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Volume 6 No. 212

World Cup

A leaked secret terror briefing revealed that FIFA bosses "were warned that the lives of fans and players would be put at risk if the World Cup was held in Qatar," according to Calvert & Blake of the SUNDAY TIMES. According to the "damning report" handed to FIFA 17 days before Qatar was chosen, the Gulf state was the only one of the nine countries bidding for the '18 and '22 tournaments where there was a “high risk” of a terrorist attack shutting down the event. FIFA’s 24-man exec committee "was briefed on the report written by André Pruis, the South African police chief in charge of security at the 2010 World Cup" who is now FIFA’s security consultant for this summer’s tournament in Brazil. The risk assessment "remained a secret until it surfaced in an explosive cache of confidential documents to which The Sunday Times has had access." Pruis’s "damning report" warned that Qatar’s “proximity to countries with an ... al-Qaeda presence” and its plan to cram millions of fans and players into a “highly centralised” area made it a high-risk venue. Russia was given the second-highest risk rating -- moderate -- "and yet was chosen as host of the 2018 tournament." Japan "came out as the safest place to host the tournament" (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/15).

QATAR FIGHTS BACK: The AFP reported Qatar's 2022 World Cup chiefs "have insisted that reports of corruption are a deliberate bid to undermine a FIFA inquiry into their bid." A statement released by Qatar's Supreme Committee for '22 said the "leaks" were orchestrated, but "did not say who by." The statement said, "The timing of the release of these allegations is no accident" (AFP, 6/15). The statement added, "Knowing that we weren't a key player in the football world, we knew we had to work harder than anyone else for our bid to succeed. We knocked on more doors, made more phone calls and took more meetings than our competitors. But in every aspect of the 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process, we strictly adhered to Fifa's rules and regulations" (BBC, 6/14).

Franz Beckenbauer has hit back at FIFA "over his 90-day ban for failing to aid the ongoing investigation into corruption allegations surrounding the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and insisted he will cooperate with the inquiry," according to Philip Oltermann of the London GUARDIAN. In a statement, Beckenbauer said he would answer FIFA's statement "within the next two weeks and therefore assumed the ban, which includes his attendance at World Cup games, would be lifted with immediate effect." But Beckenbauer also criticized FIFA "for failing to inform him of its decision." Beckenbauer had been "extremely surprised" by hearing of his ban via the news on Friday, even though FIFA's ethics rules state that "any party accused of deliberate breach would be given the chance to release an advance statement." Beckenbauer: "It was the first time that FIFA did not know how to contact me by telephone. Furthermore I always assumed that I did not have to answer the questions because I no longer hold an official function with FIFA. But that has now been cleared up" (GUARDIAN, 6/15). REUTERS' Erik Kirschbaum reported FIFA said that Beckenbauer "had received repeated requests to provide information to an ethics committee investigation." Beckenbauer said that "he wanted the questions in German." The 68-year-old had said that "he had nothing to hide from the committee and that he would answer questions in his native German language" (REUTERS, 6/15). The London TELEGRAPH reported Beckenbauer was a voter on FIFA's board "when it chose Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts in December 2010." The case against him for non-cooperation "is being investigated" by a member of FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia's ethics panel (TELEGRAPH, 6/15).

NOTHING TO HIDE: The AFP reported in an interview with German newspaper Bild last week, Beckenbauer said that "he had nothing to hide, but complained that Garcia had refused to pose his questions in a language he understood." He said, "I was ready to answer all pertinent questions, but they sent them to me in a legal English that I could not understand in such a complex case." According to British media reports, quoting thousands of emails linked to the case, Beckenbauer "went to Qatar as a guest" of former FIFA VP Mohamed bin Hammam before the '10 vote and met the state's emir. They added that "he returned after the vote" (AFP, 6/15).

FIFA TV Dir Niclas Ericson said that the governing body is "not deliberately keeping images of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff off screens," according to Mike Collett of REUTERS. The crowd at the Corinthians Arena "booed and jeered" Rousseff when a shot of her cheering one of Brazil's goals in its 3-1 win over Croatia was briefly shown on the big screen inside the stadium on Thursday. The image of Blatter "has often been booed" at past World Cups when he was shown on the screen in the stadium, and this World Cup "was noticeable for the fact there was no opening speech by either the country's president or Blatter before the start of tournament." Asked whether it was a deliberate policy not to show their images, Ericson defended the "editorial decisions" taken by the production team responsible for the images both globally and in the stadium itself. Ericson: "The production team are focusing on what is happening on the pitch therefore the focus is on the football." He added that the cumulative global TV viewing figures by the end of the World Cup "are likely to be the largest ever recorded for any sporting event since the advent of television" (REUTERS, 6/15).

France Manager Didier Deschamps "expressed concern" Saturday night that France was "being spied on after a drone flew over their training camp this week," according to James Ducker of the SUNDAY TIMES. FIFA has "launched an investigation into the incident, which caused bemusement among France's players as they trained at the Santa Cruz stadium in Ribeirao Preto." The French squad is "thought to have momentarily halted a session as the players began pointing at the drone as it hovered overhead on Tuesday." Deschamps: "Apparently drones are used more and more. It's not up to me, FIFA handles this and is carrying out an inquiry. We don't want any intrusion into our privacy but it's hard to fight this these days" (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/15). In London, Stuart James reported it is "unclear at this stage who was behind the stunt." A "Honduran reporter was quick to point out during Deschamps' pre-match press conference that the drone had nothing to do with France's opponents." FIFA is "yet to comment on the situation, with Deschamps happy to leave the matter in the governing body's hands" (GUARDIAN, 6/14).

A payment of £35,000 by England’s 2018 World Cup bid to cover a gala dinner for Caribbean officials "is being investigated" by FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia, according to Philip Oltermann of the London GUARDIAN. Garcia questioned England 2018 officials "about picking up the bill for the Trinidad dinner during interviews in London" last year as part of his investigation into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The dinner "was part of efforts to woo the then influential" FIFA VP Jack Warner, "who has since quit football in disgrace." Any action from Garcia’s report "is likely to be announced within the next two months." Sources close to England’s bid said that their lawyers "are comfortable they did not break any rules." The FA "would not comment" (GUARDIAN, 6/15).

The Colombian national team sent an "official complaint" to FIFA regarding the "treatment" it received from Sao Paulo police while traveling to Belo Horizonte for its World Cup opener. The Colombian delegation said that "it received verbal attacks and disrespectful treatment from police officers on its arrival at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport." A statement from the Colombian Football Federation said, "The Colombian national team regrets the actions of Sao Paulo State Federal Police assigned to the team's security, which repeatedly bothered the players and coaching staff" (LA AFICION, 6/15).

TWITTER BACKLASH: Former Australian national team player Scott Chipperfield "has come under fire for sending a tweet regarding an Ivory coast player that was interpreted as being racist." While watching the Ivory Coast's come-from-behind 2-1 World Cup victory over Japan on TV, Chipperfield tweeted of midfielder Serey Die, "Serey die looks like a typical African. Forget how to play. Need brains to play football" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/15). ... Backlash "is mounting" against Italian Senate VP Maurizio Gasparri after he "celebrated Italy's World Cup win over England with a vulgar Twitter outburst" calling English people "pretentious pricks." Gasparri tweeted, "It’s always a pleasure to say “go ... themselves” to the English ... pretentious and pricks" (London GUARDIAN, 6/15).

RETAIL STORM: The World Cup kicked off on Thursday in Brazil, but "well before this" the tournament "kicked off a retail storm in China's traditional and virtual markets." On online shopping site Taobao, "searches for World Cup-related merchandise have surged 60% over the past 10 days." Hong Kong consumers "accounted for the largest number of the searches, followed by those from Tianjin, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong" (WANT CHINA TIMES, 6/14).

FLOOD WATCH: Rain-soaked workers were "scrambling to complete the Beira Rio stadium" in Porto Alegre "on the eve of its World Cup debut on Sunday while sensitive officials looked on nervously." With the Group E clash between France and Honduras looming, the stadium "resembled a muddy construction site following two days of steady and sometimes torrential rain that slowed the pace of work" (REUTERS, 6/15).