Ex-Co upholds altitude decision, welcomes positive steps
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The FIFA Executive Committee, chaired by President Joseph S. Blatter, upheld the decision taken in Tokyo in December 2007 regarding football at high altitude. It also applauded the improvement in relations with the major clubs following meetings earlier this year and welcomed FIFA's positive financial results for 2007.

Taking stock after seven hours of discussions, the FIFA President said: "Today's meeting was a reflection of the wide range of issues which need to be dealt with carefully and at regular intervals to protect and to promote football. I am pleased to see that the decisions taken today will allow us to address these matters adequately."

At the recommendation of the FIFA Associations Committee, it was decided to suspend the Football Association of Albania due to heavy political interference, while the situation regarding the Spanish football association (RFEF) will be closely monitored following a ministerial decree that aims to regulate the election for the association's leadership, effectively shortening the mandate of the current leadership by eight months. The executive supported the RFEF in its decision to adhere to its own statutes and regulations as well as those of FIFA. The situation in Turkey will continue to be supervised, as will the cases of Kuwait and Dominica, while in the case of Madagascar, it was decided that the association would be suspended automatically if the government decree to dissolve the association was not cancelled within three days. The Ethiopian government will also be asked to allow the Ethiopian Football Federation to access its headquarters again. Moreover, the FIFA administration was requested to monitor very closely developments with respect to the diplomatic situation of Kosovo.

Following the decision taken by the Executive Committee in Tokyo on 15 December regarding football at high altitude, the South American Football Confederation submitted a request for reconsideration, which was not accepted. In line with the decision, an upper altitude limit will be imposed for matches in FIFA competitions in which the players and match officials are not given time to acclimatise in advance. As per the circular letter sent to all associations in January, the following criteria were upheld:

• Above 2,500m: acclimatisation period of three days strongly recommended;
• Above 2,750m: mandatory acclimatisation period of one week;
• Above 3,000m: games generally not permitted except with a minimum acclimatisation period of two weeks.

In accordance with the same decision, it was again recommended that the same limit be introduced for international competitions organised by other football bodies.

Furthermore, the Executive Committee applauded the improved relations between FIFA, UEFA, and the major clubs. Note was also taken of the creation of the European Club Association and the dissolution of the G-14. On the basis of these agreements and the letters of intent, the interests of the entire football family have effectively been safeguarded. In terms of litigation, Atletico Madrid have withdrawn their claim while the case involving Olympique Lyonnais and the G-14 has been suspended. Regarding Charleroi, multilateral discussions are still ongoing.

Despite some unforeseen expenses, FIFA started the 2007-2010 World Cup cycle with favourable financial results. The executive noted with great satisfaction the accounts for 2007, which reveal that world football's governing body recorded income of USD 882 million and expenses of USD 833 million, leading to an overall surplus of USD 49 million and equity amounting to USD 643 million. The full report is available on www.FIFA.com (cf. separate media release from today).

Preparing for the 58th FIFA Congress due to be held in Sydney (Australia) on 29 and 30 May 2008, the FIFA Executive Committee took note of the proposed amendments to the Statutes and the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes. These will include, among others, the principle of promotion and relegation and the provisions regarding eligibility to play for association teams. Another item for decision will be the signature of WADA's World Anti-Doping Code. In this respect, the President informed the committee about a meeting with WADA President John Fahey on 29 February and the fact that the revised code foresaw more flexibility for sanctions. The 2009 FIFA Congress will be held in the Bahamas following a bid process involving nine interested associations.

The FIFA President also raised the topic of the "6+5" rule, which he considers essential to preserve the uncertainty of results and competitions and emphasised that he aimed at implementing it by convincing the various stakeholders through dialogue and by presenting objective reasons in favour of such a rule. The Executive Committee supported the President.
With respect to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the FIFA executive was informed about the issue of the stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, with a final decision to be taken on 29 April. There was also a report on the electricity provision situation in South Africa. While asking the administration to monitor developments very closely, the committee noted with satisfaction the overall progress achieved by the South African organising committee. It also endorsed the decisions taken by the Organising Committee for the FIFA Confederations Cup (cf. media release dated 13 March).

For the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, the number of finalist teams was maintained at 16. At the same time and as with the FIFA World Cup™, it was considered beneficial for a build-up event to be held, and consequently the executive agreed that the U-20 women's event was the most suitable. For this reason, the 2010 edition of this competition will also take place in Germany.

Further matters and decisions:
- The Executive Committee will decide at its meeting in Sydney on 27 May which country will host the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cups. The 2008 edition will be played in Japan from 11 to 21 December.

- The men's Olympic Football Tournament final will definitely be played in Beijing's Olympic Stadium at noon on 23 August. The executive also appealed to the goodwill of clubs to release players above the age of 23 for the men's event. The draws for the men's and women's Olympic tournaments will be held in Beijing on 20 April, with the women's play-off match for the final slot between Brazil and the runner-up of CAF (either Ghana or Nigeria) taking place on 19 April in the Chinese capital.

- The FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil will now start on 30 September and end on 19 October so as to accommodate the increase from 16 to 20 teams. In addition, it was decided that total prize money of USD 700,000 would be awarded.

- The dates for the two 2008 FIFA women's competitions with age limits were slightly adapted with the U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile to be played from 19 November to 7 December and the U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand from 28 October to 16 November. With respect to the latter, the Executive Committee approved a revised distribution of slots: AFC 3, CAF 2, CONCACAF 3, CONMEBOL 3, OFC 1 (host) and UEFA 4.

- The Executive Committee approved a change in the international calendar to allow the Africa Cup of Nations to be played from 10 to 31 January 2010.

- The Executive Committee confirmed FIFA's opposition to the Premier League's planned international round.

- Note was taken of the decision by the IFAB regarding the new unified dimensions of the field of play (105 by 68 metres), which will not have a retroactive effect and will only apply to new stadiums.

- A total of 337 projects in 192 member associations are currently part of the Goal Programme. In future, FIFA will be concentrating on breathing life into infrastructure by providing help with competition organisation, etc.

- Concerning the status of implementation of the Win in Africa with Africa initiative, it was reported that 26 artificial turf projects had been finished so far with another 24 under construction and two in the tender process stage. The objective is to complete all such projects by the end of 2008. In addition, a number of programmes to professionalise the organisation of competitions and sports management were approved, the latter also including cooperation with four African universities as part of the efforts undertaken with the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES). Moreover, initiatives for other continents are also underway.