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FIFA Congress to choose Women's World Cup host, seek racism penalties

FIFA Congress to choose Women's World Cup host, seek racism penalties

Sports

The Asian Football Confederation gave its backing on Thursday for action against Israel

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Soccer's world body FIFA will decide the 2027 Women's World Cup host at its annual Congress on Friday and discuss a push for strict penalties to stamp out racism and Palestine's pursuit of sanctions against Israel's federation over the Gaza war.

The meeting in Bangkok brought together delegates of 211 member associations and is headlined by the vote on the host of the Women's World Cup, with Brazil up against the joint bid of Belgium, Netherlands and Germany (BNG).

The race was whittled down to two last month after the United States and Mexico withdrew their joint bid to pursue the 2031 tournament instead.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino in his opening remarks pledged to boost access to football worldwide and sought to end what he called a "futile debate" over the amount of high volume of matches being played.

He said FIFA was organising about 1% of club games and just 1% to 2% of national team matches, but was helping 70% of its members, which "would have no football without the resources" FIFA provides.

"I hope these figures will show that we should probably stop this futile debate, it's really pointless, and focus on what we need to do which is organise the best competitions and develop football around the world," he said.

FIFA will also outline its proposal for all members to implement mandatory sanctions to tackle racist abuse, including forfeiting of matches, and introduce racism as an offence in disciplinary codes for players.

It advocates pausing, suspending or abandoning games plus the introduction of a global standard gesture of players raising hands and crossing wrists to inform referees of abuse.

"We ... will push for the recognition of racism as a criminal offence in every country in the world, and where already an offence, will push for prosecution with the severity it deserves," FIFA said.

SANCTIONS CALL

The Congress is due to hear a Palestinian Football Association proposal for sanctions on Israeli national and club teams over what it called breaches of international law by Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, and for the inclusion in its league of teams located in those areas.

It also accuses Israel of breaching FIFA statutes by allowing racism and discrimination in areas under the Palestinian FA's jurisdiction, and of being complicit in their support of offensives in Gaza, which it says killed 92 players.

The Israel FA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment and confirmation of whether it will issue a rebuttal to the Palestinian proposal.

The Asian Football Confederation gave its backing on Thursday for action against Israel.

Since a deadly Oct. 7 cross-border raid on Israel by Hamas militants, Israel's Gaza operations have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants.

Brazil has never hosted the Women's World Cup but had a slight edge over its rival in a FIFA technical evaluation released last week, with a score of four out of five, verses the joint BNG bid's 3.7.

The FIFA assessment scores each bid on criteria ranging from commercial viability, team facilities and accommodation, to broadcast sites, stadiums and fan festival venues.

The evaluation said Brazil's 10 stadiums were purpose-built and configured for major tournaments having hosted the 2014 men's World Cup and the bid had a strong commercial position and government commitment.

If successful, it would have a "tremendous impact" on women's football by being the first South American host, it said.

It highlighted the compact nature and support behind the Belgium-Netherlands-Germany bid, solid commercial viability, good infrastructure and short distances between venues, but also noted its 13 stadiums had smaller capacities.