Wednesday, August 15, 2018 | ePaper

FIFA has hectic month of football politics before World Cup

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AP, Geneva :
Before the World Cup kicks off in Russia, expect a hectic month of football politics that could transform the face of the game.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is driving his agenda of adding new and bigger competitions, even as FIFA prepares a June 13 vote in Moscow to pick a 2026 World Cup host: Morocco or the United States-led North American bid.
It is FIFA's most intense pre-World Cup period since a financial crisis ahead of the 2002 edition.
In his day, former president Sepp Blatter ensured FIFA would not be so distracted so close to a World Cup that almost entirely funds the governing body.
Blatter would use the eve-of-tournament meeting of FIFA member federations to announce bonuses from World Cup profits - effectively starting his campaign to be re-elected the next year.
Infantino could also build toward winning a second term in June 2019 by moving to add 16 teams at the 2022 World Cup. He also wants to defy European skeptics and sign a deal potentially worth $25 billion which includes a new competition for more than 200 national teams.
Here's a look at FIFA's busy agenda:
On June 14, Russia plays Saudi Arabia in Moscow. Finally, some actual games after the politicking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin should be at Luzhniki Stadium with Infantino. They have seen FIFA's expansion talk steer some attention away from this tournament.
Calls to follow England and Iceland by not sending VIP guests to the tournament have died down. The focus on issues such as racism in Russian stadiums and FIFA's inability to sell a full slate of global sponsorships has been low-key.
FIFA says it will beat its revenue target of $5.656 billion, which is less than the total income for the previous four-year World Cup cycle.
Infantino would welcome new income streams to help meet funding promises he gave voters in 2016.
Long-time FIFA watchers were stunned in April to learn Infantino was keen to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 teams to 48.
Qatar cannot realistically provide the four extra stadiums needed. Suddenly, a geopolitical move seemed in play, forcing Qatar to share hosting with regional neighbors currently blockading the emirate. Infantino has met in recent months with the ruling monarchies in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

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