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Plastic cutouts to replace live fans for German club

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BERLIN — A German club’s supporters are planning to replace real-life fans with plastic ones when the Bundesliga resumes – and raise some money for a child’s medical treatment in the process.

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Borussia Monchengladbach supporters have come up with a novel way to support their team, even though they probably won’t be allowed to attend games for a while longer because of the coronavirus outbreak.

One Gladbach supporters group is giving members the chance to create life-size plastic figures that will be placed in the stadium in their places when – and if – the Bundesliga is able to complete its season.

“We don’t have any concrete expectations but it should be a couple of thousand fans anyway,” the FPMG club’s liaison officer Thomas “Tower” Weinmann told The Associated Press.

For 19 euros ($21) each supporter can have their portrait taken and reprinted on hard weatherproof plastic cutouts. From each sale, 2 euros ($2.20) will go toward a fundraising campaign for a boy named Ben to receive treatment for spinal muscular atrophy. Another portion of the money raised will go toward supporting seven workers in the fan club whose jobs are under threat with no soccer being played.

“The rest is pure manufacturing and processing costs. With this we’re also helping two small companies in Monchengladbach that had to close their shops,” FPMG says on its website. “So no profit will be made, and when the ‘war is won’ and we can all go back to the stadium, everyone can take their portrait in plastic as a souvenir of a memorable time.”

With $2.7 billion reserves, FIFA has ‘duty’ to aid virus-hit soccer

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FIFA says it has a “duty” to use its vast financial reserves to assist a football industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out games and creating unexpected economic hardship in the world’s biggest sport.

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The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the wealthiest clubs, with Barcelona and Juventus players taking wage cuts; those in smaller countries, with Slovakian champion Zilina entering bankruptcy; and national football federations, with Uruguay furloughing hundreds of staff.

Having amassed reserves it last reported at $2.745 billion, FIFA has the resources to give much-needed financial help to the game at many levels. Now the organization has provided more details around the need agreed two weeks ago by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his vice presidents to explore a “support fund” for the sport.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

FIFA is exploring the mechanism to provide the financial lifeline to the football industry with the six regional confederations and member associations to ensure there is an announcement “in the near future.”

“The football community around the world is experiencing, to a greater or lesser extent, serious financial problems on account of the coronavirus outbreak,” FIFA said. “This threatens to disrupt and impair the ability of FIFA’s member associations and other football organizations such as leagues and clubs to develop, finance and run football activities at all levels of the game, including professional, non-professional, youth and grassroots.

“It is foreseen that in many parts of the world a considerable number of persons involved in football including both men and women players will be left in extremely difficult economic conditions.”

FIFA already operates a “Forward” development program to redistribute its wealth to member associations. In the 2015-18 cycle, investment dedicated to the scheme was $1.079 billion, of which $832 million had been approved and committed to member associations, confederations or regions, according to the last published financial results.

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”

Michel Hidalgo, who coached France to EURO 1984 glory, dies

Michel Hidalgo
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PARIS (AP) Michel Hidalgo, the coach who led France to the 1984 European Championship title and the 1982 World Cup semifinals, died on Thursday. He was 87.

The French Football Federation confirmed the death.

Hidalgo coached the national team from 1976-84 and led host France to its first major title at Euro 1984 with midfielder Michel Platini scoring nine goals.

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Les Bleus reached the World Cup semifinals two years earlier but lost to West Germany in a penalty shootout.

Soccer purists adored the way Hidalgo’s teams were almost fixated on creativity, even at the expense of defending. The midfield, led by Platini, was known as the “Magic Four” and was arguably the best in the world at the time. Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Bernard Genghini were the other three.

“I would like to express all my affection and my support to his wife Monique, to his family and all of those close to him,” Platini said in a statement. “As a coach, Michel lifted France to the summit of its art, with determination choosing the beautiful game and allowing each one of us to express all of our ability and individual talent.”

Hidalgo coached France in 75 games, behind only Raymond Domenech and current coach Didier Deschamps.

FFF president Noel Le Graet spoke of his “immense sadness and deep emotion” upon hearing of Hidalgo’s death.

“The federation, our football, are in grieving,” Le Graet said. “With his style of play, his personality and his exemplary passion, he contributed to our sport shining at international level and its popularity in France.”

During his playing days from 1952-66, Hidalgo was an attacking midfielder who scored regularly for Le Havre, Reims and Monaco.

He won French titles and French Cups as a player, and scored in the European Cup final when Reims lost to Real Madrid 4-3 in 1956. He put his club ahead 3-2 after the Spanish team rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

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The Latest: Brighton, Bournemouth aid workers; MLS extends moratorium

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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on soccer around the world:

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Major League Soccer has extended its moratorium on team training through April 3 and still wants players to stay in their team’s local market.

MLS has targeted May 10 as a potential return date.

Team training facilities may be used only for physical therapy purposes at the direction of the team’s medical staff.


The Spanish soccer federation has announced measures to help smaller clubs financially.

The measures include a loan of 4 million euros ($4.3 million) to help pay the salaries of players and coaches.

The loan will be available to clubs from the third and fourth divisions, and futsal clubs. It can be paid back without interest over two seasons.

The federation also says it will negotiate a credit line for teams in the first and second division.

Federation president Luis Rubiales says the federation’s doctors will be made available to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, and the national team’s hotel can be used as a hospital if necessary.


Premier League teams Brighton and Bournemouth have become the first clubs to sign up to a campaign to make 100,000 free soccer tickets available to medical workers on the front line during the coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative was conceived by executives at Brighton, which has committed to giving National Health Service workers 1,000 tickets for matches and has invited other clubs from the Premier League, English Football League, Scotland and Northern Ireland to join in.

Bournemouth immediately followed suit, offering “a minimum of” 1,000 tickets.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says “we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the front line who are fighting the battle on behalf of all of us and give them something to look forward to.”