Espanyol upset with poachers Barca

*The president of Espanyol, Joan Collet, has angrily denounced city rivals Barcelona for what he called the "shameful" practice of poaching youngsters from the club's academy.

Local media reported that five graduates from Espanyol's youth academy had recently joined Barca and Collet said the club would be taking steps to make sure it did not happen again.

"For a start, staff and coaches from other clubs will not be allowed to watch training sessions if they do not have permission or a prior appointment," he said. "And we will oblige players selected by the coaching staff to sign a training contract," he added. "We are not here to produce players for other clubs."

Players who left without making sure Espanyol were involved in talks with their new club would not be allowed back, Collet said, and called on the professional league (LFP) to act to prevent clubs poaching youngsters.

Norwegian head-hunters target Lund’s statue

*A Norwegian newspaper has offered a reward for the safe return of the head stolen from a brass statue of former Lillestrom and Norway soccer international Tom Lund.
The head of Lund, a cult hero who spent his entire career at the club, was taken from outside Lillestrom's home ground, some 20 kilometres east of the Norwegian capital Oslo.

"We will provide 25,000 crowns ($4,100) as a reward to the person or people that ensure the head of Tom Lund returns to the club and the statue," Magne Storedal, the editor of local newspaper Romerikes Blad, said in a statement.

Lund, who spent 15 years at the club between 1967 and 1982 and also had two spells as manager, was baffled by the damage.

"This goes beyond all boundaries, I can't understand it," he said.

With Lillestrom due to face local rivals Valerengen in Norway's Tippeligaen on Sunday, many suspected that Valerenga fans were behind the vandalism, but a representative of the club' fans group, "Klanen", rejected such accusations.

Spanish govt directs clubs to cut debts

*The Spanish government has told the nation's soccer clubs to slash one billion euros ($1.30 billion) from combined debt of around four billion by 2016 as part of a sweeping effort to reverse years of profligacy and mismanagement.

The austerity plan for the 42 first and second division teams includes cutting 100 million euros from clubs' wage bills next season and some might be told to sell players if they were not deemed to be getting their accounts in order, Secretary of State for Sport Miguel Cardenal said.

The rules were first set out in January this year after an agreement between Cardenal's office (CSD) and the professional league (LFP) but this is the first time the government has given clubs a specific target for debt reduction.

Red Star Belgrade slowly fading away

*Former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade are likely to go into administration unless the Serbian government steps in with short-term financial aid, the club's president Dragan Dzajic said on Thursday.

The former Yugoslavia winger, who was Red Star's technical director when they won Europe's premier club competition in 1991, sent an open letter to Serbia's sports minister Alisa Maric asking her to allocate a loan in order to save "a fallen giant from going under."

"We are not asking for subsidies," Dzajic said. "What we want is a short-term loan to keep Red Star afloat... which we would repay straight into the country's budget as soon as we can. Otherwise, Red Star may cease to exist," he added.

Red Star have been unable to produce in the last decade players remotely as good as former captains Nemanja Vidic and Dejan Stankovic, hence becoming a debt-ridden liability unable to pay even the most basic bills.

Goats, broken goalposts at Swiss training base

*Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was greeted with broken goalposts and goats grazing on the pitch when he visited the team's planned World Cup training pitch in Brazil last week.

Swiss television showed Hitzfeld struggling to keep a straight face as he described conditions at the run-down Antonio Fernandes Municipal Stadium in Guaruja, an hour and-a-half drive from Sao Paulo.

The stadium appeared completely abandoned with terraces in a filthy condition and the dressing rooms locked.

Hitzfeld said he had been promised the venue would be completely renovated in time for next year's tournament.

"We mustn't get too upset about the state of the place and we are convinced that those responsible will keep their promises," he said. "They've told us that the whole training arena will be modernised and ready for us. There will be a new pitch, the dressing rooms will be rebuilt and the tribunes."