Posts Tagged ‘FIFA World Cup’

Lebanese PM in Moscow to meet Putin

June 13, 2018

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, the eve of the FIFA World Cup, Hariri’s office said.

He will then attend the football tournament’s inaugural match on Thursday, pitting Russia against his longtime backer, Saudi Arabia.

© DALATI AND NOHRA/AFP | A handout picture from the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on May 24, 2018, shows Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaking at a press conference near Beirut

Riyadh has been a key ally of Hariri for years, but the relationship appeared to falter in late 2017 when Hariri announced his surprise resignation during a trip to the kingdom.

He subsequently rescinded the decision and in May was appointed for a new term as prime minister following parliamentary elections.

He is now in talks to form a coalition government.

Hariri, 48, met Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in September 2017.



Qatar could be stripped of 2022 World Cup, Saudi minister claims

February 25, 2018

Turki al-Sheikh suggests England or US host soccer tournament if FIFA decides to take away hosting duties from Gulf state

Qatari Minister of Municipality and Environment Mohammad Bin Abdullah Mitaab Al-Rumaihi, right, Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Hassan al-Thawadi, center, and Saad bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi President of the Public Works Authority 'Ashghal attend the inauguration of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy's Tree Nursery in Doha, on February 22, 2018. (AFP/KARIM JAAFAR)

Qatari Minister of Municipality and Environment Mohammad Bin Abdullah Mitaab Al-Rumaihi, right, Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Hassan al-Thawadi, center, and Saad bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi President of the Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal attend the inauguration of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Tree Nursery in Doha, on February 22, 2018. (AFP/KARIM JAAFAR)

Qatar could be stripped of its hosting rights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the global soccer federation set to announce its decision next September, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister Turki al-Sheikh claimed Saturday, suggesting the US and UK as alternate hosts.

Sources close to al-Sheikh were quoted earlier by a German news outlet as saying it has already been decided that Qatar would indeed lose the hosting rights for the games, which have been mired in controversy.

Al-Sheikh, whose country has been involved in a major diplomatic spat with Qatar, publicly endorsed England and the United States as alternative hosts of the major sports event if indeed the controversial bid by the Middle Eastern country is reversed.

However, there was no official signal from FIFA that Qatar was actually in danger of losing hosting rights for the worldwide soccer tourney.

In 2010, the 22-member FIFA executive committee voted for Russia as hosts of the 2018 World Cup installation, and for Qatar as home of the 2022 contest — two highly contentious picks that have been widely criticized ever since, with allegations of corruption and vote-buying surrounding the vote.

FIFA President Joseph Blatter as he is is flanked by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov (R), and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar (L), after the announcement December 2, 2010, that Russia and Qatar will host the soccer World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 respectively. (photo credit: AP/Michael Probst, File)

Along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties and began a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, in part over allegations that Doha supports extremists and has overly warm ties to Iran.

Qatar has long denied funding extremists and restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran that makes its citizens incredibly wealthy.

The Gulf crisis forced organizers to move the eight-nation Gulf Cup from host Qatar to Kuwait. Doha agreed on condition that it would host the next Gulf tournament, in 2019.

The fact that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain would only play after the tournament was switched from Qatar has raised fears over a potential boycott of 2022.

Qatar has said they expect up to 1.5 million fans to attend the World Cup, the majority coming from the region, mainly from Saudi Arabia.

Construction at the Khalifa Staium in the Qatari capital Doha, August 17, 2016. (AFP/Karim JAAFAR)

Last month, the country’s most senior World Cup organizer, Hassan al-Thawadi publicly urged the boycotting countries to allow their nationals to attend 2022.

Some have claimed the crisis with Qatar was caused by its selection to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, saying the impasse could end if Doha gave up that right.

On Friday, German online magazine Focus reported FIFA has recently “changed” the procedure for choosing World Cup hosts following the controversy, and that in the future all 211 member states would participate in the deciding vote rather than the relatively small panel used thus far, quoting information provided by the Saudi sports ministry.

The report quoted ministry sources as saying FIFA has made the decision to strip World Cup hosting rights from Qatar due to “clear evidence of a vote buy,” and will formally announce the decision in the late summer of 2018.

Al-Sheikh appeared to confirm part of the report a day later, saying that “September 2018 will be an intense month” in FIFA corridors.

“If found guilty of any ethical violations, the Qatari government must accept the consequences of their actions,” he said on Twitter.

“England is the birthplace of modern football,” explained al-Sheikh, using the sport’s British name. “Its history and pedigree would make it a great host.”

“The USA has tremendous experience in hosting global sporting events,” he added. “I would extremely enjoy watching the World Cup if hosted in England or the USA.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

Visa Becomes First FIFA Sponsor to Warn It Could Jump Ship

May 28, 2015

The Associated Press

LONDON — Worried that their reputations will be tarnished by their links to FIFA, major sponsors are demanding that soccer’s global governing body clean up its act, with Visa even warning it is prepared to jump ship.

Coca-Cola also made it clear it is unhappy with the scandals rocking the organization, which saw the head of European soccer, Michel Platini, urge FIFA President Sepp Blatter to step down Thursday.

Platini’s call came a day after seven officials were arrested in a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich as part of an American investigation into soccer corruption that involves bribery allegations over decades. Swiss prosecutors have also opened criminal proceedings into FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Visa logo

The shockwaves rippling through soccer’s corridors of power have prompted some of the sport’s most prominent commercial backers to demand action.

Visa provided the most acute criticism, saying it expects FIFA to take “swift and immediate steps to address” its issues.

“This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere,” it said in a statement. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Coca-Cola was also among the companies to take a harder stance. “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” the company said in a statement.

Most of the companies involved with FIFA and the soccer world are household names. For most, the association with the world’s biggest team sport has paid handsome dividends, so any decision to bring that to an end won’t be taken lightly.

FIFA can’t ignore the criticism, as the sponsors provide almost a third of its revenues. Recent figures showed the organization generated $5.7 billion in 2011-2014, which encompassed the Brazil World Cup, with sponsors and commercial partners contributing almost $1.6 billion.

Paul Smith, the CEO of New York-based sports and entertainment intelligence firm Repucom, said the sponsors should avoid a “knee-jerk” decision to ditch their connection with FIFA, arguing that the most prudent path is “a wait-and-see approach.”

Other sports, he noted, have suffered similar scandals, whether it be baseball or cycling, and in most cases the administrators have taken action to improve their credibility. That perhaps is best-illustrated by the International Olympic Committee, which has regained its credibility over the past decade since a bribery scandal related to the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.

And in any case, Smith said, soccer has never been in better shape in terms of its fan-base or commercial opportunities.

“The right move for commercial partners is to stand by the game of football, not the custodians of the game,” he said. “A short-term decision to walk away from the game would be negative for the game in the long-term.”

As well as Coca-Cola and Visa, FIFA has other long-term partners, including Adidas, which has provided the match ball for every World Cup since 1970. The partners have the right to use official FIFA trademarks in their advertising campaigns, exposure in and around stadiums and protection against ambush marketing.

There are second-tier sponsors, too, such as Budweiser and McDonald’s, who pay to be involved during and around the World Cup tournaments themselves.

Beyond those corporations, there are companies that make deals with national soccer associations — Nike, for example, has paid for the right for Brazil to wear its shirts since 1996.

Though not directly linked to FIFA, Nike put out a statement in the wake of Wednesday’s raids. In the indictment, the Department of Justice mentioned a “multinational sportswear company headquartered in the United States” in connection with bribery allegations involving a deal with Brazil from 1996.

Without directly referring to speculation it is that multinational company, Nike said it was concerned by the “very serious allegations” and was cooperating with authorities. “Nike believes in ethical and fair play in both business and sport and strongly opposes any form of manipulation or bribery,” it said.

Besides the sponsors, there are marketing agencies that buy up media and marketing rights for different FIFA competitions and in turn sell them on. One such company is Traffic Sports USA, which was named in the U.S. charges Wednesday.