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Volume 6 No. 232
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FIFA Threatens Spain With World Cup Ban Over Government Interference

FIFA warned Spain that its participation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia is "under threat because of government interference," according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. FIFA has written to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) saying that "the government's involvement in the election for the federation's new president amounts to interference." A statement from the RFEF said, "The RFEF wants everything to return to normal, that has always been the main objective of the current board of directors. We underline that we all want the national team to participate in the 2018 World Cup, especially after its brilliant qualifying campaign." Spain captain Sergio Ramos said, "I cannot believe that Spain could lose what we have worked so hard for on the pitch due to an institutional dispute, I struggle to believe that" (LONDON TIMES, 12/16). In London, Ben Rumsby reported FIFA warned the RFEF it would be "in breach of the world governing body's statutes" if the Spanish Superior Sports Council (CSD) "forced it to stage a presidential election" following the arrest and suspension of Ángel María Villar. The letter followed a complaint allegedly lodged by Villar, who resigned as the SVP of FIFA and VP of UEFA following his arrest in July but is "still de facto president of the RFEF despite pressure from the CSD for the federation to elect a successor." Spain was previously "at risk of being thrown out" of Euro 2008 -- the first of its "hat-trick of major tournament triumphs" -- also over "alleged government interference in RFEF electoral business" (TELEGRAPH, 12/15). Also in London, Luke Brown reported FIFA can suspend the membership of any national football team if it judges the association has been "influenced by external political pressure." FIFA rules state, "Each member must manage their affairs independently and ensure that there is no interference by third parties in their affairs." Earlier this year, the Pakistan Football Federation was banned by FIFA due to "undue third-party interference" (London INDEPENDENT, 12/15). REUTERS' Richard Martin reported Spain PM Mariano Rajoy said that he was "not concerned by the suggestion his country would be barred from competing in the World Cup." Rajoy: "I cannot contemplate that scenario, I'm absolutely convinced Spain will go to the World Cup and that we are going to win it. The government's behavior is exemplary and those in charge of the department for sport (CSD) have the total support of the prime minister" (REUTERS, 12/15).