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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia "is expected to interview all the remaining members of the executive committee who took part in the controversial vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups," according to the PA. Only 11 of the 24 members, plus FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who took part in the vote in Dec. '10 "are still on the committee, with the others having either retired or in some cases been banned or resigned while under investigation." It comes after a report that the FBI "is investigating payments from a company owned by Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam" to fellow former FIFA member Jack Warner and his family. Both men left FIFA "in disgrace following a 2011 corruption scandal" (PA, 3/19). In London, Ben Rumsby wrote former FA CEO Mark Palios warned that FIFA "might never escape from its corrupt past" while Blatter remained president. Palios said, "If you look at governance, he’s obviously overstayed his welcome. I think it’s probably right to say that people will tread water in terms of their expectations until such time as Sepp Blatter leaves the scene.” FIFA's refusal to comment on the outcome of The Telegraph investigation on Tuesday "did little to challenge that view." Blatter "may have no choice other than to confront the revelations on Friday provided he attends the traditional press conference" at the end of FIFA’s two-day exec committee meeting in Zurich (TELEGRAPH, 3/18).

U.S. CONFIDENCE: In London, Mihir Bose wrote the U.S. is confident that "it would win a vote to host the 2022 World Cup should FIFA reopen the bidding process in the wake of the latest allegations regarding the decision to make Qatar hosts." The Gulf state beat the U.S. 14-8 "in the final round of voting." The U.S. Soccer Federation refused to comment but "highly placed FIFA sources" said that the organization is "positive on the chances of them winning a rerun of the vote" (EVENING STANDARD, 3/19). Also in London, Charles Sale wrote Warner "is widely believed to have voted" for the U.S. to host the 2022 World Cup (DAILY MAIL, 3/18).

: ESPN's Stephan Uersfeld wrote FIFA exec committee member Theo Zwanziger said that "the current health and safety conditions in Qatar are unacceptable." Int'l Trade Union Confederation President Michael Sommer said that "the 2022 World Cup needs to be taken away from Qatar if it does not make drastic changes" to its labor laws. Sommer said that, unless the "kafala" system -- which is linked to the exploitation of foreign workers -- "is overhauled, Qatar should be stripped of the right to host the World Cup." Sommer: “Everything Qatar has done so far is just an attempt to throw dust into the public’s eyes" (ESPN, 3/19).

Crimean-based football clubs Tavria Simferopol and Sevastopol "are considering whether to quit the Ukrainian premier league and join Russia's league next season," according to Igor Nitsak of REUTERS. Sevastopol is ready to complete the current season in the Ukrainian league but hopes that UEFA and FIFA "will agree to the shift to Russian football, after Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula." Sevastopol President Alexander Krasilnikov said, "We are working on an explanatory letter addressed to UEFA, FIFA and the football federation of Ukraine." Club representatives said that "they had not contacted Russian football officials because they were waiting on political decisions." Ukraine "does not recognise a treaty signed in Moscow on Tuesday which made Crimea part of Russia." Ukraine's football federation said in a statement on its website, "We are the witnesses of the unstable situation in our country which unfortunately touched upon football as well" (REUTERS, 3/18).

Scottish Premiership side Dundee United Chair Stephen Thompson "went to war" with the Scottish FA and "accused them of getting their facts wrong," according to Alan Marshall of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. Thompson swears the ruling body was “economical with the truth” in its account of ticket plans for the Scottish Cup semifinal against Rangers at Ibrox on April 12. In a statement, the SFA insisted Dundee was offered 11,063 tickets, but turned them down in favor of being allocated the 8,012-seat Broomloan Road Stand “in order to ensure maximum attendance.” Thompson said, “We are unhappy with this statement because it’s not our understanding of what took place. It is economical with the truth. And the tone of the SFA’s statement to a member club, a club in the semifinals of a national competition, and producing so many good young players for the national team, is just awful.” A request to shift the tie from Ibrox "has already been turned down but United repeated their call for a neutral venue." Thompson said, “At least I put my name to any statements from Dundee United regarding this matter" (DAILY RECORD, 3/19). The SCOTSMAN reported when asked how many Dundee fans he "reasonably expected" would buy tickets for this fixture, Thompson "predicted a figure between 12,000 and 14,000." Thompson: "We will not need 20,000 tickets. I reckon 12,000 to 14,000 will probably be more accurate. But if we wanted 20,000, we should have been offered 20,000. It’s the way it was handled. We were dictated to from the start, and the SFA were more interested in looking after their commercial sponsors than neutrality and sporting integrity" (SCOTSMAN, 3/19).

Russian football chiefs have concluded that "developing Russian domestic football" through '20 will require $6.9B in funding, according to R-SPORT. With its plan named "Development Strategy for football in the Russian Federation through 2020," the Russian Football Union is seeking to develop the sport at the grassroots level in three key areas. First, "it seeks to create a modern infrastructure to encourage mass participation among the population; second, training staff to serve the football industry as well as implementing education programs in schools; and third, perfecting the system of holding various competitions across the country." The document states, "The greater part of that (around 80 percent) is the cost of building new covered pitches and stadiums. And also (those costs cover) the reconstruction of existing sports facilities and equipping reserve training centers with artificial pitches with floodlights and heating" (R-SPORT, 3/19).

A Uruguayan football club led by U.K. racehorse owner Malcolm Caine "has an unusual sideline: trading elite South American players who never appear in a game," according to Duff & Baldomir of BLOOMBERG. Deportivo Maldonado SAD, "which plays in Uruguay’s second-tier championship," was set up in '10 when Caine and London-based lawyer Graham Shear became president and VP. Regulatory filings reveal Deportivo Maldonado earned €10.1M ($14M) since '11 "by trading Brazil’s Alex Sandro to Porto and loaning Paraguay’s Marcelo Estigarribia to Juventus." In January, "it loaned another Brazilian, Willian Jose da Silva, to Real Madrid." There "is no record of the three players appearing for Deportivo Maldonado, which last season averaged 208 fans at its homes games." Ariel Reck, a lawyer in Buenos Aires who works on transfer deals, said that routing transfers through Uruguay "can ease the tax burden of investors who own player transfer rights, which is common in South America." FIFA’s regulations "allow players to be registered with three clubs in a season and play for two." Caine said Deportivo Maldonado operates “in exactly the same way as any professionally run football club” and its trades are approved by FIFA and Uruguay’s football federation. Reck said, "I don’t know if FIFA has the appetite to stop" these transactions. Reck: "If it’s difficult for the FBI to follow money around, imagine how hard it is for FIFA" (BLOOMBERG, 3/19).

Ghana has approved a budgetary allocation of $9.6M for the Black Stars' participation at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. A government statement said that an initial $4.1M has been set for the group stage, plus a further $5.5M in the event the team advances out of the first round (CAF). ... The J.League said that "an internal probe turned up no evidence to support suspicions that a recent match was fixed, as it wrestles with an embarrassing racism scandal." The J.League "launched an investigation earlier this month after a FIFA unit said it had noticed unusual online betting patterns in a March 8 game between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kawasaki Frontale" (AFP, 3/19).