On Tuesday, FIFA unanimously voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams with effect from 2026. The idea is the brainchild of the newly elected FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, who sees the expansion as a vital way of growing the game around the world. The more cynical amongst us may think the motive has more to do with the projected £521 million in additional revenues that FIFA will receive through broadcasting, commercial and match-day income! So is the agreed expansion good news for the Home Nation? In short, probably yes, for it will give all 211 FIFA members a better chance of qualifying and a prolonged stay at the Finals. No wonder then that the Scottish FA were so positive! As for England, the small print of the proposals suggests that all drawn group matches may well be decided on penalties. Given that the England team has a penalty shoot-out success rate of just 14% in World Cup and European matches, it's probably safe to assume the expansion will make no difference to them whatsoever!
The combination of pouring rain and the first tube strike of 2017 certainly impacted on the number of attendees at EPRA's London Perspective on Monday evening. For those who did make their way to the British Museum, they heard Bart Gysens of Morgan Stanley deliver one of the gloomiest presentations on the property market in recent times. And for any investment agents in the room, their week also ended on a downer, this time from LSH's reporting that investment volumes in Quarter 4 2016 were 18.5% down on the same period last year and that total investment volumes for the year (£46.5bn) were the lowest since 2012. That said though, for the 'pint-half-fullers', that's still 9% above the ten year average. Whilst overseas investors continue to represent almost half of all transactions, the appetite from domestic local authorities remains particularly strong. They invested £600m in Quarter 4, following acquisitions totalling £750m in the third quarter, as they continue to make the most of the all-time low interest rates available under the Central Government backed borrowing scheme.
It's finally happening folks. On Friday, 'The Donald' is being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Whether you loathe him, or simply just can't stand him, in only five days’ time D J Trump will become the most powerful man in the world. Over the past week we saw his predecessor deliver his final speech as President, expressing concerns that many of his values and achievements would soon be dismantled. The President-elect on the other hand spent his week picking fights with both 'one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood' and his own intelligence agencies, appointing more family members as his trusted advisors and denying reports of being caught in a compromising situation in a Moscow hotel bedroom. And, as to his plans to set up a smokescreen to overcome inevitable business conflicts of interest, well what can be said other than it wouldn't get past the St Bride's Compliance Officer! There was not a jot on his likely policies. Even for our more politically agnostic readers, these really are unsettling (and depressing) political times. Would it be too much then to mention that tomorrow is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year?? Oops. Sorry.