ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  FIFA Executive Committee member Wolfgang Niersbach looks on during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

FIFA bans council member Niersbach in World Cup bids probe

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FIFA council member Wolfgang Niersbach, a member of FIFA’s ruling council, was banned from soccer for one year on Monday in the first sanction from the investigation into Germany’s 2006 World Cup bid.

FIFA’s ethics committee found Niersbach guilty of failing to report findings about possible unethical conduct and conflicts of interest during the bidding process.

Niersbach, who was a vice president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee in charge of media and marketing, described the punishment as “inappropriate and excessive.”

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Last year, Niersbach had been considered a possible successor to UEFA President Michel Platini before resigning as president of the German soccer federation when allegations against the bid first surfaced.

Niersbach retained his elected positions on the top decision-making bodies at both FIFA and UEFA. He is the first member of the rebranded FIFA Council, which replaced the discredited executive committee in May, to be sanctioned by the ethics division.

“This decision hits me hard,” Niersbach said. “I was confident after last Thursday’s hearing in Zurich that the ethics commission would not impose a ban, but that it would follow my argument that I am only to blame for a belated report on the critical payments between the 2006 World Cup organizing committee and FIFA in 2005, of which I gradually became aware in the summer of 2015, and that it would set a different punishment.

“I acknowledged my mistake and regretted it again.”

Niersbach is consulting his lawyers about whether to appeal against his ban.

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Swiss federal prosecutors, and German criminal and tax investigators, also have wider ongoing criminal cases into the 2006 World Cup – a hugely successful tournament at the time which the host nation called its “Summer Fairytale.”

The probe involves irregular seven-figure payments and contracts during the bidding process and organization of the World Cup implicating senior officials.

The main FIFA ethics case focuses on former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the World Cup organizing team and joined the FIFA executive committee in 2007; Theo Zwanziger, who replaced Beckenbauer at FIFA in 2011; Horst Schmidt, vice president of the World Cup organizing panel; and Stefan Hans, chief financial officer for the organizers.

In February, an inquiry report commissioned by the federation tried to explain a complex trail of payments of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) and 10 million Swiss francs ($10 million) that linked Beckenbauer, then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar and Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the late former Adidas executive and part owner of Swiss marketing agency Infront.

The report, by law firm Freshfields, did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Benin issues arrest warrant for FIFA council member

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 19:  Dine Koukpere of Benin competes for the ball with Bongani Ndulula (R) of South Africa during the 2012 Olympic Qualifier 2nd leg match between South Africa U-23 and Benin U-23 at Rand Stadium on June 19, 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images
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PORTO-NOVO, Benin (AP) FIFA has threatened Benin with another suspension from international soccer after a judge in the West African nation issued arrest warrants for a senior FIFA official and the head of Ivory Coast’s federation.

The warrants demand that FIFA council member Constant Omari and Ivory Coast Football Federation president Augustin Sidy Diallo be arrested immediately and taken to a jail in the capital Potro-Novo.

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FIFA told the Benin federation that if the warrants aren’t withdrawn by Monday, the country could be banned.

The warrants relate to elections last month to choose a new leadership for the Benin federation. A court ordered they be stopped, but they went ahead, with Omari and Diallo present as observers from FIFA and the Confederation of African Football.

Benin was previously suspended by FIFA for a month for failing to organize the elections.

USMNT back in Top 25 of latest FIFA Rankings; Mexico, Wales climb

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Mexico and the USMNT’s Copa America Centenario successes sent them up the latest FIFA rankings. El Tri moves up two spots to 14, while the Yanks hit 25. That’s six spots better, just above the Netherlands.

The Top Five of Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany and Chile remains unchanged, though there were some big movers just outside it. France leaps 10 spots to seventh while Wales gains 15 spots to 11th, moving two slots ahead of England.

[ MORE: Allardyce, Klinsmann both in England picture ]

Croatia, Poland and Iceland surge double-digits places into the Top 25. Venezuela’s solid Copa gives its a 31-place boost to No. 46, and Guinea-Bissau is up 40 to 75.

No. 93 New Zealand is the biggest gainer, rising 54 places.

The big losers? Austria is down 11 to 21 after going bottom of its group at EURO, while aforementioned Holland’s inactivity sinks its standing.

Former FIFA head Blatter has surgery for skin cancer

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - DECEMBER 21: FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter attends a press conference as reaction to his banishment for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee at FIFA's former headquarters at Sonnenberg on December 21, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has undergone minor surgery to treat skin cancer.

Blatter’s spokesman, Thomas Renggli, tells The Associated Press that he is at “home and fine” after a surgical procedure on his left ear.

The 80-year-old Blatter spent one night at a clinic before being discharged on Thursday, Renggli says.

Blatter spent several days in a hospital in Zurich last November after a stress-related collapse while he was suspended from duty by the FIFA ethics committee and subjected to criminal proceedings by federal prosecutors in Switzerland.

Now barred for six years for conflict of interest, Blatter has an appeal hearing on Aug. 25 at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Blatter’s 18-year stint as FIFA president ended in February when former UEFA official Gianni Infantino was elected.

FIFA: More security for World Cup after Euro 2016 violence

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MOSCOW (AP) Extra security measures are planned for the 2018 World Cup in Russia following hooligan violence at the European Championship, new FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said on Tuesday.

Russian fans, some equipped with martial arts gear, clashed with English supporters in Marseille city center and inside the stadium during the tournament in France.

Asked during her first visit to Moscow about fears that such violence could be repeated in Russia, Samoura said “there will be additional measures,” including known troublemakers being banned from stadiums.

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Samoura said FIFA observers attended all host cities during the European Championship, and their recommendations would form a key part of future security policy.

“All these lessons learned will be used not only here but also in the future by FIFA in any country where we identity a high risk of security,” she said.

Samoura did not provide specifics of the new measures or say whether any FIFA observers were present for the violence in Marseille.

“Security during the World Cup in the Russian Federation is guaranteed by the government,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said. “The security will be unobtrusive, but serious.”

It is not the first time security plans for the 2018 World Cup have been altered. Last year, organizers said there would be a greater focus on securing fan zones from terrorism in the wake of attacks in Paris.

Russia has tightened its anti-hooligan measures in the run-up to the World Cup, introducing legislation to ban offenders from stadiums. An amendment to that law, signed this week by President Vladimir Putin, means blacklisted fans’ names will be published by Russian police.

Russian authorities provided just 30 names of suspected troublemakers to French police ahead of Euro 2016, against 2,500 supplied by Germany.

However, Marseille authorities thanked Russian police for sharing intelligence which led to the convictions of three Russian fans for involvement in the Marseille violence and the deportation of 20 more.

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Samoura announced the tightened security measures for the World Cup as FIFA revealed the ticket prices for the 2018 tournament.

The cheapest tickets for foreign fans at group stage games will rise more than 16 percent since 2014, with the new prices set at $105 – a $15 increase on the equivalent tickets in Brazil two years ago.

Tickets for the final cost between $455 and $1,100, and those for the opening game between $220 and $550.

Russian residents can benefits from sharp discounts, with the cheapest tickets for the domestic audience selling for 1,280 rubles ($20), roughly the same as those for local fans at the previous tournaments in Brazil and South Africa.