the English game because “English football is the wealthiest in the world; we have the biggest TV deals here; we have the most international league; the brands are bigger and they’re more well known across the rest of the world.”

Richard Bates of the anti-racism organization Kick It Out sees another problem in English football’s monotone appearance. There has been significant progress in combating racism on the playing field and in the stands, and in that respect “English football is certainly further ahead than a lot of countries on the Continent”. But, he says, the delay in mirroring the diversity of players and fans in football’s board rooms and back rooms risks undermining those advances. “The more diverse the game becomes off the pitch, the more aware people will become in terms of those who watch the game of the need to be fully inclusive.”

Bates argues that not only the football clubs but the governing bodies in English football, in particular the Football Association (FA), the Premier League and the Football League, need to spearhead the drive for better diversity. If so, these bodies should make a start by looking at themselves. Research undertaken for the report shows that a mere 1% of administrators in English football are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. In October 2013, Heather Rabbatts, simultaneously the only black and only female board member of the FA, made public a letter criticising her own organization after a commission it set up to look at ways of improving the performance of the England team in a spectacular own goal failed to include any black or female members.

England last lifted the World Cup in 1966. Rabbatts pointed out that Andros Townsend, a black player, had just helped England towards qualifying for the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil. “It is therefore particularly ironic that a commission to look at the national team has been formed with absolutely no representation from the black and ethnic minority communities, many of whom play such an important role at every level of our game.”

TIME Athletes

Watch Lionel Messi Tie Champions League Goals Record

Ajax vs BarcelonaFC Barcelona Lionel Messi celebrates his 2-0 during the UEFA Champions League group F soccer match between Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona in Amsterdam on Nov. 5, 2014.
FC Barcelona Lionel Messi celebrates his 2-0 during the UEFA Champions League group F soccer match between Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona in Amsterdam on Nov. 5, 2014. Olaf Krakk—EPA

The goal is Messi's 71st in 90 total Champions League appearances over the course of his career

The UEFA Champions League now has two goal kings. For the time being.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi moved into a tie with Real Madrid legend Raul for the crown of all-time leading scorer on Wednesday, with the second of two goals against Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA. Appropriately enough, the play is archetypical Messi, as the Argentinian started the play at the top of the box before servicing Pedro on the left wing, who in turn fed Messi’s continued run for a simple finish.

The goal is Messi’s 71st in 90 total Champions League appearances over the course of his career, an astounding feat considering that Raul took over 50 more appearances (142) with which to set his own record.

Even more astounding is that the record may add a third holder before long, as Ronaldo lurks just behind Messi and Raul with 70 goals in 107 Champions League appearances. Given that and both players’ youth (Ronaldo is 29, Messi is 27), it is likely that the La Liga rivals will trade the all-time mark between them over the remainder of their careers.

Ronaldo has had the better season of the two thus far, though, having gone on an absolute tear with 23 goals (and seven assists) in 16 games across all competitions.

Ronaldo will have his chance to equal (or perhaps surpass) Messi and Raul’s record on November 26, when Real Madrid takes on FC Basel. But even then, the mountain may be higher — Messi and Barcelona play APOEL Nicosia the day before.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Soccer

South Africa’s Soccer Captain Senzo Meyiwa Has Been Shot Dead

Australia South Africa Soccer Mayiwa Obit
In this file photo dated May 26, 2014, South Africa's goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa makes a diving save against Australia during their friendly soccer match in Sydney Rick Rycroft—AP

Armed men entered a house where Meyiwa was staying, but the motive remains unclear

South African national soccer captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was fatally shot on Sunday by armed men who broke into the house where he was residing.

Two gunmen entered the house, located in the Vosloorus township near Johannesburg, while an accomplice waited outside, the Associated Press reported.

Authorities said there were seven people in the house at the time of the shooting, which reportedly came after an “altercation.” A motive for the murder remains unclear.

Meyiwa, 27, played for South African soccer club Orlando Pirates and also captained the national side in its last four games.

“This is a sad loss whichever way you look at it — to Senzo’s family, his extended family, Orlando Pirates and to the nation,” Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza said.

South Africa lost another prominent sportsman just a couple of days earlier, when athlete Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was killed in an automobile accident on Friday.

[AP]

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