Report: FBI scrutinizing award of 2018, 2022 World Cups. Should there be a re-vote?

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More news has arrived in the FIFA corruption scandal on Wednesday, as Reuters news agency is reporting that the FBI are indeed investigating the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch wouldn’t comment on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into FIFA on a trip to Latvia on Wednesday — or whether or not Blatter was now involved in it — but she did comment on the Swiss authorities looking into alleged corruption during the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“The Swiss authorities do have an investigation underway and their investigation covers matters involving the World Cup awarding for 2018 and 2022, and beyond that I am not able to comment,” Lynch said from the Latvian capital of Riga.

However this new piece of news from Reuters will change things drastically — the FBI had yet to confirm if it was looking into the bidding process — in what has been a traumatic few days for world soccer’s governing body.

With Sepp Blatter announcing he will resign in sensational fashion in Zurich on Tuesday, world soccer’s governing is close to ruins. A new leader will be elected in the next 6-9 months after an extraordinary congress was called by Blatter to decide his successor, just five days after being re-elected for a fifth-straight four year term. Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA’s leader will come to an end between December this year and March 2016 but so many questions are cropping up over why he is to resign later this year.

[ RELATED:  Who is next? ]  

There is much to sort out between now and then.

In his hastily-arranged resignation speech the 79-year-old leader of world soccer’s governing body said that despite his re-election last Friday “I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football.”

With separate reports suggesting that Blatter is under investigation by the FBI, plus his secretary general Jerome Valcke accused of being involved in the distribution of an allegedly corrupt $10 million payment in 2008, the corruption allegations from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice seems to be getting a lot closer to Blatter by the day.

[ RELATED: FBI investigating Blatter?

Given all of that and the reports regarding the FBI “scrutinizing” the Russia and Qatar World Cup bids, it begs this important question. Are the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in serious jeopardy of taking place?

The chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke, believes there should be a new investigation into how those hosts were picked after FIFA’s own ethics committee ruled out any wrongdoing by either Russia or Qatar in December 2014. Their report was conducted by American lawyer Michael Garcia and although his full report will not be published, the leader of FIFA’s ethics committee released a summary of the report which Garcia rejected as it “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions.”

Plus, if the new leader of FIFA wishes to open an investigation into the World Cup allocation, we have a whole new ball game.

[ RELATED: Blatter re-elected ] 

Dyke, who has led the anti-Qatar drive from the English FA who lost out to Russia for the 2018 World Cup bid, said this after hearing about Blatter’s resignation.

“We can go back to looking at those two World Cups,” Dyke said. “If I were Qatar right now I wouldn’t be feeling very comfortable… There has been less evidence about corruption involving Russia. Qatar was never understandable – to have a World Cup in the middle of summer in Qatar when even FIFA’s health and safety people advised not to do it. I think if the evidence comes out which shows the bidding processes were above board that’s fine. If it shows they were corrupt then obviously the bids should be re-done, it’s as simple as that.”

Qatar’s football association hit back at Dyke’s comments and had the following to say.

“Mr Dyke’s instinct to immediately focus on stripping Qatar of the World Cup speaks volumes on his views concerning what will be the first FIFA World Cup to take place in the Middle East,” said the Qatari FA in a statement. “Having already co-operated fully with Mr. Garcia’s investigation — and been subsequently cleared of any wrong-doing — we welcome the Office of the Swiss Attorney General conducting its own work into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. We would urge Mr Dyke to let the legal process take its course and concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”

Anybody get the sense that Qatar’s getting a bit touchy? When news of Blatter’s resignation broke on Tuesday Qatar’s stock-market plummeted by $45 billion, almost three percent of its total value, before rallying. As for Russia 2018, that seems more likely to go ahead as qualifying for the tournament has already began and we are three years from kick off compared to less than seven in Qatar’s case.

Frank Lowy, head of Football Federation Australia, has called for a new investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after his nation gained just one vote for the 2022 World Cup and lost out to Qatar. Australia have since been alleged to have paid a donation to CONCACAF but Lowy insists that was for legitimate reasons.

“We ran a clean bid,” Lowy said. “I know that others did not, and I have shared what I know with the authorities, including Michael Garcia who undertook a two-year investigation into the 2022 World Cup bid.”

With growing pressure from various associations and regional governing bodies around the globe to look into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids once again, there are a busy times ahead at FIFA to sort out this mess.

If the Swiss investigation or reported FBI scrutiny finds something incriminating in one or both of the bids from Russia and Qatar, a re-vote needs to happen. Fast. Who knows how long these separate investigations will take and if anything comes of it in terms of the allocation process, but both Russia and Qatar will not be welcoming more scrutiny surrounding their World Cup bids.

Conspiracy theorists are now claiming that the reason the U.S. Department of Justice brought down the hammer on FIFA was that the USA would be one of the countries at the top of the list to host a hastily re-arranged World Cup if either Qatar or Russia lost their rights. Germany and England would also be at the top of that list but for now, the World Cups in Russia and Qatar are going ahead as planned.

But in the crazy world of FIFA, and as the last few days have proven, stranger things have happened…

Premier League sets start date for 2019-2020 season

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Mark it down.

The Premier League announced that the 2019-2020 season will begin on Saturday, August 10. That’s just 90 days after the 2018-2019 season will finish on May 12.

In addition, the Premier League is continuing with closing their summer transfer window before the start of the season. August 8, at 5 p.m. local is the next transfer deadline day.

Additional news about next season’s schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Manchester United opened the 2018-2019 season on Friday, August 10 with a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Former Premier League midfielder Diarra leaves PSG, announces retirement

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PARIS (AP) Veteran midfielder Lassana Diarra announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after he terminated his contract with French league leader Paris Saint-Germain by mutual agreement.

The 33-year-old Frenchman joined PSG in January 2018 and his contract was set to expire in June. Diarra’s career ends after 15 years and many high profile stops. He played for Arsenal, Chelsea and even Portsmouth in England, as well as spending three strong seasons with Real Madrid.

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Le moment est venu de « raccrocher les crampons » comme on dit . Pour le football , j’ai beaucoup donné . Grâce au football , j’ai énormément reçu . Le sport de haut niveau est une véritable école de courage , de persévérance et de respect . Il ne s’agit pas de faire l’unanimité mais d’honorer , en professionnel , avec volontarisme et loyauté la confiance que l’on vous accorde . Je ne dis pas que j’ai tout fait parfaitement mais je l’ai fait avec coeur , passion et bienveillance . Merci à tous ceux et toutes celles qui m’ont encouragé tout au long de ma carrière sportive . Une pensée pour les clubs , entraîneurs , éducateurs et coéquipiers qui ont fait partie de mon quotidien pendant toutes ces années . Je n’oublie pas ma première sélection avec la France en 2007 . Porter le maillot de la sélection nationale est le rêve de tous les footballeurs . Je tourne donc la page mais je n’oublie rien . Je vais continuer à œuvrer avec enthousiasme , détermination et sincérité dans mes nouveaux projets . Amitiés LASS

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After Real Madrid, Diarra became a journeyman, playing two seasons in Russia and part of a season in the United Arab Emirates. With PSG, Diarra made 10 league appearances last season under former coach Unai Emery, and has made only three in the league this season in Thomas Tuchel’s team.

Diarra made 34 appearances for France and was a regular starter during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.

Europa League, LIVE — Chelsea look to close out Malmo at home

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Chelsea did themselves plenty of favors by winning 2-1 away to Swedish side Malmo last week in the Europa League round of 32, leaving themselves a straightforward job to do in Thursday’s second leg.

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With an aggregate lead, plus two away goals in hand, Maurizio Sarri‘s side can perhaps bounce back from a rough run of results in recent weeks. With fans calling for him to be fired, the Italian will take any boost he can get.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have done well to overturn their 1-0 deficit to BATE Borisov and lead 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the day’s early round of games.