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Egypt faces Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire to play Nigeria in African Cup semifinals.

PARIS (Thursday, February 23, 2006) -- The World Association of Newspapers is threatening legal action if world governing body FIFA does not rescind a policy heavily restricting the use of World Cup photographs on the Internet.

In a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter today, the international coalition of newspapers and news agencies said if felt "deep regret and dismay" at FIFA's announcement it would prohibit use of photographs by news organizations on the Internet while games were in progress and severely limit the use of photos after that during the World Cup June 9-July 9 in Germany.

Saying it was "exploring legal options," WAN wrote in its letter, "Your 'final' position on these restrictions. . . remains completely unacceptable to the world media community,"

The letter went on to state: "Your restrictions on our journalistic coverage of the 2006 World Cup not only deprive our readers and clients of access to important information on a public event, but constitute both an interference in editorial freedom and independence and a clear breach of the right to information as protected by numerous international conventions."

WAN represents 18,000 newspapers internationally as well the world's major news agencies, including The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence-France Presse. Its letter went on to say restricting the media's ability to post photographs represented "both an interference in editorial freedom and independence and a clear breach of the right to freedom of information as protected by numerous international conventions."

Among FIFA's Internet restrictions are a limit of five photos per half of each match and two photos during each half of extra time, including any subsequent penalty-kicks shootout. FIFA also plans to limit the number of photo print publications can use.

"We defend the freedom of the press to report events without any restrictions," said Monique Villa, the managing director for Reuters Media. "This is our fundamental right to report news as it happens -- be it football, politics or war -- and to disseminate it on all platforms, without any distinction."

WAN has been negotiating with FIFA since September to abandon its restrictions and the two sides set up special negotiations last month to negotiation a resolution to the problem. Those talks ended last week when FIFA released its final rules.

"We are greatly dissatisified by both the substance of FIFA's response to our case and, frankly, by the manner in which your team has presented your proposals and conclusions to us," WAN chief executive officer Timothy Balding and AFP president and CEO Pierre Louette wrote.

Wan plans to notify German and European political leaders, as well as FIFA, about what action it plans to take.

To receive media accreditation to the World Cup, news organizations must accept FIFA's regulations.

FIFA contends its limits are for the protection of its commercial rights holders, but the organization might hope for the added benefit of driving additional traffic to its web site, where there would be no restriction on photographs.

WAN contends Internet coverage does not threaten broadcasters or sponsors.


New Wembley not ready for FA Cup final

LONDON -- England's Football Association has given up the hope that the new Wembley Stadium will be finished by May in time for the FA Cup final and has moved the game back to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

"It is clear that while they have over 2,500 people working hard on site, Multiplex (the stadium construction company) and WNSL (the stadium owners) are unable to give us 100 percent certainty the stadium will be completed in time for the May 13 final," FA chief Brian Barwick said in a statement. "Due to the magnitude of the Cup final, we are not prepared to compromise or take any risk on the stadium not being able to stage such a significant event."

The delay is a major embarrassment to the FA which had hoped to return to London's Wembley, which hosted Cup finals between 1923 and 2000, after five years in Cardiff. But the $1.32 billion rebuilding of the fabled stadium in north-west London has been dogged with problems and delays, although the operators said last May they still expected to open it in time for this year's Cup final.

Multiplex, an Australian firm, said this week that it losses on the project amounted to $184 millioni nthe first half of its fiscal year, with the company posting an overall loss of $87.6 in the six months ending December 31.

Multiplex chief executive Andrew Roberts told BBC news this morning that he did not exoect his company to suffer any further losses on the project.

The company said that factors such as subcontractors' performance, changes in design, relations with trade unions representing those working on the site, and the weather contributed to the delayed completion. Still, Multiplex said it was "disappointed" by the FA's decision to move the FA Cup final.

"Nothing has changed since the end of January, when we said there was a 70 percent chance of the stadium being ready for the 2006 FA Cup final," a Multiplex spokesperson told BBC News. "We were not able to increase this to 100 percent, so the FA decided to make alternative arrangements."

The difficulties with the redevelopment of the 90,000-seat stadium led to Multiplex founder and executive chairman John Roberts resigning in May.

Muliplex originally agreed to a contract to build Wembley Stadium for $780 million.

In other news, Barwick said England's World Cup warmup games against Hungary (May 30) and Jamaica (June 3) would now be held at Old Trafford in Manchester.

The Football League also said the promotion playoff finals would be staged in Cardiff. The second division final is set for May 21, the third division final for May 27 and the fourth division for May 28.


UEFA worries about 'criminal elements' in club soccer

LONDON - Lars-Christer Olsson, the chief executive of European governing body UEFA, said the rules governing club soccer must be tightened or there is a danger of the game falling prey to criminal elements.

Olsson spoke in London at the launch of the Independent Review of European Football, which will be chaired by Portugal sports minister Jose Luis Arnaut.

Among the topics under consideration in the IREF are the role of agents in transfers, match-fixing and the ownership of clubs. The review hopes to present its findings to the heads of European Union countries and FIFA before the end of the year.

"We have no idea how much money is lost into this black hole which surrounds transfers, but we are talking about millions of pounds," Olsson said. "This is something we'd like to find out in the review. Transfer sums and commissions should be open and list who gets what. The French government for example are worried that some players' agents are involved in money-laundering. "It's so easy that football could be taken hostage by those who have criminal activities."

Olsson voiced concern that young players joining European clubs from Africa and South America were vulnerable to exploitation.

"One of the things we are worried about is the trafficking of young children below the age limit allowed for international transfers from Africa or South America into Europe," he said. "They are trying to get around the rule by bringing the entire family in. There is a FIFA rule to have a limit on international transfers at 18-years-old, but in Europe the free movement of workers is based at 16.

Olsson wants the amounts being paid to players at some teams to be reined in.

The club licensing system "has to be beefed-up because, when you have clubs where the salaries of players represents 100 percent or more of their turnover (gross income), something is absolutely wrong," he said .


No change in Africans Nations Cup schedule

CAIRO -- The Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), Africa's governing body, will not change the timing of the African Nations Cup despite pressure from many clubs in Europe.

The 16-team tournament is highly unpopular with European teams who lose some of their top players for up to three weeks during the season to the African Nations Cup. Several teams asked CAF to hold the tournament at the same time and frequency as UEFA's European Championships, every four years in June and July rather than every two years in January and February.

CAF issued a statement declaring it will not succumb to the pressure. "The period regularly chosen for the Nations Cup, January and February, well away from the rainy season, is the ideal time for football for the whole of the African continent," the organization said in a statement. "National teams are an exceptional tool for promoting African players, whose attachment to their national colors and to playing at the African Nations Cup every two years is something sacred. Clubs must respect the will of their players, sporting ethics and FIFA regulations. We will spare no effort in the defense of our Cup"

On February 10, host Egypt won the African Cup of Nations for a record fifth time by beating Côte d'Ivoire 4-2 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw through 120 minute.

Goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary was the hero for the victors, saving two penalty kicks. Mohammed Aboutrika scored the winning penalty for the North Africans.


FIFA studying installing camera's on goal-lines

ZURICH -- FIFA will examine whether a new camera-based goal-line technology, developed by the Italian Football Federation, might be the answer to its search for a a way to determine whether a ball crosses the goal line during a match.

The Italian system "uses high-performance digital cameras rather than a chip-implanted ball or fixed installations on the playing field or in the goal posts," FIFA said in a statement.

At last year's Under-17 Men's World Championships in Peru and World Club Championship in Japan, FIFA experimented with a "smartball" which contained an electronic chip which sent a signal to the referee via a wristband or earpiece.

The results were deemed inconclusive.

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