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FIFA to pick 2023 Women’s World Cup host next month

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ZURICH — The 2023 Women’s World Cup host will be picked by FIFA’s ruling council on June 25 as the USWNT aim to make it three titles in a row.

The contest is between Brazil, Japan, Colombia, and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand.

In an open vote of the 37-member FIFA Council, the result of each round of balloting and each voter’s choice will be made public.

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FIFA inspection teams visited the four bid candidates in January and February before international travel was restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“FIFA is now finalizing the evaluation report, which will be published in early June,” FIFA said in a statement on Friday.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura added the following:

“FIFA remains committed to implementing the most comprehensive, objective and transparent bidding process in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This is part of our overall commitment to women’s football that, among other things, will see FIFA invest USD 1 billion in women’s football during the current cycle,” Samoura said.

The 2023 World Cup will be the first to feature 32 teams as the last two editions, both won by the USWNT, had 24 teams.

Court ends 1st Swiss trial in FIFA probe without judgment

Franz Beckenbauer
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GENEVA — The first trial in Switzerland’s five-year investigation of corruption in soccer ended Tuesday without a judgment, seemingly beaten by the coronavirus pandemic and an expiring statute of limitations.

The decision by the Swiss federal criminal court had become inevitable. The trial of four soccer officials related to the 2006 World Cup opened on March 9 but was then suspended because of limitations on the court during the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspension was extended last week, pushing the prosecution beyond an April 27 deadline to resolve the case.

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Criminal proceedings, including against German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, were announced more than 3½ years ago but ultimately came to court too late. The court said in a statement it was circumstances and “not procedural errors” which caused the case to be closed.

Two German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, Theo Zwanziger and Horst Schmidt, plus former FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi, were charged with fraud.

A third German official, Wolfgang Niersbach, was charged with being complicit in fraud in an alleged collective attempt to mislead a 2006 World Cup oversight panel in Germany.

Beckenbauer was not indicted for health reasons but was listed as a witness by video link to the court near Switzerland’s border with virus-hit northern Italy.

The case involved a 6.7 million euro ($7.6 million) payment 15 years ago that passed from Beckenbauer via a FIFA account to Qatari soccer powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam.

Prosecutors acknowledged when announcing the indictment last August the true purpose of the money was unclear.

FIFA: Games should not return before September

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The leading medical expert at FIFA has said games should not return until September 1, at the earliest, as a return date for the 2019-20 season remains totally up in the air.

The Medical Committee chairman, Michel D’Hooghe, does not believe games should return due to health concerns and bluntly said “it is not a matter of money, it is a matter of life and death” and fears a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph in the UK, D’Hooghe revealed that the main aim for leagues around the world should be to focus on the 2020-21 season and forget about the 2019-20 season.

“We are all subject to decisions at national level from the public authorities. It is very simple. Football suddenly becomes not the most important thing in life. I will be happy if we can start, in a convenient way, the next championship and have nothing before the start of next season,” D’Hooghe said.

“If they could start the season 2020-21 end of August or beginning of September I would be happy. Then they could eventually avoid a second attack from the virus, which is not impossible. Everyone has to be very careful for the moment. I have heard in many countries they are thinking about playing football again, with or without the public.

“In my long career I have seen many situations where there has been a balance between economic and health. Mostly the economics won, whether that was about jetlag or football at altitude or in extreme conditions such as pollution situations. If there is one circumstance where medical arguments should win against economical arguments, it is now. It is not a matter of money, it is a matter of life and death. It is very simple.”

With the top-flight in the Netherlands and now France canceled, countries across Europe are putting bans on all sporting events, even behind closed doors, until September.

This comes hot on the heels of the Premier League and UK government being in talks over ‘project restart’ to get games going again in June, while the Bundesliga and Serie A are also keen to resume the 2019-20 campaigns.

FIFA seem to be totally against resuming the current campaign and UEFA now want a plan in place before May 25 from leagues across Europe and if they plan to try and finish the 2019-20 domestic season. FIFA saying that a return date to action should be in September at the earliest pretty much scuppers the rest of the 2019-20 season and will force UEFA to end its club competitions too.

Five substitutes per game? FIFA suggests special rule change

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FIFA has suggested a special rule change of five substitutions to help teams returning to action after suspensions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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World soccer’s governing body has said that it wants teams to be able to make five substitutions per game.

Its reason for increasing the number of subs from five to three is due to players facing more fatigue as they will likely be asked to play a game every few days when the 2019-20 season resumes behind closed doors.

“When competitions resume, such competitions are likely to face a congested match calendar with a higher-than-normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks. Safety of the players is one of FIFA’s main priorities. One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload.

“In light of this, and in light of the unique challenge faced globally in delivering competitions according to the originally foreseen calendar, FIFA proposes that a larger number of substitutions be temporarily allowed, at the discretion of the relevant competition organiser. In competitions where less than five substitutions are currently allowed, each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions during the match, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time, where relevant.”

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) are expected to look on FIFA’s proposed rule changes favorably and vote them in for the rest of the 2019-20 season and the entire 2020-21 campaign.

How will this work?

Teams will be given certain windows during games to make subs, outside of injuries, so the flow of the match will not be impacted with extra subs being made just to waste time.

This is a really good idea to help teams cope with some players not being physically fit enough to resume the season. The vast majority will be fit enough but others may not have been able to work out that much during the suspension and they could struggle to get back to the pace of regular games.

This rule change would also allow some of the teams lower down the table feel more comfortable with playing up to three games per week as they were concerned that they couldn’t compete with the squad depth of teams at the top of the league.

FIFA to release $150 million in cash reserves to help during coronavirus shutdown

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino unveiled a financial assistance plan to help member associations weather the storm during the coronavirus shutdown.

The football governing body, which infamously has $2.7 billion in cash reserves, announced that each member association will receive $500,000 in cash to begin offsetting the massive financial hit of the coronavirus pandemic. With leagues shut down all over the world, teams are being forced to pay players and staff with little to no sponsorship or gate income.

“The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for the entire football community and, as the world governing body, it is FIFA’s duty to be there and support the ones that are facing acute needs,” Infantino said in a statement released by FIFA on Friday. “This starts by providing immediate financial assistance to our member associations, many of which are experiencing severe financial distress.

“This is the first step of a far-reaching financial relief plan we are developing to respond to the emergency across the whole football community. Together with our stakeholders, we are we assessing the losses and we are working on the most appropriate and effective tools to implement the other stages of this relief plan.”

As part of the plan, FIFA is also advancing its regular operational costs payments to member associations, which is usually paid in July. It is also releasing these funds without necessitating fulfillment of its specific regulations.

After calling this move a “first step,” Infantino did not detail what the next steps in the financial assistance plan are, nor did he state there would be more action taken other than the aforementioned inference. Clearly FIFA is capable of doing much more to help, but this move is a healthy start to assist smaller leagues and clubs with less spending power survive the outbreak.