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Volume 10 No. 25

International Football

FIFA's medical chief "will tell next month's landmark meeting to decide on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that the tournament must be moved to the winter to protect the fans," according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. FIFA's medical committee Chair Michel D'Hooghe "will advise the executive committee that the risks of hundreds of thousands of supporters moving between venues in the extreme heat are too great." The committee "is now expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup to the winter, most likely in November/December 2022, and then embark on a six-month exercise to hammer out how it will affect the international calendar and the domestic leagues." D'Hooghe's comments came as FIFA member Sunil Gulati of the U.S. said he was prepared to "rock the boat" and demand more time before making a decision (PA, 9/16). The AP reported FIFA VP Jeffrey Webb said that "players are the most important factor" in a debate on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter. He said, "If something is not good for the players then it's not good for the game." Much of the winter World Cup debate "has centered on forcing wealthy European clubs and leagues, plus the Champions League, to alter their traditional schedules." Webb, from the Cayman Islands, acknowledged that some of his CONCACAF leagues "would be required to change." Major League Soccer, which runs from March to November, "is one of the least affected" (AP, 9/12).

A CHANGE POSSIBLE? SOCCEREX reported Qatar 2022 General Secretary Hassan Al-Thawadi "has rejected calls for the country’s World Cup hosting rights to be awarded to another nation, stating the Middle East deserves the chance to host a major football tournament." He said, "We’ve worked very, very hard to ensure we’re within the rules of the bidding, within the rules of the hosting agreement. At the same time we’re delivering on all the promises that we’ve made. We’re working very hard to deliver it. The commitment is there. (Qatar) is the right place; the Middle East is the right place. We are representing the Middle East; it is a Middle Eastern World Cup. The Middle East deserves to host a major tournament" (SOCCEREX, 9/16). In. N.Y., Sam Borden reported the U.S.' most influential football administrator, Gulati, said "he will try to block any move by FIFA to switch the Qatar 2022 World Cup to winter." Gulati, whose country "was unexpectedly beaten by the tiny Gulf state to stage the tournament when the vote was taken three years ago," said that he will oppose any attempt by FIFA's exec committee to change the dates of the tournament when it meets on Oct. 3-4. Gulati: "I don't see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA's executive committee could make a sensible decision. If the position I'm taking -- which is that we need a lot more information -- is rocking the boat. Then I'm going to be rocking the boat" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14).

Every footballer in the English and Scottish football leagues "has been asked to wear rainbow-coloured bootlaces next weekend in an attempt to change attitudes towards homophobia in the game," according to Josh White of the LONDON TIMES. The tactic is part of the Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign, which "is designed to change attitudes in football rather than encouraging gay footballers to come out about their sexuality." Stonewall Deputy CEO Laura Doughty said, "It’s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game. By wearing rainbow laces players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football into the 21st century" (LONDON TIMES, 9/16). REUTERS' Martyn Herman noted a report compiled earlier this year by Brighton and Hove Albion's Supporters' Club and the Gay Football Supporters' Network revealed that "homophobia is still rife." The coastal city of Brighton has one of Britain's largest gay communities, "leading to regular homophobic abuse from opposing fans during matches." The report said that Brighton fans "had been subjected to homophobic abuse at 70 percent of away fixtures." A statement from the Brighton Supporters' Club in April said, "Brighton fans have been the subject of 'banter' about the city's gay community for as long as many of our fans can remember. It wouldn't be described as 'banter' if the taunts and chants were about skin colour and something would have been done by now to stop it" (REUTERS, 9/16).

PLAYER SUPPORT: The PA reported Queens Park Rangers' Joey Barton "tweeted his support for the campaign." Barton wrote, "Show that people's sexuality shouldn't be an issue. Join the rainbow laces movement." There are "no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues" (PA, 9/15).

EPL Tottenham fans "will not be censured for chanting the word 'Yid,'" according to Simon Johnson of the London EVENING STANDARD. Tottenham has "a large Jewish following and their supporters began the 'Yid army' chant years ago in response to anti-Semitic abuse from followers of other clubs." The FA last week reiterated that it would take action if  "the word was used at matches." The FA said "it could amount to a criminal offence and leave fans liable to prosecution." The FA's pleas were ignored, however, by "large sections of the Spurs crowd at White Hart Lane during Saturday’s win over Norwich, with their traditional chant of ‘Yid army’ sung after just three minutes as well as 'We’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we want.'" The FA "did not want to comment on the matter but confirmed they would not be taking action and will continue to work with Spurs over the issue" (EVENING STANDARD, 9/16).

CLUB TO MAKE STATEMENT: The London TELEGRAPH reported Tottenham will "ask supporters if they want to stop chanting 'Yid' in matches." Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust Chair Darren Alexander said that the club "will be sending out a questionnaire to gauge the mood on the terraces." Alexander: "There is a document that Spurs will be sending out to season-ticket holders in due course. It's a questionnaire, and basically what the club want to ascertain is do the fans think now is the right time to stop using this identity." The FA's intervention "prompted a fierce response from Spurs supporters" who insist they should be "the ones to decide whether it is time to end the chants." Alexander added, "If Spurs fans genuinely are going to stop using this word then it should be our decision" (TELEGRAPH, 9/16).