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FIFA not happy with La Liga’s USA plans

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President of FIFA Gianni Infantino doesn’t seem impressed with La Liga’s plans to play a regular-season game in Miami in January, 2019.

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Barcelona, Girona and La Liga have applied to the Spanish Football Federation to move their match on Jan. 26, 2019 from Girona’s home stadium to Miami, Florida in a bid to attract new fans.

It would be the first-ever La Liga game played overseas, but Infantino isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S,” Infantino said in a statement to ESPN. “In football, the general principle is that you play a ‘home’ match at ‘home’, and not in a foreign country. There are procedures in place for these things, so we will wait to receive anything official and then we’ll look into it. There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. In particular, such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.”

With FIFA having to approve the move, is that the end of this?

Probably not, but it is clear that this game would cause plenty of problems as the Spanish players’ union have already expressed serious concerns about moving games to the U.S. and elsewhere to try and grow their global brand.

The head of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has hit out at Infantino about his comments and clearly wants to game to go ahead. Yet U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, the Spanish Football Federation and FIFA would all have to give it the thumbs up.

“I will remind the President of,  that in the , 3 teams of Canada participate, and he T is the current champion, and also in Canada there is another professional league,” Tebas said.

I see where Tebas is coming from but come on, comparing teams from Spain to Canada  playing games in the USA is a huge stretch. It appears La Liga remains desperate for this idea to work but there’s certainly a lot of schmoozing that needs to be done in the coming months to make a Spanish top-flight game in Miami a reality.

Report: FIFA plans to overhaul transfer system

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According to a report by Reuters, FIFA is planning big changes to the transfer system, including a luxury tax and a limit on loaning players.

The report states that FIFA has dedicated a task force – commissioned by FIFA president Gianni Infantino – to evaluating the current transfer system and proposing changes that may be necessary. The task force released a report on the current status of the transfer system and what can be improved, and Reuters claims to have seen that report.

Reuters quotes the FIFA report, saying that FIFA believes recent inflated costs have led to “unsavory practices which may lead to the exploitation of players.” It says the current system has contributed to “various abuses at the expense of young players and the integrity of competitions.”

In addition to the supposed exploitation of players, the report states, “The transfer system appears to have turned into a speculative market. This is not fair to the football clubs or grassroots which are the foundation of the professional sport.”

The report most notably suggests halting the increase in transfer prices by developing an algorithm to predetermine the value of a player, implying that would be used to set a fixed price based upon the mathematical calculation. It states that the task force commissioned Swiss company CIES Football Observatory to develop the algorithm, which it reportedly has already done.

The algorithm method could be most notably problematic because it would appear to try quantifying player value with a rigid determination, while such a value can often be less of a fixed rate and more of a subjective value. Factors that determine a player’s value go far beyond just that player’s performance on the field, stretching to contributors such as the player’s contract situation, the bidding team’s roster makeup, the selling team’s roster makeup, the player’s public persona, the player’s fit with a managerial style of play, and the selling team’s perceived ability to replace the player, among much more. Essentially, one team’s need to buy coupled with another team’s willingness or need to sell can help determine a player’s value just as much as his play on the pitch.

The FIFA report also apparently suggested the use of a luxury tax to cap transfer values. Reuters states the tax would go towards a “solidarity fund” but did not expand upon that concept. Major League Baseball currently employs a luxury tax, essentially serving as a soft salary cap to keep teams accountable for the contracts they dish out. Any team with a total salary expenditure over a predetermined threshold would pay a percentage of that expenditure to MLB determined by their consecutive offending years. The money collected from the tax is spread throughout the other franchises in a revenue-sharing manner. It is unclear how FIFA would implement such a luxury tax, and if the tax would attempt to cap individual transfers or full team salary expenditure.

In addition, the FIFA report suggested capping a team’s ability to loan players in and out. The suggestion puts forth a cap of 6-8 slots useable to loan players in to a club, and a similar cap on the ability to loan players out. The English professional leagues already have a system of this type, limiting the amount of player loans available for registration; it does not, however, limit the amount of outgoing loans.

Finally, the FIFA report suggested limiting the fees paid to an agent, and strongly suggested prohibiting the ability for one agent to act as the negotiator for both a club and a player in a single transaction.

FIFA has taken a mostly laissez faire approach to the transfer market, allowing the market set itself as well as the trajectory of transfer values in recent history, although the governing body has worked to clean up the process slightly. Most notably, FIFA outlawed the practice of third-party player ownership, a common occurrence most visibly in Italy, Portugal, and South America that caused decisions on players’ futures to be made by parties other than the player himself.

Report: FIFA eliminates “corruption” from code of ethics

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According to Associated Press reporter Rob Harris, FIFA eliminated the word “corruption” from its revised code of ethics during “secret meetings” and released

Even more encouraging for would-be criminals, FIFA instituted a statute of limitations on any “bribery” charges, setting a 10 year limit on potential cases. Any bribery charges brought against an individual within the organization cannot be punished by the sport’s governing body.

“Bribery, misappropriation of funds and manipulation of football matches or competitions may no longer be prosecuted after a lapse of ten years,” the new ethics code reads.

Obviously, this has no effect on anyone caught and charged in a court of law, but within FIFA, this is a discouraging development and gives even more credence to the growing argument against FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who has a growing group of detractors saying he is violating FIFA rules.

Also added in the new code of ethics is a “defamation” clause that would allow the governing body to punish those who speak out against the current regime. According to Harris, the ethics code does not give particular examples of defamation, meaning the FIFA courts would have flexibility to interpret the new law. The punishment would be a ban of up to two years, with repeat offenders potentially pushed out for up to five years.

Finally, the report states that ethics prosecutor Maria Claudia Rojas has the ability to enter into plea bargins with those charged with anything other than bribery, misappropriation of funds or match fixing, allowing the governing body to resolve cases internally, detracting from the transparency of the organizationl

Infantino enjoying status perks of World Cup, fawning over Putin

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MOSCOW (AP) — When Gianni Infantino is in the orbit of Vladimir Putin, the head of world soccer cannot stop beaming. Particularly when he’s juggling a ball in the Kremlin or sharing screen time with Putin as they watched the World Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba to Barca? Madrid wants Neymar ]

Two years after his election, FIFA’s president gives the impression of a man who can’t believe the elevated circles of power he is allowed to mix in.

“We are a team,” Infantino told Putin ahead of the World Cup. “Together we will show to the world what we can do.”

The eagerness of the soccer bureaucrat to portray himself as an equal to the head the world’s third-biggest military superpower is not concealed. Surely Putin, as the former KGB spy, spots the obsequiousness a mile off?

“We all fell in love with Russia,” Infantino declared at a round-table gathering with Putin last week. “This is a new image of Russia that we now have.”

It is what Human Rights Watch calls “sportswashing.” Using a major sports event to cleanse the image of a nation and gloss over wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Belgium tops England to finish third at World Cup ]

Has the whole world really fallen in love with Russia?

How about:

— Ukrainians whose territory was annexed by Russia in 2014;

— Families of the 298 people blown out of the sky when a surface-to-air missile, which international investigators traced to Russia , hit a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014;

— Those poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok this year on the streets of England in an attack blamed on Russia. (More than 25 countries expelled Russian diplomats as punishment);

— Countries who say Russia meddled in their elections (Twelve Russian military intelligence officers were indicted on Friday over hacking in the 2016 U.S. election);

— Migrant workers who suffered human rights abuses at World Cup stadium sites and the families of the 21 people who died;

— Athletes cheated out of medals at Olympic Games by Russians who took part in a state-sponsored doping scheme.

It’s a long charge sheet, which Russia naturally denies and dismisses as Western propaganda. Given the weight of allegations, The Associated Press asked Infantino at an event intended to celebrate the World Cup how comfortable he is seeking such a close alliance with Putin.

[ MORE: Chelsea reveal new manager Sarri, midfielder Jorginho ]

“There are many injustices in the world,” Infantino responded at the briefing.

Cooperation with a government is necessary for the smooth-running of a sports event. But just where should a sport governing body draw moral red lines over the extent it burnishes a head of state with praise?

“There are many things in the world not working as citizens in the world would like to work,” Infantino said. “There are many things we would like to change in the world, There are many things we are not happy that happen in the world. Not in one country. Not in one region. Not in one area but in the entire world. We have all to try to work, to do, to speak, try to make things change for the good wherever we can.”

The message from Infantino was conflicted. While claiming that at the World Cup “we are focused on football,” Infantino also wants to be seen to be harnessing the power of the game to bring people together when usual diplomatic channels break down.

“That is the basis to solve some of these issues,” Infantino said, still responding the litany of allegations against the Russian state. “If football and the World Cup can contribute to open channels, to open some discussions to help those who have to take important decisions for our world, to at least start to speak to each other and to realize there are people human beings living everywhere in the world, then I think we have done already something. We have given already a contribution. That is what football is about.”

Infantino is casting FIFA as an organization with a pseudo-political role. The next World Cup is in Qatar, which remains subject to a diplomatic boycott by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain — a potential major stumbling block to movement in the region in 2022.

[ MORE: FIFA may still expand 2022 World Cup in Qatar ]

“Maybe we could bring those who are having difficulties communicating with each other to start dialogue,” Infantino said. “Maybe football can open up a door to communication between neighbors here.”

Infantino’s path to the FIFA presidency to succeed Sepp Blatter was only opened up after his former boss at European soccer’s governing body UEFA, Michel Platini, was taken out by a financial misconduct scandal. Now Infantino is now portraying himself a political mediator. Yet the Swiss-Italian lawyer and his FIFA cohorts insist Putin’s actions away from soccer don’t concern them.

The same man Infantino was joking with in the Kremlin, in a well-edited video of keepy-ups with the ball, still resists demands from the families of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to accept responsibility. The FIFA delegation that went to the Kremlin last week should have conducted more due diligence, according to the lawyer representing victims’ families.

“Review the archives for the many, many photos, videos and intercepted telecommunications which have been recovered documenting the Russian Army’s provocative action with Russian Buk (missile),” Jerry Skinner said. “Do your primary document research and catch up to those demanding Russian accountability.”

FIFA did at least publicly acknowledge concerns about Ramzan Kadyrov , the strongman Chechen leader accused of human rights abuses including torture, anti-LGBT attacks and the killings of political opponents. Egypt was allowed by FIFA to be based in Grozny and star striker Mohamed Salah was soon dragged into photo-ops with Kadyrov. That facilitated Kadyrov to “launder his reputation on the world stage,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

Since Infantino believes football should have a diplomatic role — as a conduit to opening up dialogue — activists want him to use that influence.

“If FIFA operations have been responsible for worker deaths, for wage cheating and exploitation, for giving as a platform to a serious human rights abuser then you can use that leverage to seek redress,” Worden said in a telephone interview.

Infantino told Putin he feels “like a child in a toy shop” and has called it the “best World Cup ever.” The FIFA leader has to be careful not to appear willing to give Putin a free-pass and gloss over misdeeds the Russian state has been found to be complicit for.

“The World Cup has certainly been the best World Cup for Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin,” Worden said. “But certainly not on the basis of human rights.”

FIFA may expand 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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There is still a very real possibility that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see 48 teams take part for the first time in history.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]  

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Friday ahead of the 2018 World Cup final, FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed that the World Cup could be expanded and talks are planned.

The tournament was scheduled to only have 32 teams with the field to be expanded to 48 teams for the first time for the 2026 World Cup joint-hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada. But talks around adding an extra 16 teams continue, even though Qatar wants it to remain at 32 teams as they’ve only built eight host stadiums so far.

“In the coming months, we will meet with them and adopt a decision. For the moment, it will be played with 32 teams and the distribution of spots will remain as they are,” Infantino said. “First we will discuss with the Qataris and then with the FIFA Council and stakeholders and decide calmly what the decision is. For the moment, we have a World Cup with 32 teams.”

[ MORE: Key battles in 2018 WC final ]

Infantino also confirmed that the tournament, which will be played in the Middle East for the first time, will kick off on Nov. 21 and end on Dec. 18. The official dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were reiterated by Infantino after initially being released three years ago.

“The dates for the World Cup are set. It will played in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022,” Infantino said. “The leagues are all aware and they will have to adapt their calendars as a consequence. In the end it is the right decision. It cannot be played in June and July and in November and December the players are very well prepared because it is almost the beginning of the season.”

These dates had been previously stated as it was agreed that the World Cup would be moved from June/July to November/December to coincide with the extreme weather conditions in Qatar in the summer months.

With the domestic seasons in Europe set to adapt their schedule for the tournament, there is also the small matter of Major League Soccer having to squeeze in its own playoff games into a much smaller window for the 2022 season.

On top of that, in the U.S. sporting sphere it will be a busy, crowded place in November/December as the World Cup games will compete with college football, the NFL, NHL and NBA for air-time.