SBD Global/January 12, 2017/International Football

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  • U.S., Canada, Mexico Begin Talks About Joining Forces To Host 2026 World Cup

    Football leaders in the U.S., Canada and Mexico "are in talks about joining forces to stage the biggest-ever edition of the World Cup" in '26, when the field of sport’s most-watched event will be increased to 48 teams, according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. The U.S. "would be the tournament’s main host with the most games, including the final." Should the plan be approved, the 2026 World Cup would be "the first time three countries have staged the same event." CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said, "I think any one of the countries could probably put on a good show on their own. But I think there seems to be a prevailing thought that a confederation-type bid with multiple hosts is probably good for football." The bid has "a strong chance of success as Europe and Asia are excluded following the selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the next two editions." Montagliani "huddled with leaders" of the U.S. and Mexican football bodies at Zurich’s Hyatt hotel "late into the night on Monday, hours before FIFA confirmed" the expansion of the World Cup. Montagliani added that a formal proposal "is likely to be formulated and presented" to CONCACAF’s other members around the time of the next FIFA Congress, set for May in Bahrain (BLOOMBERG, 1/11). In London, Martyn Ziegler reported Montagliani "also insisted" that the U.S. and Mexico "could overcome possible bad blood" over incoming President Donald Trump’s statements about building a wall between the countries to allow co-hosting. Montagliani: "Football can trump politics -- no pun intended." Asked about a "three-way hosting arrangement," Montagliani said, "This is an opportunity for CONCACAF. In some regions, not only does co-hosting make more sense, it's the only sense, because it's not just the 48 teams, it's the training facilities, it's all the other infrastructure that's required. It's also an opportunity, when more countries share, to grow the game" (LONDON TIMES, 1/11).

    'FOOTBALL IS GLOBAL': In Dublin, Ian Herbert reported FIFA President Gianni Infantino "hit back at European nations who are resistant to the new expanded 48-team World Cup," telling the "implacably opposed Germans that they always qualify and must wake up to the reality of this century, rather than live in the last one." Infantino: "Even if you organize a World Cup with two teams, one of the two teams would be Germany." He joked that 48 teams would help "get England" to the '26 finals. Infantino added, "But for many other countries, it's a chance to qualify. It is a chance to participate in a big event. It's not the 20th century any more. It's the 21st century. Football is more than Europe and South America. Football is global" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 1/11).

    DIVISIVE TOPIC: In Sydney, Dominic Bossi reported Football Federation Australia issued a "lukewarm response to FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams" while former Socceroos captain Paul Wade "slammed" world football's governing body, "questioning whether the motivation was financially driven." Wade questioned the motivation of FIFA, "suggesting it is more concerned with filling its coffers" by introducing more markets -- particularly the "lucrative and growing Asian region" -- into the tournament, boosting broadcast rights with 16 more games in the World Cup. He added, "I don't agree with 16 [extra teams]. I think there's got to be more incentive than that." Asia is "set to receive a major boost with the addition of as many as four extra places in the tournament, likely growing the allocation from 4.5 to 8.5." FFA CEO David Gallop said, "Australia is part of the Asian Football Confederation where the most significant growth and investment is occurring and we expect this trend to continue over the coming years leading up to the World Cup expansion" (SMH, 1/11).

    AFC HEAD OPTIMISTIC: REUTERS' Amlan Chakraborty reported Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said that FIFA's decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams "will address Asia's long-standing demand for greater representation in the showpiece tournament." He said, "We believe that Asia, as the biggest continent, deserves more slots compared with the current quota, looking at the economic power it has, and the popularity for the game in Asia, in addition to the huge development for football at all levels." Similar optimism "prevailed across the Tasman Sea" with New Zealand Football hoping the 11-team Oceania Confederation, which has half a qualifying spot, "would finally be spared the uncertainty of a playoff." NZF CEO Andy Martin said, "We can only hope that means a direct entry as a minimum. We don't know the detail, but we are led to believe that it will mean at least one place" (REUTERS, 1/11). The AFP reported Chinese state media said that the move "could help" realize the country's "dream" of returning to the World Cup. China is 82nd in the FIFA rankings. Official news agency Xinhua said that the move "represented a big opportunity." A Xinhua commentary said, "Even if the levels of skill and strategy in the Chinese men’s football do not grow in leaps and bounds by 2026, the initial objectives of [China’s] football reform will have been realized. By then, with the added bonus of World Cup expansion, it is highly possible that China’s return to the World Cup will no longer be just a dream" (AFP, 1/11).

    AFRICAN EXPANSION?: RFI's Christina Okello reported some pundits "are debating" whether the World Cup expansion and that of Euro 2016 last year could "revive hopes of seeing the Africa Cup of Nations also get a boost." Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou blamed "a lack of infrastructure" for the 16-team Africa Cup of Nations tournament "failing to mirror the expansion of the European Championship." Michigan State University professor of African history Peter Alegi said, "I would say that expansion in the African context would make it very difficult for most nations to be able to host it. You'd be looking at a handful of countries being able to host it on rotation, probably with South Africa and several of the North African countries being in pole position" (RFI, 1/10).

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  • Scottish Professional Football League Issues New Fan Misconduct Regulations

    The Scottish Professional Football League has issued new regulations "aimed at tackling supporter misconduct," according to the BBC. All 42 of its member clubs are "expected to take strict disciplinary measures against fans who indulge in anti-social behaviour during matches." The updated guidance, which comes into force immediately, states that home clubs are responsible for "good order and security." Under the previous rules, clubs could "argue that they had taken all practical steps to deter misbehaviour inside their stadiums." Now they must be "seen to actively pursue cases and take 'appropriate' action against the perpetrators" (BBC, 1/10). In Edinburgh, Andy Newport reported the update comes "after a number of worrying cases involving disruption on the terraces in recent months." This season’s opening Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers was also "marred when two effigies were hung from a section of the home support, while the Rangers fans were responsible for a trashed toilet." Last year’s Scottish Cup final -- organized by the Scottish FA -- "ended amid shameful scenes when Hibernian and Rangers supporters clashed on the Hampden pitch" (SCOTSMAN, 1/11).

    COLUMN: In Glasgow, Jamie Montgomery opined SPFL CEO Neil Doncaster, "only ever one sentence away from another blunder, has issued his latest cack-handed list of rules Scotland's clubs must follow." The clubs are now expected to take "strict disciplinary measures" against their own fans who misbehave. The updated guidance "follows the scenes" from the Scottish Cup final last May. The SFA "passing the buck is no big surprise." More "damning is their shameless attempt to slap down clubs who already do everything they can to prevent trouble and mete out suitable punishments when they can." The SFA "know this happens, but again were so embarrassed by their own inadequacies after the final that sticking it to their members seemed like the best face-saving solution" (DAILY RECORD, 1/11).

    Print | Tags: International Football, United Kingdom
  • China's Stadium Diplomacy In Africa Continues With This Year's AFCON

    China’s "recent heavy investment in talent has yet to fully embrace African players, or for that matter, African coaches and managers," according to Simon Chadwick of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. Off the field though, China "seems rather more taken with Africa." This year’s African Cup of Nations, hosted by Gabon, "is the latest in a long line of tournaments" into which the country has invested. Gabon previously hosted the African Cup of Nations in '12, when two new stadiums were constructed for the event which was co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea. One of Gabon’s two stadiums, in Libreville, "was funded and constructed by China." This year, "there will be an additional two new stadiums." The new venues are located in Oyem and Port Gentil. Both have been funded and constructed by China. Football, specifically the African Cup of Nations, "nicely joins the dots in a Gabonese/Chinese relationship that already sees" the African nation sending 14.2% of all its exports to its East Asian partner. China’s use of "sports stadium gifting as a diplomatic and soft power tool is now long established." For the next African Cup of Nations in '19, Cameroon will be constructing two new venues, both designed by China Machinery Engineering Corp. (SCMP, 1/11).

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  • Football Notes: Six $12,000 Watches Disappear From FIFA Best Awards

    FIFA's "obsession with expensive watches" led to another "farcical" episode at its Best Awards in Zurich this week. Six Hublot Big Bang watches, worth around £10,000 ($12,224) each, were "due to be presented" to the individual winners. But they "disappeared" somewhere between FIFA HQ and the Zurich TV studios where the event was being staged. Hublot representatives found another range of their watches "at the last minute" to present to the winners, who included Cristiano Ronaldo and Claudio Ranieri. A FIFA spokesperson said, "We are looking into what happened to the watches. They went missing somewhere" (London DAILY MAIL, 1/10).

    Serbian side Partizan Belgrade has been banned from the Champions League and Europa League for the next three seasons "because of unpaid debts." UEFA said the '15 SuperLiga champions had broken rules on unpaid debts three times in the past five years. UEFA added that the club owed €2.5M ($2.6M) in unpaid debts as of September (BBC, 1/11).

    Singapore's Central Provident Fund Board is "investigating local S-League clubs for possible non-payment of CPF contributions to their Prime League footballers." A CPF Board spokesperson said, "The CPF Board takes a serious view of employers who do not fulfill their CPF obligations to their employees." It is understood that "at least one club had failed to pay the contributions for up to five years." The Prime League teams are the reserve sides of each professional S-League club, "largely featuring young players below 21." There are six local S-League clubs, excluding the Young Lions. An S-League spokesperson said, "The S-League understands that the clubs had in the past been under the perception that the 'allowance' paid to the Prime League players did not necessitate CPF contribution" (STRAITS TIMES, 1/11).

    CONMEBOL announced a partnership with Sportradar's Integrity Services, focusing on a range of the continent's leagues and competitions. This partnership is part of the governance and transparency development that has been central to CONMEBOL President Alejandro Domínguez's administration since his election in Jan. '16 (Sportradar).

    Print | Tags: International Football
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