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IranWire Exclusive: FIFA Suspends Iran's Membership

June 1, 2020
Payam Younesipour
4 min read
FiFA has suspended the Iranian Football Federation after Iranian football authorities changed the constitution to allow government interference
FiFA has suspended the Iranian Football Federation after Iranian football authorities changed the constitution to allow government interference
The ban will be devastating for clubs, and for fans
The ban will be devastating for clubs, and for fans

FIFA, the international football authority, has suspended the Iranian Football Federation, IranWire has learned. 

The official announcement is expected later this week or at the beginning of next week, and the majority of media outlets have reported that FIFA had threatened Iran with suspension.

On Sunday, May 31, Mehr News Agency and Iran-e Varzeshi newspaper published excerpts from FIFA’s urgent letter to Iran, which is dated May 29. It claims that new amendments to the Iranian Football Federation's constitution violated FIFA’s charter. It urged the federation to make immediate changes to the statute to bring it in line with FIFA rules, and gave Iranian football authorities until June 5 to comply with its request. 

FIFA executives highlighted the "nature of some of the changes" to the constitution, warning that they did not comply with FIFA’s "mandatory requirements."

The international body outlined more than 80 serious violations of FIFA’s guiding principles. Member countries are required to adhere to the FIFA constitution in order to compete in FIFA member tournaments and competitions.   

Chief among FIFA’s complaints was an amendment that stripped the Iranian Football Federation of its independence, essentially enshrining government interference into Iranian football. This was specifically mentioned in FIFA's letter to the Iranian federation.

The letter said that the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation’s (IRFF) amendments would “jeopardize” Iran’s compliance with Articles 14 and 19 of the FIFA Statutes that “stipulate that all member associations are obliged to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties. For example, the presence of the Minister of Sports as a fully-fledged member of the IRIFF general assembly would place the IRIFF in direct breach of the aforementioned obligations as set out in the FIFA Statutes.” 

FIFA described the Iranian Football Federation’s amendments to its constitution as “a step in the wrong direction.” With regard to the amendments to the constitution and the June 5 deadline, FIFA said, “We deem that a failure to comply with this directive would result in the matter being brought to the attention of the relevant FIFA bodies for further action.” The letter ended by saying that FIFA was willing to help if the federation needed any further assistance on the matter.

So what does suspension from FIFA mean for the Iranian Football Federation and Iranian football? 

FIFA's charter states that until a national federation makes the necessary amendments to its charter to bring it in line with FIFA requirements, all relevant football professionals, including players, managers, clubs, and affiliated roles will be banned from playing the sport on an international level, and domestic leagues will also face bans. Athletes who play abroad and require an international transfer card to play will not be allowed to take part in the sport in an international context. 


Suspended Again

Iran’s Football Federation was previously suspended in 2006 due to "government interference in Iranian football affairs." Mohsen Safaei Farahani, a reformist politician and the head of the Iranian Football Federation from 1998 until 2002, agreed to head a transitory board set up to draft a new constitution and bring Iran back into international football.

Safaei Farahani faced repeated attacks and Kayhan newspaper branded him an "infiltrating agent" and "Western puppet" in 2006 and 2007. In an interview in 2014, Safaei Farahani told Iran-e Varzeshi newspaper: "The day when Sepp Blatter called me to accept the offer of the transitional committee, I knew I would be called a traitor in my own country. But if I had not accepted, a three-member team of French, British, and Italian experts would have come to Iran.”

Since then, FIFA officials have visited Iran on several occasions to assess its compliance with FIFA rules, including women’s right to attend matches in stadiums.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also spoke out against the FIFA crisis. “Agents from the previous football federation are sabotaging us and the people," he told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. "We will reveal who they are soon."

Safaei Farahani eventually ushered in a deal, but he had to make certain concessions to the Iranian government in order to do so. 

Now a new transitory board will have to be set up, but Safaei Farahani has long since expressed his unwillingness to become involved in the politics of Iranian football again, and nor would he be welcome by the government.   

This council must start working with immediate effect. Otherwise, Iranian footballers, managers and trainers will be barred from competing in the Asian Champions League, and, most importantly, it will miss out on the remaining World Cup qualifying games, meaning not just missed opportunities but huge devastation for Iranian clubs, players and their fans. 


Related coverage: 

Parliament Poised to Ban Iranian Athletes from Competing Against Israelis

The Corrupt Iranian Football Official Testing FIFA's Patience


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