FIFA Takes Control of Uruguay Federation Amid World Cup Bid

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, centre, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group A match between Uruguay and Russia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, FILE)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — FIFA has taken temporary control of the Uruguayan soccer federation because of governance concerns as the country campaigns with Argentina and Paraguay to host the 2030 World Cup.

FIFA said officials decided Tuesday to appoint a “normalization committee” that will run the federation, known as AUF, until Feb. 28, 2019.

The intervention follows the AUF’s president, Wilmar Valdez, quitting a day before he was to stand for re-election last month. The vote was put on hold.

FIFA says the electoral process “is not in accordance with the requirements of transparency as outlined in the FIFA and CONMEBOL statutes.”

CONMEBOL, the main South American soccer body, says there is “a lack of assurances” in AUF’s electoral process.

FIFA and CONMEBOL stressed the “normalization committee” will run the daily business of the association, adapt AUF’s statutes to international standards and organize its elections.

Marcelo de Leon, the president of Uruguay’s referee association, told radio Sport that the intervention was requested by his colleagues, professional footballers and players of the national team.

Several Uruguay players used their social media channels to share a letter in support to FIFA’s decision, saying it would bring “transparency, democracy and plurality to AUF.” They asked for a corruption probe to examine decisions made by the AUF over the last 20 years.

In contrast, Uruguay’s government said FIFA has no right to intervene in the association.

“There cannot be an international body intervening in a national body,” Education and Culture Minister Maria Julia Munoz said at a news conference. She said it is her ministry’s role to oversee whether private entities like AUF act in accordance with their own statutes or not.

Uruguay stepped up its campaign to host the World Cup in South America in 2030 by holding events in Moscow during this year’s tournament.

FIFA has yet to outline the formal bidding process for the 2030 World Cup.

The postponement of the AUF vote came amid a corruption probe that has caused commotion in the South American country.

Authorities are investigating whether there are recordings of Valdez discussing bribes to soccer executives and government officials during the purchase of lighting and security cameras for Uruguay’s stadiums.

The 53-year-old Valdez became the AUF’s president in 2014 after his predecessor Sebastian Bauza resigned.

Valdez’ temporary substitute is Edgar Welker, who accused FIFA of making the decision based on imprecise information given by CONMEBOL, the South American soccer body.

The AUF is expected to decide soon whether it will extend the contract of coach Oscar Tabarez, who has led the national team for 12 years, taking it to three straight World Cups. He also lifted the 2011 Copa America for the Celeste.

Tabarez is not expected to be on the bench on Sept. 7 when Uruguay faces Mexico in Houston.

By LEONARDO HABERKORN , Associated Press