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FIFA warns Iran over government interference

FIFA has issued another warning to the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) over interference in its affairs, amid concern regarding the involvement of the country’s judicial authorities in a dispute between the governing body and a former coach.

Former Iran head coach Marc Wilmots filed a complaint with FIFA after quitting the position, claiming the FFIRI had committed “serious contractual violations”.

World football’s governing body ordered the FFIRI to pay Wilmots, who signed a three-year contract in May 2019 but quit after six games in charge, a total of €6.2 million (£5.5 million/$7.3 million) as compensation for breach of contract.

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Following the announcement from FIFA, the State Inspectorate Organisation of Iran reportedly referred eight members of the FFIRI Board of Directors – including former President Mehdi Taj – to the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office.

The eight officials were charged with “damaging state property and public rights” in what has been described as the “Wilmots case”.

The intervention from the Iranian judicial authorities has left the FFIRI once again in the worldwide body’s crosshairs and could lead to FIFA suspending the organisation.

A joint letter from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) warned against outside interference in a Member Association, prohibited under FIFA’s statutes.

“First and foremost, we would like to emphasise that FIFA and AFC are strongly opposing any use of legal threats and intimidation of any sort by anyone against a person or a group of persons, particularly in the context of an attempt to exercise undue authority over a Member Association, thus violating the latter’s autonomy,” FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura wrote in the letter, according to the Anadolu Agency.

FIFA and the AFC had given the FFIRI until yesterday to provide an explanation, but the troubled Iranian federation has asked the organisations for more time to clarify the situation.

The FFIRI is already facing a possible FIFA suspension over Government interference in its statutes.

The FFIRI’s statutes recently moved closer to being approved by FIFA, however, while the body is set to hold elections in November.

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