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Volume 7 No. 129

International Football

Ukraine's NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium will host Saturday's Champions League final.

Thirty-five Ukrainian football clubs, including five in the country's top flight, "have been accused of being involved in a match-fixing operation," according to the BBC. Neither Ukrainian Premier League champion Shakhtar Donetsk nor 15-time winner Dynamo Kiev are among those named. Officials "carried out raids" on Tuesday and later said that "criminal gangs were involved in widespread match-fixing." Authorities claim the operation "uncovered five criminal groups involved in at least 57 cases of match-fixing involving more than 300 people." Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov wrote on Facebook, "Club presidents, former and current players, referees, trainers and commercial organizations were involved" (BBC, 5/22). The AP reported UPL clubs Vorskla Poltava and Zorya Luhansk "face being removed from next season's Europa League by UEFA," which can disqualify clubs implicated in match-fixing. Vorskla Poltava has direct entry into the group stage and Zorya Luhansk is currently in the third qualifying round. The governing body said in a statement, "UEFA was aware of the investigation and continues to support the FFU (Football Federation of Ukraine) in its coordination with Ukrainian public authorities in taking this important action in the fight against match-fixing" (AP, 5/23). INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Mark Baber reported Ukrainian Deputy Police Chief Ihor Kupranets said that "nobody had been arrested and it was up to prosecutors whether charges would be brought against the suspects." FFU President Andriy Pavelko "put a positive spin on the news," saying, "Today is a historic day for Ukrainian football. This is the start of a systemic clean-up of Ukrainian football from a problem that was rooted in it for years" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/23).

Four Victorian bids will "vie with at least 11 other consortiums as the race to snare one of the two spots in an expanded A-League begins in earnest," according to Michael Lynch of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Football Federation Australia said that it will bring in two new teams to "bolster the competition" for the '19-20 season, and despite the regular assertions that the league is "flat" and the game is "stagnating," there has been "no shortage of interest." Thursday is the deadline for expressions of interest to be lodged with Deloitte, the financial services company which is "sifting the applicants for the FFA." A-League Head Greg O'Rourke said that FFA's management team and leadership was "always confident that when it began the process there would be more than just token interest." There was a "very small chance" that if FFA received more than two outstanding bids, it could "consider adding more than two teams, but that remains improbable." O'Rourke said, "I would not say no completely [to more than two] but it's highly unlikely we would do that in this phase. We have said we will go with two new clubs, and we want to do this in an ordered and structured way." One of the issues that might mitigate against a "big bang" with more than two new teams added in '19-20 is FFA's "concern over player depth" (SMH, 5/23).

The Moroccan Football Federation wrote to FIFA to complain about U.S. territories being allowed to vote to decide the 2026 World Cup host, according to the BBC. Morocco is bidding to host the tournament against a joint proposal from the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are able to vote on June 13, but Morocco claims "that is a conflict of interests." The Moroccan FA first wrote to FIFA on April 26, explaining that residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S. citizens, while those of American Samoa are U.S. nationals. It asked FIFA to inform the U.S. territories of their "inability to vote in order to allow for a fair bidding procedure" (BBC, 5/23).

'NOT FOR SALE': The AP reported UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has criticized plans for "secretive investors" to buy football tournaments as FIFA President Gianni Infantino promotes a $25B offer from a Saudi Arabia-backed fund. During a European Union policy debate Wednesday on commercialization of elite sport, Ceferin told lawmakers, "Football is not for sale." He said, "I cannot accept that some people, some of our colleagues, who are blinded by the pursuit of profit, are considering to sell the soul of football tournaments to nebulous private funds" (AP, 5/23).

FAN ID SYSTEM: RT reported Russian Football Union Anti-Discrimination Inspector Alexei Smertin said that the FAN ID system, which is "obligatory for all fans" visiting the World Cup, will "help to prevent potential racist incidents at stadiums." Former Chelsea player and Russia captain Smertin spoke about Russia's efforts to "eradicate racism in sport," its preparations for the 2018 World Cup and the Fan ID system which was "successfully tested" at last year's Confederations Cup in Russia. He said, "My top priority as Russia's anti-racism and discrimination inspector is to make sure that all the fans coming to Russia this summer will feel comfortable not only in Moscow and Kazan, where they can find mosques, but also in other host cities such as Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad, and Saransk" (RT, 5/22).

WORLD CUP BANK NOTE: EURONEWS' Robert Hackwill reported Russia issued a "special" 100 ruble ($1.63) banknote in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup. The banknote is the "first of its kind in several ways," according to Arkady Trachuk, director general of Goznak, Russia's national mint. It is the first Russian note fully made of polymer substrates and the "first to display a historical figure who was not head of state." It depicts a child holding a football (EURONEWS, 5/23).