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FIFA Mulls Amalgamation in Parts of Europe
The Guardian, July 19th, 2007 4PM
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FIFA is considering amalgamating the leagues of certain countries in Eastern and Central Europe. As the Guardian's Jonathan Wilson says, it's a bold idea, but one fraught with difficulty. Wilson, who supports the idea, sat in on a FIFA conference about amalgamation, but was unaware of "how many problems become apparent as soon as you begin trying to formulate a framework." Indeed, to put it lightly, Central and Eastern Europe are tricky areas, considering the countries' war-torn history as parts of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. They're not exactly all friendly neighbors now, either -- although Wilson points out that the six former republics of Yugoslavia now compete in a merged basketball league.

However, delegates from some of these areas -- and they have a point -- say that the quality of the soccer has suffered in the wake of decentralization. The four delegates who presented the issue -- Jaka Lucu of Slovenia, Mihai Tudoran of Romania, Mico Petkovic of Serbia and Victor Vasiliev of Russia -- dream of a tomorrow where Central and Eastern European nations play in one league.

The advantages of amalgamation are evident: increased competition would increase the size of the market, boost ad and sponsorship revenues and ultimately, quality. The concerns are with implementation and the intense, politically-charged rivalries in the Balkan nations in particular. The existing domestic leagues would have to disband and officials would have to agree to on things like league infrastructure, including the number of teams from each country, and European places.

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