Ideas for USWNT hero Jill Ellis as she leads FIFA women’s group

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Two-time World Cup champion Jill Ellis will lead a FIFA panel set to examine ways to grow women’s football.

Ellis, 55, will lead a “Technical Advisory Group on the future of women’s football, bringing together a group of thought leaders to consider the future of the women’s game,” in order to “work with stakeholders from all platforms to examine and explore ways to improve the current match calendar and build global development and competitiveness.”

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Ellis led the United States women’s national team to win the 2015 and 2019 World Cups after taking UCLA to eight College Cups. She’s the latest top manager tabbed to a FIFA post as Arsene Wenger was named chief of global football development in late 2019.

“Potential areas of discussion will include introducing more meaningful and regular competition at all levels globally, optimizing youth development structures, and improving coaching and education standards within the game,” Ellis said in a FIFA release. “However, it is not an exhaustive list; Everything is on the table.”

The women’s match calendar should have more variety, presuming an eventual end to the pandemic and the return of safe travel.

That’s necessary to grow the game globally but also to ensure the continued improvement in competition in current tournaments like the World Cup.

Currently, the Olympics and SheBelieves Cup represent the only competitions to raise eyebrows even in the United States, where friendlies have largely served to salute the USWNT rather than grow the player pool’s experience with true competitions.

Consider that Brazil has won eight of nine Copa America tournaments, the USWNT has won eight of 10 CONCACAF women’s championships, and Germany has worn eight of 12 womens’ EURO crown (including eight of the last nine). Nigeria has won 11 of 13 Africa Women Cup of Nations.

A Women’s World Cup every two years would be more feasible while the game grows than it would be for the men’s game, but how about we get creative here?

We’ve got some ideas that do not include Sepp Blatter’s reprehensible “shorter shorts” plan of many yeards ago.

  • Allow the finalists from the above-named championships to compete in a two-grouped, two-advancing, three-week Tournament of Champions.
  • Incentivize “big” teams like the USWNT to travel for away match days or tournaments against growing programs.
  • Showcase U-23 or “B teams” with cap restrictions in tournaments hosted by federations that meet requirements for growing the women’s game.
  • Equal pay (<– Not even grandstanding. Just did this to surprise people who are offended by the concept).
  • Club vs country: Invite the Women’s Super League champion, NWSL champion, UEFA Women’s Champions League winner, and a small number of national teams to the same tournament.

It’s not ideal that nations would need to be incentivized to grow their women’s game — not at all — but rewarding those who are already empowering women’s athletics could go a long way toward a more widespread embrace of the beautiful game.

Blatter banned by FIFA a 2nd time for financial wrongdoing

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ZURICH — Sepp Blatter was banned for a second time by FIFA on Wednesday for financial wrongdoing, seven months before the 85-year-old former president’s first ban expires.

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Blatter has recently been in poor health and was put in an induced coma for one week after undergoing heart surgery in December.

FIFA said its ethics committee banned both Blatter and former secretary general Jerome Valcke for six years and eight months for financial wrongdoing linked to awarding themselves contractual bonuses worth millions of dollars.

Both men, who also face criminal proceedings in Switzerland, will start serving the new bans when their current ones expire.

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Blatter and Valcke were previously banned for six years and 10 years, respectively, in separate cases. Blatter’s first ban expires in October and Valcke’s initial ban will be served in October 2025.

In the latest case, both men were each fined 1 million Swiss francs ($1.07 million) and ordered to pay within 30 days. It is unclear what power FIFA has to enforce payment.

FIFA’s allegations of self-dealing in bonus payments led to former finance director Markus Kattner being banned for 10 years last year.

UK government offers $4M for 2030 World Cup bid with Ireland

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The British government will provide 2.8 million pounds ($4 million) to pursue a five-nation bid for a 2030 World Cup with Ireland.

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The English Football Association disclosed the financial assistance for a potential British Isles bid on Monday as it received fresh backing from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030. I do think it’s the right place,” Johnson said in an interview with “The Sun” newspaper. “It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.”

Johnson calling England the “home” of football is the language the country’s bid for the 2018 World Cup sought to avoid so the FA didn’t give the impression of seeming entitled to host the FIFA men’s showpiece. The 2018 bid flopped, with only two of 22 FIFA votes received, despite Prince William lobbying executive committee members on the eve of the decision.

England, which hosted and won the 1966 World Cup, is exploring bidding with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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London, Glasgow and Dublin are being used this year among the 12 cities across the continent staging the 2020 European Championship that was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a bid before FIFA formally open the process in 2022,” read a joint statement on Monday from the five British Isles football associations. “Staging a FIFA World Cup would provide an incredible opportunity to deliver tangible benefits for our nations.

“If a decision is made to bid for the event, we look forward to presenting our hosting proposals to FIFA and the wider global football community.”

FIFA is planning for its congress of 211 football nations to pick the 2030 World Cup host in 2024.

A rival bid in Europe is being pursued by Spain and Portugal and UEFA wants a single proposal from the continent. There is also a coalition of South American countries pushing ahead with a bid from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile.

China could also bid if FIFA changes its rules on rotation of World Cup hosts with the Asian Confederation also staging the 2022 edition in Qatar. The continent’s turn on hosting is not due to come again until 2034. The 2026 World Cup will be jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The 2018 bidding process was mired in controversy with many of the voters later embroiled in investigations or banned. David Cameron, who was British Prime Minister at the time of the 2010 vote, said “the corrupt undertones were all there.”

During the World Cup bidding, FIFA was led by Sepp Blatter who was later banned from football for six years by the FIFA ethics committee after being forced from office in 2015.

Cameron said the corruption at FIFA reflected an issue “that proved to be more prevalent than I had expected.”

“Those same forces that had denied Britain the World Cup,” Cameron wrote in his 2019 autobiography, “bribery, lack of transparency, collusion, fraud were depriving people around the world of safer, healthier, wealthier lives.”

FIFA has been led since 2016 by Gianni Infantino. A special prosecutor in Switzerland last year recommended opening a criminal investigation against Infantino, who denies wrongdoing.

FIFA open to help fund anti-corruption agency for sports

FIFA anti-corruption
Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images
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VIENNA — FIFA would help fund a global agency to tackle corruption in sport, its president Gianni Infantino said Monday.

Creating a body like the World Anti-Doping Agency to address financial corruption, match-fixing and the influence of organized crime in sport has been talked about for more than a decade without a detailed proposal.

“We at FIFA are ready to invest in it,” Infantino said, suggesting “maybe the creation of such an agency would help make sport safe in the decades to come.”

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As Infantino spoke at a United Nations event in Austria, the corruption trial was opening in Switzerland of three men, including Qatari soccer and television executive Nasser al-Khelaifi and former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Their case arose from years-long American and Swiss investigations of suspected corruption in soccer that removed a generation of international leaders from office and helped lift Infantino to the FIFA presidency in 2016.

His funding pledge was made when signing a cooperation agreement between FIFA and the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which connects international officials and programs.

Speakers at the event included diplomats from Russia and Qatar, winners of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes in 2010 that FIFA later asked Swiss federal prosecutors to investigate.

No convictions have been secured in Switzerland, though criminal proceedings are also open against Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini for alleged mismanagement of FIFA funds not directly linked to World Cup bidding. They were questioned in the past two weeks.

“Never again. Never again corruption in football,” said Infantino, who is himself under investigation in Switzerland over meetings he had with then-attorney general Michael Lauber.

Lauber left office two weeks ago after being disciplined for failing to declare a June 2017 meeting with Infantino where he took no notes and misleading a subsequent internal investigation.

Sepp Blatter questioned in FIFA investigation in Switzerland

Sepp Blatter
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BERN, Switzerland — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was questioned Tuesday by Swiss investigators about a $2 million payment he authorized in 2011 to then-UEFA president Michel Platini.

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Sepp Blatter was quizzed about suspected criminal mismanagement at FIFA one day after Platini spent about three hours at the offices of Switzerland’s federal prosecutors.

The 84-year-old Blatter waved as he arrived in Bern with his lawyer, Lorenz Erni.

A criminal proceeding has been open against Blatter since the allegation was revealed in September 2015, though it was extended to Platini only three months ago.

Blatter has also been a suspect since May in a second allegation linked to $1 million of FIFA money gifted in 2010 into the control of now-disgraced Caribbean soccer leader Jack Warner.

Blatter has long denied wrongdoing during his 18-year FIFA presidency. His term ended following American and Swiss investigations of corruption in international soccer.

Platini was favored to succeed his former mentor in a February 2016 election until the $2 million allegation ended his campaign.

Blatter instructed FIFA to pay Platini after the French soccer great asked for deferred salary from a decade earlier. Platini had been an advisor in Blatter’s first presidential term from 1998-2002.

The FIFA ethics committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled there was no valid verbal or written contract to pay the money.

Both men were banned from working in soccer by the FIFA ethics committee and removed from office. Blatter’s six-year ban expires next October.