Belfast Telegraph

No chance Russia will be stripped of 2018 World Cup: Boyce

By Graham Luney

Former Fifa Vice-President Jim Boyce says he expects the 2018 World Cup to go ahead in Russia despite revelations about a state-sponsored doping programme.

A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report detailed an "institutional conspiracy" involving more than 1,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, sparking fears that proper anti-doping measures would not be in place during the World Cup.

Football was one of 30 sports implicated by the report and its author Richard McLaren said international sports competitions had been "unknowingly hijacked by the Russians" for years.

Former Irish FA President and Fifa delegate Jim Shaw said he believed Russia should be in serious danger of losing the right to host the World Cup finals but Boyce takes a different view.

"It's an issue that I'm sure Fifa will look at but things are too far down the line," said Boyce. "My own personal view is that the World Cup will proceed in Russia. Fifa have been heavily criticised for different reasons but they do have very stringent doping procedures in place and it is an issue they take very seriously.

"The plans for the Russia World Cup are too far advanced to change it now. The report is damning and it sends out a terrible signal to the world, it's findings are pathetic really but Fifa will not tolerate any weakness in its doping controls."

Shaw, who sits on Fifa's disciplinary committee, said: "This report is deeply disturbing and I would say a major issue for Fifa with Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup. The extent of the doping is just incredible and I think it really does place in jeopardy Russia being given the privilege of hosting the World Cup."

Boyce also welcomed the news that Northern Ireland has been chosen by Uefa to host the European Under-19 Championship in 2020.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Uefa Executive Committee in Switzerland on Friday and will mean that the Irish Football Association will stage the women's (2017) and men's Under-19 Championships (2020) just three years apart.

Northern Ireland hosted the men's tournament once before - in 2005 with France beating England 3-1 in the final.

Boyce, who spent 16 years on the Uefa Youth Committee including 14 years as chairman, said: "I'm delighted to see the tournament return. The 2005 event was fantastic with around 5,000 people coming out for the final on one of the worst days of the summer, weather wise.

"I'm friends with Claudio Negroni, youth competitions manager at Uefa, and this news is testimony to our improving stadiums and I hope more money is forthcoming from government to develop the grounds further.

"The women's and men's Under-19 tournaments being staged here is great news for the province and my hope is that we can also stage the Uefa Super Cup."

Irish FA President David Martin added: "This is fantastic news for the Association and for Northern Ireland football.

"It says a lot about the positive reputation of the Irish FA within Uefa and demonstrates that recent investment by local government in the game continues to have broader benefits.

"Hosting this tournament also means we will have two great opportunities in the coming years to encourage participation with young girls and boys and gives us the chance to showcase the best of Northern Ireland.

"I congratulate everyone who worked on the bid and I look forward to the tournament."

Belfast Telegraph


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