FIFA payments to top executives have soared 81% in four years

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FIFA payments to so-called “key management personnel” have surged 81% in the past four years, according to figures in the world governing body’s financial reports.

FIFA’s 2012 financial report discloses that “short-term employee benefits” of $33.5 million were paid to “key management personnel.” The figure represents an increase of 13.6% from 2011 when $29.5 million was paid out to the key personnel, who the governing body defines as “members of the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee and the FIFA management, in particular the directors.”

The 2011 figure was a decrease from the $32.6 million paid in 2010, but a sharp spike from the $20.9 million paid in 2009 and the $18.5 million shelled out in 2008. To put all the numbers in perspective, the $33.5 million paid by FIFA to “key management personnel” in 2012 is a whopping $14.1 million increase from what was paid out just four years prior.

If questions are firing through your mind, you’re not alone.

A little over a week ago Sport Illustrated spoke to FIFA and asked it to explain what comprised “short-term employee benefits”. FIFA responded by saying that they “include the total compensation including wages, salaries and variable compensation as well as daily allowances.” FIFA did not go on to explain the nebulous definition of “variable compensation” and “daily allowances,” although one has to assume that it includes milk money.

FIFA also refused to respond to SI’s question concerning how many “key management personnel” are in FIFA, although evidence suggests that in 2010 there were at least 34. But without specific numbers identifying “key management personnel” in each year from 2008-2012 impossible to determine whether new personnel have been designated with such a title and whether previously designated personnel are carrying home significantly greater benefits. FIFA also refused to comment on how much money Sepp Blatter makes for running the organization.

SI did manage, however, to speak directly to Mohamed bin Hammam – the FIFA executive committee member from Qatar who is running against Blatter for the upcoming FIFA presidency – and the wealthy businessman was more forthcoming. He explained that in 2010 he was paid $281,720 from his work at FIFA. But when it came to “key management personnel” even bin Hammam had no idea what the term referred to. “Key management personnel? Maybe this is professional stuff,” Bin Hammam said. “Maybe it meant professional stuff, not for the executive committee?”

Yes, this is our sport’s world governing body. Seemingly healthy as a horse and hell-bent on remaining shrouded in mystery. What a beautiful game.

Jamaica edges Panama, earns first Women’s World Cup berth (video)

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Jamaica is joining the United States and Canada as CONCACAF representatives in this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France after a thrilling 2-2 draw gave way to penalty kicks in Wednesday’s third place match at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

It’s a first World Cup for the Reggae Girlz, who won 4-2 in kicks.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

Jamaica held a pair of leads but allowed equalizers in regulation and extra time to push the match into kicks.

That’s when Jamaica coach Merron Gordon rolled the dice, subbing out goalkeeper Sydney Schneider in favor of Nicole McClure.

The backup saved two of four Panama attempts, and Sheyla Diaz buried her attempt to clinch a spot in France.

Olympiakos’ Fortounis gets ban for obscene celebration

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Olympiakos midfielder Kostas Fortounis has been handed a one-match ban in the Greek league as punishment for an obscene goal celebration during a game this month.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

Fortounis will miss this weekend’s match against OFI on the island of Crete after the penalty was announced Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Greece international mouthed obscenities toward opposing fans after scoring against AEK Athens on Oct. 7 during a 1-1 draw. He later apologized for the incident.

PAOK currently leads the Greek league standings with 16 points from six matches, level with Atromitos. AEK and Olympiakos follow with 13 points.

Ramos posts video to refute ‘stamp’ on Sterling

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Let’s start here: Sergio Ramos is a darn good center back and a filthy player. Both of those things are true.

And opponents are always going to try to use the latter to deprive a match of the former.

[ MORE: Henry looks to Pep, Wenger ]

But the Real Madrid center back is having the last laugh regarding the latest furor over one of his tackles.

It all started when a Twitter user spied what he believed to be a Ramos stamp on Raheem Sterling in Spain’s 3-2 loss to England in the UEFA Nations League (although the still frame of the video shows you where this is going).

Perhaps knowing that Ramos would come near, it turns out Sterling is playacting or having an extremely delayed response to another tackle.

Check the other angle.

Sure he probably stamped on someone else during the match, especially after being trucked by Eric Dier, but this is pretty funny from the Real Madrid antagonist.

Henry prepares for first Monaco match, cites Guardiola, Wenger

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Thierry Henry in the role of manager is an intriguing endeavor.

The “star player becomes the star instructor” is a tall ask across many sports. For every Pep Guardiola or even Zinedine Zidane, there’s a boatload of Ruud Gullits and Diego Maradonas (Well there’s really only one Maradona, but we digress).

[ MORE: Surgery for Mane ]

Henry, by all accounts and the proverbial smell test, seems the kind of mind who can make it happen for himself. The new AS Monaco boss helped Roberto Martinez organize Belgium to a strong World Cup run, and has been selective about his first coaching opportunity.

And, hey, he served as a pretty decent mentor for Alex Hunter in FIFA 18.

Now he takes over a Monaco team with nowhere to go but up, and that hasn’t happened too often in the club’s celebrated history (though Monaco was relegated to Ligue 2 for two seasons from 2011-13).

Taking his first prematch media day ahead of Monaco’s trip to Strasbourg, Henry pointed to two of his managers as guides on his way: Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger.

To be fair, Henry’s praise for Guardiola was much loftier considering he arrived at Barcelona after playing for Wenger at Arsenal:

“Pep is the reference, for me,” said Henry. “The invention he had in the game; he’s well ahead of the game. … We learnt how to play the game when I went to Barcelona under him. With Pep you can talk about the game; he will not even go to sleep and will still talk about the game, you will fall asleep and he’s still talking.”

Henry credits Wenger with awakening the professional inside of him.

“Arsene unlocked a lot of stuff in my mind, made me understand what it was to be a professional, what it was to perform,” Henry said.

A lot of managers look to Guardiola and Wenger as examples, but Henry played for both. Considering the two are likely still in his list of contacts, this can only bode well for 18th place Monaco as it looks to embark on a run up the Ligue 1 table and its Champions League group table.