The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: FIFA bans unapproved armbands, drone security for Paris ‘24 worries Interior Minister; no beer or spirits sponsorships in Scotland?

The scene before kickoff of the Wales vs. U.S. match at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. FIFA bans non-approved armbands, threatens yellow card
2. French Interior Minister worries about drones at Paris 2024
3. Accredited football writer Wahl stopped for wearing rainbow shirt
4. Workers party at Qatar match at fan zone in a Doha stadium
5. Scottish Football concerned over alcoholic beverage sponsor ban

FIFA shut down the plan of seven European teams to have their captains wear a “OneLove” rainbow armband in favor of its own program of messaged armbands, telling the teams that wearers would be penalized with a yellow card. Also in Qatar as an observer is French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who said his security worries for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris center on drones. American football journalist Grant Wahl, in Qatar as an accredited writer, was detained by security personnel when he entered Monday’s Wales vs. U.S. match wearing a T-shirt with a soccer ball surrounded by concentric circles in rainbow colors, in support of LBGTQ rights; he was eventually released and received apologies from the organizing committee and FIFA. Reuters reported that a free fan festival was set up in Doha for migrant workers to watch the opening World Cup match – featuring Qatar – and that thousands attended. In Scotland, a government consultation on whether alcoholic-beverage sponsorships should be banned as part of a larger reduction in alcoholic-beverage marketing has the Scottish Football Association and others very concerned.

Oh yes, the FIFA World Cup continued, with the U.S. and Wales playing to a 1-1 draw, while the Netherlands defeated Senegal, 2-0, and England routed Iran, 6-2.

(For a transcript of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s memorable Saturday news conference remarks, click here.)

1.
FIFA bans non-approved armbands, threatens yellow card

FIFA informed the teams who had planned to have their captains wear a multi-color “OneLove” armband for their 2022 World Cup matches that such actions would be contrary to FIFA rules. From the FIFA statement:

“Article 13.8.1 of the FIFA Equipment Regulations, which state: ‘For FIFA Final Competitions, the captain of each Team must wear the captain’s armband provided by FIFA.’ …

“FIFA is an inclusive organisation that wants to put football to the benefit of society by supporting good and legitimate causes, but it has to be done within the framework of the competition regulations which are known to everyone.”

FIFA is allowing captains to wear a “No Discrimination” armband for any of the matches, in addition to the armbands with varying (approved) messages made available for each round of the tournament.

The teams were informed that unauthorized armbands, such as the “OneLove” style, would result in a yellow card being issued to the wearer. A statement in reply from England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands included:

“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.

“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”

Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk said after the win over Senegal:

“I no longer want to answer political questions. This is the time to talk about football and not political issues. One thing is clear: we are not going to wear the armband if we’re getting a yellow card. I think we need to question whether this a correct action on the part of FIFA and you can answer that question.

“Virgil van Dijk after one match is to be given a yellow card! We are here to become World Champions and that is our purpose, which is why we’re not wearing the armband. All of us need to ask ourselves whether this is a proper action on the part of FIFA – that is crystal clear.”

2.
French Interior Minister worries about drones at Paris 2024

“Drones are the main terrorist threat of today and tomorrow.”

That from France’s Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, to Agence France Presse from Doha, where he is attending the FIFA World Cup, with a focus on lessons for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

He noted his concerns with dangers such as “a drone loaded with explosives that falls on a crowd, on an exposed team, on an opening ceremony like at the Olympic Games for example.

“When you organize an event like this, cyber attacks, the fight against drones, questions of terrorist threats, the flow of people are important subjects.”

Darmanin added that about 20,000 fans from France were expected in Qatar and that 225 French security staff were in the country as a preventative measure.

He also saw benefits in having a mega-event like the World Cup in unusual locations such as Qatar, as it “allows us to move certain countries like Qatar forward on labour laws and respect for the environment.

“If we only ever organize such events in Europe, it’s difficult to argue that they are global.”

3.
Accredited football writer Wahl stopped for wearing rainbow shirt

Veteran writer Grant Wahl, who has covered multiple World Cups, is in Qatar for the 2022 edition and went to the Wales-USA match on Monday wearing a black T-shirt picturing a soccer ball surrounded by seven concentric circles in color, forming a rainbow pattern, in support of LGBTQ rights.

As he reported on his Substack site, what followed was an “adventure”:

“When I arrived at the stadium media entrance to cover the United States-Wales World Cup game today wearing a rainbow soccer ball t-shirt supporting the LGBTQ community, the security guards refused to let me in, detained me for 25 minutes and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt.”

Wahl tweeted:

“Just now: Security guard refusing to let me into the stadium for USA-Wales. ‘You have to change your shirt. It’s not allowed.’”

His phone was then taken by a security guard. Another guard said his shirt was political, which Wahl disagreed with. A third said he had to remove the shirt. No chance.

Wahl told friend Andrew Das, an assistant sports editor of the New York Times, what was going on, and Das was detained also. Wahl was then told to face a closed-circuit television camera, so he could be identified by others.

Das was released a little later, and a “security commander” came by, apologized, and told Wahl he was free to go, shirt and all. A FIFA representative also apologized later.

Wahl noted, “One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt.”

4.
Workers party at Qatar match at fan zone in a Doha stadium

A very special story from Reuters about the World Cup, but this time about how some of the country’s migrant workers were able to watch Sunday’s opening match:

“[T]housands of migrant workers gathered in a Doha stadium to watch the opening match of the first World Cup in the Middle East.

“The special fan zone set up at the industrial area on the city’s outskirts includes a stadium with a giant TV screen and another big screen set up outside for an overflow crowd. It sits adjacent to several worker camps where many of Qatar’s hundreds of thousands of low-income labourers live.”

Access to this stadium fan zone was free; one of the workers – from India – interviewed said he has signed up as a volunteer to work at a couple of matches, and will get to see the matches live. For some others who were interviewed, they said they send most of their earnings home to their families, making purchasing tickets an impossibility.

5.
Scottish Football concerned over alcoholic beverage sponsor ban

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster put it this way:

“We will take time to consider these proposals in far greater detail and respond in due course, but even at an initial stage, it is clear that the sporting, social and financial implications could be extremely grave.

“Sport worldwide depends to a very great degree on sponsorship, and drinks companies have a long and supportive history in the Scottish game. Their valuable financial contribution is hugely important to the wellbeing of our sport and its ability to support a range of social benefits. To remove that revenue stream, at a time when we are experiencing the most significant economic challenges for a generation, could have huge implications for clubs and Scottish sport more generally.”

He was responding to a Scottish government “consultation” on “Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion” announced last Thursday, that is collecting information and responses through 9 March 2023. The project is designed to “take a whole population approach which aims to reduce alcohol consumption and therefore the risk of alcohol-related harms across the population. Although we recognise that there is no safe level of regularly drinking alcohol, we are looking to embed lower and safer consumption levels throughout the population.”

Sports sponsorship is clearly targeted, with one recommendation stating, “Stop alcohol sponsorship of events at which children may be present” and

“We want children and young people, as well as those in recovery and the wider population, to be able to attend and enjoy sporting events without seeing alcohol adverts or promotion.”

Ian Maxwell, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, said “Scottish football is already restricted by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which for more than 40 years has prohibited the sale of alcohol within football grounds. As a consequence, we cannot control consumption levels that take place outside of the stadium bowl and thus cannot be part of a data-led solution.

“We will contribute to the consultation to ensure a fact-based approach and to highlight the consequences of any legislation being imposed, not just financially, but in potentially being precluded from bidding for major football events, as well as other world-class, international sporting events where alcohol partnerships are an integral part of a diverse sponsorship portfolio.”

Interesting timing, of course, on the heels of the ban on beer sales inside Qatar’s World Cup stadiums by FIFA sponsor Budweiser. Doncaster noted that Dutch brewer Heineken N.V. is a sponsor of UEFA competitions in which Scotland competes.

≡ FIFA WORLD CUP ≡

● Group A: Netherlands 2, Senegal 0 ● The Dutch had the best of the first half, but Senegal looked like it might steal the match in the final half until midfielder Cody Gapko turned the game with a header from Frenkie de Jong in the 84th minute for a 1-0 lead.

Senegal continued to press, but the Dutch defense was stout and Davy Klassen scored the final goal at 90+9 on a rebound from a Memphis Depay shot. The Dutch enjoyed 53% of the possession, but Senegal led in shots, 15-10.

● Group B: England 6, Iran 2 ● The English outclassed Iran, scoring three first-half goals and three more in the second in a 6-2 rout. After several early chances, Jude Bellingham scored on a header in the 35th minute, followed by Bukayo Saka (43rd) and Raheem Sterling (45+1). Sterling scored again at 62 minutes for a 4-0 edge, then Iran got a powerful goal from Mehdi Aremi in the 65th to close to 4-1. But Marcus Rashford scored six minutes later to increase the lead to 5-1 and Jack Grealish scored in the 90th to go to 6-1. Aremi was fouled in the box in stoppage time and converted the penalty at 90+13 for the final score.

England had a staggering 78% of the possession and led 13-8 in shots, with 23 fouls called in the game of them against Iran. Before the game, the Iranian team did not sing the national anthem, taken as a protest in the continuing political turmoil inside Iran.

● Group B: United States 1, Wales 1 ● The U.S. dominated the first half, but pressure from Wales in the second half led to a 1-1 tie in a lively, physical game.

The Americans, playing in their first World Cup since 2014, were on offense right from the start and almost scored in the ninth minute on a Wales own-goal due to a swarming U.S. offense, but keeper Wayne Hennessey made the save and then U.S. striker Josh Sargent hit the post on a subsequent header.

However, a Sargent knock-on to Christian Pulisic started a U.S. break in the 36th minute. Pulisic sped forward, then found a streaking Timothy Weah running towards the net and Weah flicked the ball with his right foot and beat Hennessey for a 1-0 lead. The Americans had 66% of the possession and a 3-2 lead in shots in the half and was in total control.

Wales, playing in its second World Cup final tournament – the last was in 1958! – was aggressive and in control for most of the second half. Defender Ben Davis headed a hard shot at the U.S. goal in the 64th, but American keeper Matt Turner was able to pop it over the goal and then substitute striker Kieffer Moore sent another close-in header over the bar seconds later.

Eventually, all the play in the U.S. zone paid off as star striker Gareth Bale was fouled in the box by U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman in the 81st minute for a penalty. And Bale rocketed his shot past Turner to tie the match.

The game was physical from the start and got more so as it wore on, with 25 fouls in the game and four yellow cards on the U.S. and two on Wales. There was 10 minutes of stoppage time and Bale almost found the net again from long range as Turner came 30 yards out of goal, but a foul by Kellyn Acosta – which earned a yellow card – saved the U.S.

The game ended with multiple players cramping, and the U.S. with 59% of the possession and six shots to seven for Wales. But both teams will take the point.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Athletics ● French triple jump star Teddy Tamgho was sanctioned for competing during a period when he was suspended for doping, with a penalty of one year from 18 March 2015 to 17 March 2016 added to his already-served ban from 18 March 2014 to 17 March 2015.

Tamgho, 33, has not competed since 2019 and the new sanctions do not impact his World Indoor title from 2010 or his World Championships gold in 2013. He does lose the French national indoor title he won in February 2016.

Another inquiry into coaching methods, this time at the University of Colorado, as Runner’s World reported an ongoing independent investigation of the school’s famed cross-country program. The story explained that there have been “allegations by former athletes pertaining to body composition analysis, training methods, and overall culture.”

Multiple former Colorado athletes are being interviewed, with questions being asked about legendary head coach Mark Wetmore, assistant Heather Burroughs and head dietician Laura Anderson. The university acknowledged the investigation, but said it will make no comments until the completed report is provided.

● Football ● An appeal by former CONCACAF President Jack Warner (TTO) to keep him from being extradited to the U.S. to face U.S. charges on corruption was turned down by the Privy Council in London (GBR) last Thursday (17th).

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Warner, now 79, with wire fraud, racketeering and money-laundering in 2020, alleging receipt of $5 million in bribes and other crimes between 1998 and 2011. He was also part of a 2015 indictment and was barred for life by FIFA the same year. Now it appears he may be forced to defend himself in U.S. Federal Court.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The Pentathlon United athletes group is now worried about further changes in the sport’s format, beyond the change from riding to obstacle course, tweeting on Monday:

“@WorldPentathlon can you tell your community what was in the proposal for LA28 that has been sent to the IOC regarding fencing, considering there is no ranking round venue? What are you now doing to our fencing discipline?

“Is it true that our fencing discipline is being dismantled with no ranking round venue in LA28. Athletes will no longer fence every other competitor. So what is it going to be? The ladder system is a disingenuous representation of our fencing skills. But that’s what remains.”

Although not on the Los Angeles 2028 program at present, the LA28 bid – which assumed that the sport would be included – offered the versatile Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California as the pentathlon venue. It is slated to also host cycling (track), field hockey, rugby sevens and tennis; while the sports park does not include an indoor arena, the adjacent Cal State Dominguez Hills campus has the 2,802-seat Torodome gymnasium, which could be used for fencing.

● Softball ● The U.S. women swept the Pan American Championships tournament in Guatemala City (GUA) that finished on Sunday, defeating Canada by 12-1 and completing a perfect 9-0 record. The U.S. batted .527 for the tournament and won eight of its games by run-rule margins. Megan Faraimo won four games and Rachel Garcia won three on the mound.

● Table Tennis ● Pretty impressive audience figures from the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu (CHN) in early October, with more than 240 million unique viewers and a cumulative audience – on all platforms – of 467 million. Not surprisingly, the top markets were in China, Japan, Korea and other south Asian countries, but viewership in Europe was considered very good, as well as developing markets in Brazil, India and South Africa.

The World Team Championships was the first international sporting event to be held in China since the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in February.

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