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Iranian Football Federation Requests FIFA For More Time To Resolve Outstanding Issues

Iran -- Iranian Football Federation HQ in Tehran.
Iran -- Iranian Football Federation HQ in Tehran.

In an urgent letter to the International Football Federation (FIFA), the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) has appealed for more time to explain Iranian judicial authorities' involvement in the country's football-related issues.

At a meeting of the FFIRI's presidium on Tuesday, September 1, the board sent a letter to FIFA asking the international body to "grant the FFIRI more time to respond due to the current Shi'ites' mourning holidays in Iran."

The meeting comes after FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) sent a joint letter to the FFIRI expressing the groups' opposition to Iran's attempts to apply legal threats and "intimidate individuals" in the country's football realm.

FIFA previously condemned the FFIRI to pay 6.2 million euros (about $7.3 million) compensation to former head coach of the Iranian national soccer team, Belgian national Marc Wilmots. Immediately after FIFA's fine was announced, the State Inspectorate Organization of Iran referred eight people from the FFIRI's board of directors to the Tehran Prosecutor's Office as "defendants in the Wilmots' case," The eight board members, including the Iranian Football Federation's former president, Mehdi Taj, were charged with "damaging state property and public rights."

Prosecutors have demanded that the defendants provide a list of their assets and properties, with the Iran Sports newspaper reporting that, based on the Islamic Penal Code, they may be sentenced to pay 2,300 billion rials (about $55 million) in principal plus the same amount for a fine.

FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura has given Iran until September 2 to provide the necessary evidence to FIFA and AFC to support the allegations made against these eight individuals, with Samoura explicitly warning Iran that FIFA and AFC strongly oppose any use of legal threats and intimidation.

"We would like to emphasize 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," AFC Secretary-General Dato Windsor John noted in the letter to the FFIRI. "This being said, to fully assess the situation at hand, we would kindly ask you to provide FIFA and AFC with a comprehensive report by September 2, 2020 at the latest relating the position of FFIRI and the details of the aforementioned situation."

FIFA has repeatedly criticized Iran for banning women from entering stadiums and translation issues with the federation's charter, and on numerous occasions has ordered the FFIRI to pay financial penalties.

If the Iranian judiciary continues attempts to prosecute the FFIRI members, a FIFA suspension is expected to follow.