About this business of Qatar, World Cups and … tanks!

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I know it’s easy to bag and bust on the choice of Qatar as a World Cup site. I certainly have.

It’s a silly choice, and most of us would love to think it’s just a bad dream, like the one where you’re back in school at the end of a lost semester, about to take a huge test without a chance in heck of passing the doggone thing. (You have that one, too, right?)

But this thing is happening. Qatar and a World Cup. Heaven help us and please pass the sunscreen.

The weekend brought us reports that Qatar would purchase tanks and other heavy weapons from Germany ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Cue the snark and the outrage over a World Cup and how, as one PST reader wondered, if armament is required then “maybe they should rethink the idea of having the tournament in such an unstable, violence prone region.”

Here’s the deal: security at a World Cup is serious, serious business. As it should be. All contingencies, starting at terrible and ranging up to the unthinkable, must be considered – not just in Qatar, but at all of them.

I feel a little uneasy about this subject; I’m pretty well-versed in soccer but I am no security expert. I do, however, know this:

I have walked plenty of times into stadium areas being used as pre-game tactical staging points, and the arms at the ready are substantially intimidating.

I know that this big monster to the right (above right, in the photo), along with a bunch that looked just like it, was parked about a quarter of a mile from my hotel room in Hamburg during World Cup 2006. (Which means it was less than a mile from where the United States was based that summer in Germany.)

I know that plenty of domestic police departments have light armored vehicles. Apparently, it’s not just the city and county entities getting into the heavy weapons security act.

I know that F-16s are at the ready during Super Bowls right here in our land; as targets of opportunity, I’d put a World Cup up there with a Super Bowl, right?

And I happened to be a cubbie reporter during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles; I sat on a balcony watching armored vehicles control curfew after dark.

There are bad people out there. We all know that. If tanks, even as deterrent, are in order to ensure that people like me are writing about soccer in 2022 and not about something far more awful, then I’m OK with having the hulking vehicles around. After all, haven’t they always been around, or close by at very least, at World Cups for a long, long time?

Michael Bradley has strong views on Crew’s relocation

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Michael Bradley didn’t hold back when asked about the Columbus Crew potentially being relocated to Austin, Texas, by their owner Anthony Precourt.

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The captain of Toronto FC and the U.S. men’s national team had his every touch booed during TFC’s 0-0 Conference Final first leg draw at Columbus’ Mapfre Stadium on Tuesday and was asked afterwards about the uproar regarding the Crew’s possible relocation to a city over 1,200 miles away.

Bradley, 30, did not sit on the fence.

“Look, on one hand you feel for the small group of loyal supporters that they have who have been here since the beginning, who continue to support the team and come out week after week. On the other hand, you can’t deny the fact that things here have really fallen behind in terms of the atmosphere in the stadium, the quality of the stadium, what it’s like to play here,” Bradley said.

“I don’t know who’s at fault for that… there’s a lot going on, and I get that – and like I said, as an outsider I don’t know what that falls on. But again, the reality is just that as the league has continued to grow and grow – and this is not the only one, but this is one of a few markets that has not kept pace.”

Does Bradley have a point?

Looking at MLS in terms of average attendance over the past seven years since MLS expansion became rampant, Columbus’ highest average attendance was 17,125 in 2016. That was still over 4,000 below the league average, even if you believe attendance stats in MLS are vastly miscalculated in many markets with “tickets sold” included in many attendance figures.

For the 2017 regular season only Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas are drawing smaller crowds, on average, than Columbus’ average of 15,439, and there’s only a few hundred difference between those three clubs.

When you look at the somewhat recent arrivals of Seattle, Portland, Montreal, Vancouver, New York City FC, Orlando City and now Atlanta and Minnesota United into the league, you just can’t compare their strong attendance numbers with Columbus and other MLS ever-present franchises such as Colorado and Dallas.

Bradley, on one level, is spot on. There is a distinct, and obvious, difference from the clubs set up in MLS in 1996 who are still in MLS today and the stadium deals those who entered in MLS 2.0 and 3.0.

Of course, his comments will not sit well with Columbus’ fans who are fighting desperately with the #SaveTheCrew movement to keep their club in Ohio with Precourt, MLS and the City of Columbus no closer to an agreement about plans for a new stadium for the Crew in downtown Columbus.

Above all, this is about more than attendances. Plenty of MLS markets have struggled in the past, or are struggling right now, to attract new fans and many Columbus supporters believe having a new owner who has their heart set on keeping the team in the city and improving the team and situation is the key. It’s hard to blame them for wanting that and not rolling over just because their current owner wants to try something different.

This is a tricky situation to see a “winner” from, with Precourt the only one set to benefit if he successfully relocates the Crew to Austin and they become profitable and big crowds turn up.

The situation is an absolute mess and with reports suggesting only two gates were open for Columbus’ playoff game against Toronto on Tuesday to slow down fans entering the stadium, it is become an embarrassing situation for MLS, especially as it appears they had the agreement in place with Precourt for a potential relocation to Austin when he purchased the Crew in 2013.

Once again, what a mess.

Everton announce major step in bid for new stadium

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Everton is edging closer to moving away from Goodison Park, their home since 1892.

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The Toffees released a statement on Thursday saying they’ve exchanged contracts on a lease to buy the land at Bramley Moore Dock where they hope to build their new 60,000 capacity stadium.

It is believed the new stadium would cost over $400 million, while the total for regeneration work in the Bramley Moore area in north Liverpool could be over $7 billion.

The club and Liverpool City Council have worked together tirelessly to make this stadium plan a possibility after several failed attempts to build Everton a new home in the past.

Everton called it a “significant milestone” in their stadium move and added that the club “effectively now controls the land upon which a new stadium would be built.”

This is a huge moment for Everton and their owner Farhad Moshiri who has made building a new stadium his top priority since buying a 49.9 percent share of the club in February 2016.

Below are more details from the statement released by Everton, which you can read in full here.

Everton Stadium Development Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Everton Football Club) and Peel Land and Property (Ports) Limited have formally signed an agreement for the Club to lease land at Bramley Moore Dock, Liverpool Waters.

The lease, which is conditional upon gaining planning consent for the proposed new stadium and securing funding for its construction, will run for a period of 200 years at a peppercorn rent.

The signing of the agreement is a significant milestone in the project and means Everton effectively now controls the land upon which a new stadium would be built. This follows several years of searching for a new site and is the culmination of an exhaustive search across the city.

Robert Elstone, Chief Executive at Everton Football Club, said: “Clearly, this is very positive news. Gaining control of the site was essential for us to be able to move forward with the next stages of the project – finalising the funding agreement with the Council and preparing for the submission of a planning application – both of which we hope to do in the new year. I’d like to thank Peel as well as Mayor Anderson and his colleagues at the Council for their support in getting us to this point.”

The proposed new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock will be a catalyst for the £5.5bn regeneration proposals for North Liverpool which is set to be one of the largest and most transformational in the city’s history.

Premier League clubs send Thanksgiving wishes to USA

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Premier League clubs have been spending today wishing their fans and followers in the USA a Happy Thanksgiving.

That’s nice of them.

With several clubs having strong connections to the U.S. via current or past players, plus ownership groups based in the States, the bond is close between the two nations.

Here’s how plenty of PL clubs sent their wishes across the Atlantic on Thursday. And, oh yeah, have a great day everyone!


Tottenham took a look back at their Stateside trip in the summer


Everton saluted their former U.S. internationals with a moment to remember from Tim Howard


Man City went full on Fall


Arsenal kept it simple


So did Southampton, albeit with a photo of a delicious turkey in the background very tempting…


Stoke City have a strong band of American players over the years


Swansea’s American owners will have been pleased with this message


Bournemouth sent their best wishes too

Antoine Griezmann reveals desire to play in MLS

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Antoine Griezmann is being chased by the biggest clubs in Europe and is the main attacking talent for the French national team.

He just signed a new deal with La Liga giants Atletico Madrid through the 2022 season and despite Manchester United and Barcelona, among others, linked with a move for the predatory striker, nobody really knows where the Frenchman will be beyond this season.

But which league does he want to play in, for sure? Major League Soccer. Yep. That’s right.

In his new book titled “Behind a Smile: The life of the Little Prince” Griezmann says that he wants to follow in the footsteps of his idol, David Beckham, and finish his career in MLS. Griezmann also stated his love for NBA star Derrick Rose and his admiration for David Villa, captain of NYCFC.

Given the fact that Griezmann is 26 years old, it could be some time before he arrives in MLS but maybe he will do so in time to become one of Beckham’s first handful of Designated Players at his long-awaited Miami franchise?

Given the fact that whenever he discusses a potential move to Man United he cites the cold weather as an issue against the transfer, it’s likely Griezmann would want to be in a warmer climate in MLS. His good friend from their time together at Real Sociedad, Carlos Vela, is swapping Spain for Los Angeles in a few months as LAFC’s first DP.

Take your pick, Antoine. LAFC? Miami? NYCFC? LA Galaxy? Atlanta United?

I’m sure anyone would want to sign in a few years on DP-level money if you keep scoring goals like this one last night against AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League…