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Volume 7 No. 84

International Football

Qatar wants talks with FIFA to "discuss the feasibility" of increasing the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams after football's governing body "expressed interest in enlarging a tournament already having to overcome operational challenges," according to Rob Harris of the AP. The Gulf nation took two days to "publicly respond to calls on Thursday from South American football nations to fast-track the jump" from 32 to 48 teams at World Cups by four years. Qatar's infrastructure, which is being "rapidly developed to cope" with the World Cup, will "already be stretched" by the requirements of staging the Middle East's first World Cup. Enlarging the tournament "would see the number of games rise" from 64 to 80. The desert nation has "only eight stadiums planned for the event and expanding the tournament might work only if the additional games are shared in the region." The tournament is already due to operate on a "tight" 28-day schedule to minimize the disruption caused to the European season. Kuwait, which retains ties with Qatar, would be a "possible option to take on the burden of additional World Cup matches" (AP, 4/14). In London, Anthony Harwood wrote last week the Gulf state was "proudly announcing" that 90% of the tournament's infrastructure, including eight stadiums, would be in place by '19. Suddenly, it is "being asked: four more stadiums, please." The "likelihood is that this is beyond the reach of Qatar, even with its vast wealth." There has "already been talk of Iran being used as some kind of accommodation overspill." But apart from a "logistical nightmare," what "would it mean politically if Qatar was forced to share its hosting of the tournament with a country like Kuwait?" In short, "huge loss of face for Qatar and a big victory for its enemies" (INDEPENDENT, 4/15).

CLUB WORLD CUP: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported FIFA has proposed that a revamped and enlarged version of the Club World Cup, planned to start in '21, "would include all European champions, runners-up and Europa League winners from the four seasons up to and including the year of the event." The new tournament would be held every four years instead of annually, "would feature 31 matches and would need to generate" between $650M and $1B in revenue to be commercially viable, according to proposals put forward in a FIFA document. Aside from the European teams, there would be four or five from South America, none or one from Oceania and two each from Asia, CONCACAF and Africa. They would be "divided into eight groups of three with the group winners progressing to the knockout stage" (REUTERS, 4/13).

EPL clubs want VAR to be used more extensively in next season's FA Cup.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Premier League clubs voted not to use the video assistant referee system for next season, according to the BBC. The clubs agreed that advanced testing on the use of the video technology "will continue" to the end of the '18-19 campaign. Premier League officials want the system to be implemented for FA Cup and League Cup matches again next term. There were "some notable high-profile problems" with the new technology when it was used for matches in this season's FA Cup. Clubs also want "improvement to communication inside the stadium and for TV viewers." The decision not to "bring in the system next season" was made at a Premier League shareholders meeting in London on Friday, when all 20 member clubs voted (BBC, 4/13). In London, Ben Rumsby reported the 20 top-flight teams approved the "expansion of non-live trials" to include entire rounds of matches (TELEGRAPH, 4/13).

The fixture list for the 2018 Int'l Champions Cup has been leaked, according to Robert Summerscales of the London DAILY MAIL. England's "Big Six" will all be involved as Man City, ManU, Liverpool and Tottenham head to the U.S., while Chelsea and Arsenal compete in the non-U.S. circuit. A full list of fixtures was "prematurely published by ESPN ahead of next week's scheduled release date." Rivals Liverpool and ManU will meet at Michigan Stadium on July 28. Tottenham will also be "in action" on that day as it takes on Barcelona at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. ManU's other fixtures are against AC Milan and Real Madrid, while Liverpool will face Dortmund and Man City. Arsenal heads to Singapore to play Atlético Madrid and Paris St. Germain before returning to Europe for a clash with Chelsea in Stockholm (DAILY MAIL, 4/14).

Football fans are claiming the Champions League semifinal draw was "rigged" after Roma allegedly advertised tickets for a match with Liverpool "before the teams were paired together." A screenshot of an email sent to Roma season ticket holders on Thursday "appears to show a link to buy tickets for a match on May 2 between Roma and Liverpool." The email was said to have been sent out because of a "technical problem of Roma's ticketing portal partner" when the club was making "ticketing tests" on Thursday. The website link was "swiftly taken down," but "not before conspiracy theorists took to social media and online forums" to claim UEFA fixed the draw (London DAILY MAIL, 4/13).

The joint North American bid for the 2026 World Cup secured the endorsements of CONMEBOL and UNCAF (Central America), providing the bid with 16 key votes in its battle against Morocco to land the event. Previously, only Saudi Arabia's federation said publicly that it was backing the combined bid, compared to 13 federations which have said that they will back Morocco. To win, a bid will need to receive votes from at least 104 of the 207 eligible national federations. The vote takes place June 13 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow (Ian Thomas, SportsBusiness Journal).

Chelsea made a complaint to UEFA about the "brutality" that its supporters were "on the receiving end of" during the Champions League match in Barcelona last month after receiving an "unprecedented response" to a request for information. A number of fans posted on social media "about their experience both before and after the match" (London INDEPENDENT, 4/13).

Police are "investigating threatening text messages" sent to the wife of football referee Michael Oliver, who awarded a last-minute penalty to Real Madrid which knocked Juventus out of the Champions League on Wednesday. It is believed that Lucy Oliver, who is a referee in the Women's Super League, had her mobile phone number posted on social media after the game, "which led to the abusive texts" (SUNDAY TIMES, 4/15).

The betting firm that offered odds on former National League side Sutton United reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw eating a pie on camera during an FA Cup match was fined £84,000 ($119,700). The U.K. Gambling Commission said that Tabcorp UK Limited, trading as Sun Bets, failed to properly manage the risks associated with offering "novelty" bets (BBC, 4/13).

The South Asian Football Federation approved Pakistan as the host of the 2020 SAFF Championship following a meeting on Thursday in Dhaka. The award of the hosting is a "big boost" for Pakistani football, which has "only just returned" to int'l competition following a FIFA suspension (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/13).