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FIFA officials discussed plans to improve India's football infrastructure during a four-day meeting with the All India Football Federation last week, as the country prepares to host the U17 World Cup in '17. The meetings, which concluded Saturday, were headed by FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and FIFA Dir of Member Associations and Development Thierry Regenass, who also met with Reliance Industries Chair Mukesh Ambani and Hero Group Chair Pawan Munjal. Valcke said, “It’s true that one of the issues of football in India is lack of infrastructure.” About 80% of I-League matches are played in three stadiums, while only two have flood lights and can be played in during the evening. He added, “With the lack of good stadiums and structure, it’s impossible to organize football games in the evenings, and all of the games are played in the afternoon.” To host the U17 World Cup, the Indian government, which owns the land, will have to redo the six needed stadiums. Valcke said that FIFA has already built four artificial pitches and a football academy, and plans to build two more of each. Valcke: “We have asked the Indian football federation that on top of the six artificial pitches financed by FIFA that we should finance more and give them more.” Talks will continue in the next month, “hoping to reach an agreement before the end of the year.” Additionally, India hopes the improvements in facilities will help its national team qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Valcke added that they are “working on a new I-League.” Libero Sports India Dir Neel Shah agreed that the I-League should change some of its policies. Shah said, “What I believe needs to happen is more centralized governing for the league that allows for a more solid foundation.” He suggested putting tighter guidelines on player spending and making sure that national sponsorship money trickles down to the grassroots level. Shah said that unlike cricket’s Indian Premier League, the I-League does not have a “clear product that sponsors have been excited to put their money in and activate.” Shah: “If there’s a quality product and a quality experience, there’s a good chance you’re going to see the numbers to go with that.” He suggested that facilities do not necessarily have to be the “best in the world,” but they should be a place families can enjoy.
Athletics New Zealand will "undergo a major restructure at the grassroots level to help strengthen the capabilities of clubs and athletes" (APNZ, 9/11). ... The Swimming Australia board will meet Wednesday "to set up a review of the sport" in the aftermath of the national team's performance at the London Games. The review panel is expected to comprise former Commonwealth Games swimmer and former Swimming Australia member Tim Ford and dual Olympic 1500m Gold Medalist Kieren Perkins (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/12).