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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Briatore Considers Legal Action to Clear His Name....QPR Closing Ranks Around Briatore

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Mail - Flavio Briatore ponders legal action in bid to clear his name over Renault crash scandal
- 22nd September 2009
- 'Distraught' Flavio Briatore is contemplating taking legal action against motor sport's governing body following his lifetime ban from Formula One.
Italian media reports suggest that the disgraced former Renault boss is desperate to clear his name after being banished from the sport for his role in last year's scandalous Singapore grand prix incident when he ordered Nelson Piquet to crash.
- - 'I am distraught,' the 59-year-old told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport, as he decides the next course of action in his bid to overturn his ban and seek retribution after severe damage to his character.
- The embattled Italian's role at Championship club Queens Park Rangers has subsequently come under scrutiny after Football League officials confirmed that they are looking into the circumstances surrounding his life ban from F1.
- There was support for the troubled tycoon voiced from some F1 quarters, however.
- Head of Spanish motor sport federation Carlos Gracia, a member of the FIA world motor sport council who condemened Briatore in Paris on Monday, admitted he was surprised by the 'excessive' nature of the Italian's punishment.
Great escape: Renault were handed a two-year suspended sentence over Nelson Piquet's controversial crash at last year's Singapore grand prix
- Speaking to Spanish sports website AS.com, Gracia said: 'Briatore's (penalty) seems to me excessive, there was no clear proof against him and he was not able to defend himself either.
- 'Morever, I wouldn't rule out him going to ordinary justice because he has been left without his means of earning a living.' Mail

Yann Tear/London Informer - QPR closing ranks around Briatore
- QPR are closing ranks over the Formula One scandal which threatens the future involvement of Flavio Briatore at Loftus Road.- Boss Jim Magilton and right hand man John Gorman were shielded from questions about the flamboyant Italian's position at the club at a press conference to preview the Chelsea game.
- But Magilton did stress that the players and coaching staff were not being distracted from the task at hand on the pitch.
- “At the end of the day, John and I have the job of making sure the players are prepared, focused and ready,” the QPR boss said.
- “When you are a footballer, a manager or a coach, everything else is somewhat lost, because you have to have that focus of attention on every little detail of the football.”
- Whatever the official line from the training ground at Harlington, the club itself is bound to face greater scrutiny following this week's decision by the FIA – the Forumla One governing body – to suspend Briatore indefinitely from the sport.
- Driver Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered – by Briatore and former director of engineering Pat Symonds - to deliberately crash his car into a wall at the Singapore Grand Prix last season to improve the chances of championship-chasing team-mate Fernando Alonso.
- Renault were given a two-year suspended sentence for the debacle this week – leniency having been shown because of their contrition and because of Briatore's recent departure from the team.
- Piquet damneded Briatore, saying: “Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss. He had my future in his hands, but he cared nothing for it.”
- The Football League has asked the FIA for a report of its findings and may take action against the Italian – a joint owner of the club – under its fit and proper persons test." London Informer

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Rob Huges/New York Times September 23, 2009 - Briatore Poses a Problem for English Soccer

LONDON — This is a defining week for the standing of English soccer.

It began Monday in the very north of the country, where a cast of a thousand gathered at Durham cathedral to bid the final farewell to Bobby Robson.

The son of a coal miner, Robson came up from earth to play and then to manage for two-thirds of his life. His last audience, by invitation only, could have summed up his contribution in a word: integrity.

As the eulogies were read, Flavio Briatore, a relative newcomer to English club soccer, was formally excommunicated from his first game, motor racing.

The connection is not tenuous because the men who govern English soccer have to decide, and very rapidly, whether Briatore is fit to run a club in England.

He is the chairman and part owner of Queens Park Rangers in west London. The league’s rules are explicit. An owner, prospective owner or director of a club should not be “subject to a ban from a sports governing body relating to the administration of their sport.”

As of Monday, Briatore is banned indefinitely from all motor sports. The World Motor Sport Council found that Briatore had instructed his driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash his Renault car in Singapore last year, and had continued to deny his part in the deception despite all the evidence.

This is where the two sports are joined. Robson’s playing career began at Fulham, a stone’s throw from Q.P.R. in west London, and a club of similar size and stature in the sport.

All that Robson learned and later passed on to generations of players not just in England but in the Netherlands, Portugal and, at the highest level of club soccer, at Barcelona, sprang from his Fulham days. All that needs firm protection in England’s major sport today — a sport whose clubs are increasingly owned by foreign investors — might depend on how the soccer overlords deal with Briatore.

He has friends in the game. After Briatore resigned from Renault, Adriano Galliani, who runs AC Milan for its owner, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, defended Briatore.

“I spoke with him five minutes ago,” Galliani said on Italian television. “I don’t think Briatore did anything.

“He has done a noble gesture in order to save his team and many jobs.”

Whether the English soccer league judges Briatore noble, or Formula One a sport, remains to be seen.

On Tuesday, as Briatore announced that he plans to sue the motor-racing authority for damage to his reputation, the English authorities equivocated. Brian Mawhinney, the former politician who was elevated to the House of Lords and became chairman of the Football League, in which Q.P.R. plays, has written to the motor racing authority requesting clarification of Briatore’s case.

Meanwhile, in the words of Bernie Ecclestone, the supremo of Formula One and a co-owner of Q.P.R., has joked that his erstwhile friend now has time on his hands to become more closely involved in running the soccer club.

That might not be the news Jim Magilton, the Q.P.R. coach, needs to hear right now. Magilton is the ninth different man appointed to coach the team since Briatore and Ecclestone bought controlling shareholdings in the club. The pair have since been joined by the Indian steel tycoon Amit Bhati.

One of the short-stop coaches, the Portuguese Paulo Sousa, departed after 20 matches amid rumblings that Briatore was picking the side. Briatore said he would sue journalists who repeated that rumor, and sue anybody who said that Q.P.R. had sacked any of its coaches. The contracts were terminated, Briatore insisted, but nobody was fired.

Q.P.R., which once fleetingly had Brazil’s Carlos Dunga on its board, lies just below midtable in the second tier of English soccer. It has yet to win a home game this season, and travels a few kilometers to face Chelsea, a somewhat more successful, foreign-owned club, in the English League Cup on Wednesday.

Magilton’s brief is to get Q.P.R. into the Premier League, pronto. Briatore is doing his bit, by using his extensive network of contacts through Formula One to get sponsors, such as Gulf Air, on board.

As chairman of the holding company that owns Q.P.R., Briatore is the most visible presence at the club, which turns over its coaching staffs as rapidly as Formula One teams change tires. He wants to be at the top, alongside Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich, Fulham’s Mohamed al Fayed, and eight other overseas owners in the Premier League.

Formula One’s loss might be English soccer’s dubious gain. Briatore has been a winner as team principal, not the least when he employed Michael Schumacher to drive for Benetton.

Schumacher was a ruthless competitor involved in several questionable incidents, although he was only punished after he had left Benetton for Ferrari. In 1997 he was disqualified from the championship for trying to knock Jacques Villeneuve off the track in the European Grand Prix. It could be argued that his sudden swerves or stops on the track were spur-of-the moment decisions.

Just as Diego Maradona’s leap to fist in a goal that helped eliminate England from the 1986 World Cup was instinctive. England’s manager that day? Bobby Robson.

What Maradona described as “The Hand of God,” Robson called “The Hand of a Rascal.”

Robson’s tenet was that you play to win, but within the rules. He was modest and would have been embarrassed to hear Manchester United’s manager, Alex Ferguson say on Monday: “Bobby was an influence on me from the day we met, and still is an influence on me. There are no secrets in football, it’s how you impart your knowledge. What made him so special was that he influenced people he didn’t know.”

Ferguson described Robson as going where few Englishmen went to coach in the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Yet, seated close to Ferguson was Roy Hodgson, now at Fulham, whose 16 coaching roles took him from Scandinavia to Switzerland, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Another Englishman, Bob Houghton, coaches India’s national team, after working in 10 countries, including the United States, China and Uzbekistan.

Long before it started happily grasping foreign soccer investment, England was an exporter of soccer expertise.

Robson himself remembered the pathfinder, Jimmy Hogan, English of Irish descent. Hogan was praised by Sandor Barcs, the president of the Hungary’s magical side that humiliated England in 1953, as “the man who taught us everything we know about football.”

Robson simply kept the ball rolling, magnificently.

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