FIFA imposes new player passport rule for World Cup qualifiers after spate of defaulted games

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GENEVA — FIFA has tightened player eligibility rules for the World Cup after eight African qualifying matches were defaulted for the 2014 tournament.

FIFA regulations for the 2018 qualifying program now require each player to produce a national passport the day before kickoff to the governing body's match delegate.

"A player without a valid passport shall not be entitled to play," the new rule states. "Identity cards or other supporting official documents shall not be accepted."

The text of rule 19.3 in 2018 World Cup regulations had no equivalent in the previous tournament's document.

The 54-member Confederation of African Football did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

In the 2014 World Cup qualifying groups, ineligible players proved the biggest administrative problem for FIFA. Seven different African teams fielded players who did not have valid clearance, forcing FIFA to award 3-0 wins to their opponents. The penalized teams were Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Liberia, Sudan and Togo.

Africa was the only one of FIFA's six continental confederations which had issues with federations failing to get proper FIFA clearance for players.

In 2013, FIFA competitions director Mustapha Fahmy, a former CAF secretary general, pledged to "address something that obviously went wrong."

FIFA declined this week to "speculate on what could have happened in the past should the new regulations had been in place."

In other updated rules, FIFA now requires matches abandoned during play to be re-started at a later date with the same lineups from the point the clock stopped. Previously, a full 90-minute replay was ordered.

FIFA also abolished the maximum fine limit of 1 million Swiss francs ($1.09 million) for national federations if a team which qualifies to play in Russia is withdrawn within 30 days of the opening match or during the tournament.

Two innovations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are formalized in the current competition.

Goal-line technology can be used in qualifying matches, if both teams give written consent to FIFA, and cooling breaks can be ordered by referees. Play is then stopped to let players drink in hot temperatures.

A ban on smoking in the dugout and technical area has been extended to the dressing room, and coaches' obligations to speak with media before and after matches are set out.

FIFA also inserted new details on hotel arrangements for more than 800 qualifying matches through November 2017.

"The venue of the match shall have sufficient high-standard hotels to accommodate the home team, the visiting team and the FIFA delegation," the rules state.

Opposing teams are now prohibited from staying at the same hotel as each other or the official FIFA delegation.

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