TIME Soccer

Women’s Teams Now Feature in Soccer Game FIFA 16 but in Real Life Have Second-Class Status

What happens on screen is a far cry from real life

For the first time, EA Sports will feature women soccer players in its hugely popular FIFA video-game series.

FIFA 16, which launches in September, includes 12 of the top women’s international teams — USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.

The video game has only featured men’s teams since it was first released in 1993.

However, as welcome as EA Sports’ announcement is, Mashable points out that while the women’s teams are “in the game” on screen, in real life they fall far behind the men’s teams in the way they are treated by soccer’s governing body.

In the upcoming Women’s World Cup, beginning June 6 in Canada, the women’s teams will have to play on artificial turf fields, instead of actual grass.

No men’s World Cup has ever been played on synthetic surfaces and many of the women’s teams feel it is gender discrimination. Playing on the fake turf puts them at a higher risk of injury.

A group of the sport’s top female players filed legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association last year but had to end their challenge in January because FIFA stalled for so long that it was too late to potentially change the pitches in time for the championship.

“This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men,” U.S. forward Abby Wambach told the New York Times last year.

EA Sports’ announcement comes as FIFA finds itself snared in a huge corruption scandal that has seen 14 senior officials arrested on charges of bribery, fraud, and money laundering.

TIME Soccer

Top Soccer Officials Say FIFA Needs a New Leader

The tide appears to be turning against Sepp Blatter as officials back his rival in elections being held for FIFA's top job

FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as the strongman of soccer’s international governing body may be coming to an end soon, as authorities from across the sporting world continue to call for his resignation hours before officials cast their ballots in the federation’s presidential election in Zurich on Friday.

Blatter’s reputation has taken an absolute pounding in the past 48 hours, after the U.S. Justice Department unveiled an unprecedented corruption probe into the organization on Wednesday that has lead to the indictment of 14 of the association’s current and former executives, including nine senior officials.

As the investigation continues to make international headlines, public figures worldwide and civil society groups, from the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron to Transparency International, have called on Blatter to step down.

Meanwhile, top international soccer officials appear be rallying around Blatter’s chief rival, Prince Ali bin Hussein, ahead of Friday’s vote.

“Sincerely, as someone who loves FIFA and its history, I am sickened, and I am vexed,” UEFA president Michel Platini told reporters on Thursday. “People don’t want [Blatter] any more as FIFA president, and I don’t want him any more either.”

The UEFA chief’s comments came as U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati stated publicly during a press conference on Thursday that he would be casting his vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali.

“If you get good governance and good leadership, you make good decisions, and those good decisions will lead to the right outcomes,” Gulati told reporters. “So for us, this is a vote for good governance.”

Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, also came out this week in support of Prince Ali.

“The game deserves better. Period,” said Montagliani.

Despite the litany of voices calling for his resignation, Blatter appeared undeterred.

During a speech at the opening ceremony of FIFA’s 65th Congress in Switzerland on Thursday, Blatter tried to distance himself from the constellation of corruption allegations leveled at the federation.

“We cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it,” said Blatter.

The FIFA president went on to stress that the U.S.- and Swiss-lead investigations would be a “turning point” that would help clean up soccer’s ranks.

“More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically — everywhere,” said Blatter. “Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust.”

TIME Advertising

Here’s How Major FIFA Sponsors Are Reacting to the Scandal

After nine FIFA officials were arrested, sponsors are in the spotlight

The dollar figures associated with the FIFA are all outsize, including the amount of money it garners every year from marketing partnerships. In 2014, it was $177 million.

The corporations that contribute to that sum immediately became the target of scrutiny on Wednesday when the United States Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment that charged nine FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering.

The indictment placed FIFA sponsors in a pickle: should they continue to market their products through a sport with millions of fans but whose governing body is allegedly seeping with corruption?

Cue sponsors’ delicate dance.

Visa Inc., which has partnered with FIFA since 2007, told The Wall Street Journal the investigations could cause the company to end its agreement, which runs until 2022. Visa said that it had informed the federation that it “will reassess its sponsorship” if FIFA fails to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”

Adidas AG told the Journal that it was monitoring the situation, as did Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Hyundai Motors said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

It’s safe to say FIFA’s sponsors are in a tough spot. Wednesday’s indictment was scalding, but it’s unlikely to deplete the sport’s massive fan following. An estimated 1 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final. For comparison, 114.4 million people tuned into this year’s Super Bowl.

Like it or not, FIFA sponsors’ immediate reaction to Wednesday’s news is in line with how sponsors have reacted to other sports scandals. When the National Football League faced criticism this fall for how it handled players’ questionable conduct, companies like Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch voiced concern over the incidents but they never withdrew their sponsorships.

TIME Soccer

Fallout From FIFA Corruption Probe Intensifies

Soccer's governing body is also at risk of losing millions in sponsorship deals

Corporate sponsors are scrambling to distance themselves from the sprawling corruption dragnet launched against soccer’s global governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), by American and Swiss authorities this week.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in the U.S. unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants tied to the federation, including nine FIFA officials, who are accused of involvement in racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, told reporters during a press conference in Brooklyn.

The presentation of the indictment in New York City came as officials in Switzerland launched their own criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on the eve of the federation’s 65th international congress in the city.

Corporate sponsors linked to the organization appear to be in all-out damage control mode as the investigation made international headlines. World Cup sponsor Visa joined the chorus of saber rattlers lambasting FIFA and threatened to abandon its deal with the organization if it failed to weed out corruption in its ranks.

“It is important that FIFA makes changes now,” read a statement released by Visa. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Global soft-drink juggernaut Coca-Cola, which is also listed as one of seven FIFA partners for the 2018 World Cup, also sought to disassociate itself from the investigation, blasting the association for bringing disrepute to the sport.

“This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” said the company in a statement.

However, sponsors also appear to be firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S Justice Department.

During the press conference in Brooklyn, Attorney General Lynch said the corruption probe also covered “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” a not-so-vague reference to the 10-year, $160 million deal that Nike and the Brazilian national team inked in 1996.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials promised that the investigation launched this week was only the first chapter in their probe into corruption in international soccer.

“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” stressed Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”

TIME Football

Ex-Chicago Bear Ray McDonald Arrested for the Second Time This Week

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ray McDonald speaks with the media after minicamp on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. The team released McDonald after he was arrested Monday on a domestic violence charge.
Chris Sweda—Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ray McDonald speaks with the media after minicamp on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. The team released McDonald after he was arrested Monday on a domestic violence charge.

The Chicago Bears have come under scrutiny for signing McDonald in March

Troubled NFL defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested for the second time in three days on Wednesday for violating a restraining order by being at a residence in Santa Clara, Calif.

According to police reports, the restraining order was issued as a direct result of his arrest on Monday, in which the 30-year-old football player was accused of an early morning assault on a woman — whose identity had not been released — while she was holding a baby.

McDonald’s attorney Steve DeFilippis told the San Jose Mercury News that neither he nor his client had been notified of the restraining order and that they had gone to the residence to take photographs for evidence.

After the incident on Monday, the Chicago Bears released McDonald, whom they signed in March. The case has touched off a debate about whether NFL teams should be held accountable for signing players with checkered histories. In a pair of incidents while he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers, McDonald was accused of felony domestic assault and rape.

When asked at a press conference Wednesday if the Bears had done sufficient background research before signing McDonald, team chairman George McCaskey said, “I ask myself that question a lot. What more could I have done? Is there somebody else that we could have consulted with? Should I have taken more time with that decision? I don’t know, we thought we had a good structure, a good support system and we thought we had the safeguards in place in case something like this happened.”

MONEY Sports

FIFA Officials Arrested for Corruption, Indicted by U.S. DOJ

The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 people with ties to international soccer, including FIFA officials, on a long list of charges.

TIME Soccer

Swiss Authorities to Investigate FIFA Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids

FBL-FIFA-CORRUPTION-US-SWITZERLAND
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on May 27, 2015

The suspects are likely to be extradited to the U.S.

Swiss officials rounded up seven leading soccer officials in Zurich on Wednesday morning as a part of an operation that will likely see the suspects extradited to the U.S. on corruption charges, reports the New York Times. The arrests come just days ahead of the 65th congress of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, which is scheduled to commence in the Swiss city on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in Switzerland have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and said they have seized “electronic data and documents” at the FIFA headquarters as part of the investigation. Police officials said 10 executive committee members who took part in the 2010 votes will be questioned. The U.S. Department of Justice has also unveiled an indictment against nine FIFA officials, including vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugene Figueredo, and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

The soccer organization has been long bedeviled by rumors of graft, especially relating to World Cup bids and broadcast rights.“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” an unidentified law-enforcement official told the newspaper. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

[NYT]

TIME viral

Watch This High School Football Player Execute a Mad One-Handed Backflip Catch

Top that, Odell Beckham

Professional and amateur football has had no shortage of unbelievable catches over the years, from Terrell Owens’ clutch grab against the Packers in 1999 to Odell Beckham’s single-handed miracle against the Cowboys last season.

However, almost all of the great receptions from the past pale in comparison to the one-handed backflip snag that high school cornerback Marco Wilson was somehow able to execute with apparent ease in a video posted online this week.

Unsurprisingly, the 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., already has 11 collegiate offers on the table, according to Bleacher Report. After this video goes viral, expect that number to keep rising.

TIME Football

This Woman Declared From Beyond the Grave That Tom Brady Is Innocent

Check out this Patriots fan's obituary

A die-hard New England Patriots fan used her obituary to speak out in support of Tom Brady, the suspended NFL quarterback tangled up in the Deflategate controversy.

“She would also like us to set the record straight for her: Brady is innocent!!” the family of Patricia M. Shong, 72, wrote in the Massachusetts woman’s obituary, published Thursday in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

“That’s who my mother was,” said Shong’s daughter, Tracy Plante. “She was a big Patriots fan and it was something that defined her. She was very much a homebody and she always watched the Patriots on television.”

“It’s sad when someone dies, but we wanted everyone to remember our mother with a smile on their face,” Plante added. “We knew everyone would get a kick out of it. My mother certainly went out with a bang, I guess, because a lot of people are going to remember her for this.”

Read next: Why the Tom Brady Suspension Is Ridiculous

[Worcester Telegram & Gazette]

TIME Football

Michael Sam Signs With Canadian Football League Team

Defensive End Michael Sam, from Missouri, arrives before the NFL Super Regional Combine football workout on March 22, 2015 in Tempe, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri—AP Defensive End Michael Sam, from Missouri, arrives before the NFL Super Regional Combine football workout on March 22, 2015 in Tempe, Ariz.

Former player for Rams and Cowboys heads north

Former NFL player Michael Sam has joined the Canadian Football League. The defensive end has signed with the Montreal Alouettes to a two-year deal, the team announced Friday. Sam, a former star college player for the Missouri Tigers, struggled during his NFL rookie season in 2014. After being picked in the seventh round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams, he was released by the team in August and picked up by the Dallas Cowboys for their practice squad. The Cowboys released Sam in October.

Sam garnered global headlines last year as the first openly gay player to be picked in the NFL draft.

Read Next: U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study

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