FIFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu

Kosovo elected as UEFA member in 28-24 vote

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Kosovo was given UEFA membership Tuesday, and could now be fast-tracked into FIFA and the 2018 World Cup qualifying program.

UEFA’s member federations voted 28-24 to accept the former province of Serbia, which led the opposition. Two votes were declared invalid.

The UEFA congress also elected Florence Hardouin, the French soccer federation’s marketing director, as a member of its executive committee.

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UEFA met without its president, Michel Platini, who should get a verdict next Monday from CAS in his appeal against a six-year ban by FIFA. Platini and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter were sanctioned over a $2 million payment the former France great received in 2011 as uncontracted and backdated salary.

Whatever the CAS decision on Platini’s fate, France ensured itself of a spot on UEFA’s executive committee with Hardouin’s election. By defeating Karen Espelund of Norway 33-21, Hardouin becomes the first elected female member of the panel and will serve a three-year mandate until executive elections in 2019.

Kosovo has sought international recognition through sports since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.

Fadil Vokrri, president of the Football Federation of Kosovo, said the result was a “historic moment.”

“We will be able to bring people together through football on the pitch and around the pitch,” Vokrri said. “This is our vision for the future as the 55th member association of UEFA.”

Before the vote, Serbian soccer federation president Tomislav Karadzic said the decision on Kosovo was a “political vote, not a footballing proposal.”

With Kosovo’s UEFA membership, “politics would abuse football in the harshest possible way,” Karadzic said.

UEFA supported Kosovo’s case after resisting previous efforts by FIFA in 2012 to let its national and clubs teams play opponents from other countries.

A breakthrough came in January 2014 when FIFA ruled that teams from Kosovo could play international matches, except against teams from other parts of the former Yugoslavia.

Kosovo needs to be accepted as a FIFA member before it can enter a World Cup qualifying group, which kicks off in September.

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FIFA’s ruling council will meet in Mexico City on Monday, and can send Kosovo’s application for a decision by the FIFA congress four days later.

Earlier at the congress, FIFA President Gianni Infantino urged European soccer leaders to give money to poorer federations from the increased funds they get from Zurich.

“Give it to other federations around the world if you don’t need the money,” Infantino told the 54 UEFA member federations at their annual congress.

All FIFA members should get big increases in their annual grant to fulfil a key election promise by Infantino.

The FIFA president was elected in February after promising to give each member federation $5 million every four years from World Cup revenues. That pledge would more than double the $2.05 million that each FIFA member received in the four-year cycle tied to the 2014 World Cup.

European federations earn much more than other countries as UEFA, the richest of the six continental confederations, pays even more to its members than they get from FIFA.

“You in Europe, we can show together, we can make a difference in the world,” said Infantino, who served UEFA members as general secretary for seven years. “With very little we can achieve a lot.”

Infantino noted that FIFA could add two European federations to its membership at its own congress in Mexico City next week. The admission of Kosovo and Gibraltar would likely be added to the world soccer body’s agenda, Infantino said.

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On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered FIFA to stop blocking Gibraltar’s application for membership and allow it “without delay.”

Gibraltar, a British territory whose sovereignty is disputed by neighboring Spain, has been a UEFA member since 2013 and played in the qualifying program for the 2016 European Championship.

Like Kosovo, Gibraltar could be fast-tracked by FIFA into 2018 World Cup qualifying groups.

Regarding Platini’s situation, UEFA has called an emergency meeting of its executive committee in two weeks to weigh options after the Platini verdict, UEFA and FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar told the congress.

The meeting will be in Basel, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the Europa League final on May 18.

If a presidential election is needed to replace Platini, the most likely date is mid-September in Athens, Greece, at an already-scheduled meeting of European soccer leaders.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar reported from Geneva.

Sports court orders FIFA to admit Gibraltar as member

FARO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 11: Gibraltar line up prior to start the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifying round Group G match between Gibraltar and Scotland at Estadio Algarve on October 11, 2015 in Faro, Portugal.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has been ordered by sport’s highest court to accept Gibraltar as a member, opening the national team’s path to play in the 2018 World Cup qualifying program.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday it upheld the Gibraltar soccer federation’s appeal against FIFA blocking entry in 2014, but its panel of judges could not directly grant membership.

“The panel has unanimously ordered that the FIFA Congress take all necessary measures to admit (Gibraltar) as a full member of FIFA as soon as possible, within the limits of the FIFA Statutes,” the court said in a statement.

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The congress of 209 FIFA members meets next week in Mexico City. It could also add another new European member, Kosovo, at the same meeting.

It is a second victory for Gibraltar at CAS, after a previous ruling against UEFA meant it could join the European soccer body in 2013.

Spanish soccer leaders have consistently opposed the progress of Gibraltar, which borders Spain and was ceded to Britain more than 300 years ago. Spain still disputes sovereignty.

The latest verdict ruling means Gibraltar, which has a population of around 30,000 people, could now be fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group which kicks off in September.

FIFA and the Gibraltar federation could not immediately confirm if its statutes would allow Gibraltar immediate membership and a qualifying place, or if the process would be delayed by one year.

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“We understand that FIFA are working to ensure our inclusion in next week’s Congress agenda,” the Gibraltar soccer body said in a statement.

The CAS judges insisted that the FIFA ruling council should act quickly. The council, chaired by new FIFA President Gianni Infantino, meets next Monday in Mexico City, four days before the congress has its annual business meeting.

Gibraltar was prevented from joining FIFA before the World Cup qualifying draw made in Russia last July.

At a September 2014 meeting, the FIFA executive committee chaired by Sepp Blatter ruled that Gibraltar’s “requirements for admission to FIFA were not met and that it would not submit the GFA’s application to the FIFA Congress,” CAS said.

FIFA rejected Gibraltar’s application because the British territory was not an independent country as required by the governing body’s statutes.

Those rules were updated in 2013, two months before Gibraltar joined UEFA despite longstanding opposition led by Spain.

Gibraltar made its competitive debut in a qualifying group for the 2016 European Championship, losing every match.

FIFA and UEFA can easily slot Gibraltar into one of the two five-nation World Cup qualifying groups without adding extra fixture slots which are designed for the majority of six-team groups.

There is also space to add Kosovo, a former province of Serbia which declared independence in 2008.

On Tuesday, Kosovo is expected to join UEFA as a member in a vote of the 54 European federations, including Gibraltar, at their annual congress being held in Budapest, Hungary.

Kosovo’s pending application to FIFA is on the agenda of the world body’s council meeting next Monday.

The two vacant spots in European qualifying groups are in groups which have Belgium and Croatia as top seeds.

Worker dies after falling ill at Qatar World Cup stadium site

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, workers use heavy machinery at the Al-Wakra Stadium being built for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, the country’s top labor official said Monday, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
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DOHA, Qatar (AP) World Cup organizers say a worker has died after falling ill on the site of one of the stadiums being constructed for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

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The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said Saturday that 48-year-old Indian national Jaleshwar Prasad died after he “fell ill on-site around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.”

The statement says that Prasad, who was a steel worker employed on the Al Bayt Stadium project, “received first aid treatment until paramedics arrived. He was transferred to Al Khor Hospital but sadly passed away around 11:30 a.m. Al Khor Hospital reported the cause of death as cardiac arrest.”

It adds that “a full investigation is underway.”

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Qatar is often criticized by rights groups and trade unions for alleged abuses and deaths on a range of construction projects linked to the 2022 World Cup since it won hosting rights in 2010.

Qatar is relying heavily on construction workers from south Asia.

A FIFA-appointed human rights expert from Harvard University recently advised that tournaments should be moved from countries where abuses persisted.

FIFA to stage video replay trial workshop next month

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 18: FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during a press conference after the  FIFA executive committee meeting at the FIFA headquarters on March 18, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it has invited leagues and federations interested in running video replay trials to inspect the technology next month.

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The May 18-20 workshop in Amsterdam is a key step in FIFA’s ambitious two-year target to use video review at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Dutch federation was chosen because it has run experiments since 2013 with video assistants helping referees – though not live in a competitive match.

Soccer’s rule-making panel, known as IFAB, will confirm later in May which competitions will take part in trials.

FIFA says those that want to run and fund experiments “will be allowed to do so.”

IFAB has said video replay is restricted to decisions on goals being scored, penalties being awarded, players being sent off and cases of mistaken identity.

FIFA panel to monitor labor conditions at Qatar stadiums

Stadium is pictured as construction continues at 2022 World Cup Stadiums on December 27, 2015 in Doha, Qatar.
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DOHA, Qatar (AP) FIFA will create a panel to monitor construction at World Cup stadiums in Qatar to ensure “decent working conditions.”

During his first working visit to Qatar on Friday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the group will include “relevant sectors of civil society and other relevant FIFA stakeholders.”

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Qatar is often criticized by rights groups and trade unions for alleged abuses and deaths on a range of construction projects linked to the 2022 World Cup since it won hosting rights in 2010.

Last week, a FIFA-appointed human rights expert from Harvard University advised that tournaments should be moved from countries where abuses persisted.

“We take our responsibility seriously and are committed to playing our part,” Infantino said in a statement published by FIFA.

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Infantino visited the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and workers’ accommodation during a two-day trip, and also met the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Amnesty International welcomed “steps in the right direction” announced by the FIFA president, who was elected two months ago.

“Finally, it appears FIFA is waking up to the fact that unless it takes concrete action, the Qatar 2022 World Cup will be built on the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers,” said Mustafa Qadri, a spokesman for Amnesty on migrants rights in the Gulf region.

The gas-rich emirate is expected to spend tens of billions of dollars before the November-December 2022 tournament kicks off, preparing eight new and renovated stadiums and related projects such as transport links and accommodation.

Qatar is relying heavily on construction workers from south Asia who are tied to the “kafala” system of sponsorship common in Gulf nations, which critics say exposes migrants to exploitation.

Harvard professor John Ruggie said last week that FIFA should have gotten assurances from Qatar that the “kafala” system would not be used for any World Cup-related job before bidding even started in 2009.

Though Qatari authorities have promised reforms, progress with new laws has been slow.

“FIFA and I will take the Qatari authorities at their word and I look forward to the concrete actions which will be the real testament of will,” Infantino said, adding he was “confident that we are on the right track.”

The head of Qatar’s organizing committee, Hassan al Thawadi, said the first World Cup in the Middle East would meet all FIFA requirements.

“Crucially, we are also firmly committed to leaving a lasting social legacy after the tournament – including in the area of workers’ welfare,” Al Thawadi said in the FIFA statement.