French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to meet French National Women's Soccer team during a visit at France's training camp in Clairefontaine, south of Paris, France, Tuesday, June 4 2019. The French women soccer team is preparing for the FIFA Women's World Cup that will start in France next Friday. (Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool via AP)

The Latest: Macron criticizes Champions League format change

June 04, 2019 - 10:17 am

PARIS (AP) — The Latest from the FIFA meetings ahead of the Women's World Cup (all times local):

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3:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized a plan to make the Champions League a largely closed competition.

A concept presented by UEFA to European leagues last month gave 24 of the 32 clubs a guaranteed return to the Champions League each season by introducing promotion and relegation to the competition.

After a meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Macron offered his support to French soccer federation Noël Le Graët, who has resisted the introduction of the format from 2024 by UEFA.

Macron says "we must defend our model, our clubs and I think it's not a good idea to sacrifice the viability of our model for the benefit of some at the European level."

The concept advanced by the European Club Association would make it harder for smaller clubs to earn a place in the group stage of the Champions League.

Macron says "we have often denounced the fact there is so much money in football and particularly men's football in recent years. We knew despite everything to defend lots of clubs. I am at the side of President Le Graët to defend the French model and avoid reforms that would lead to the worst."

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3:30 p.m.

FIFA's president and secretary general have arrived at the Elysee Palace to meet French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is a soccer fan who joined the winning France team in locker room celebrations after the World Cup final in Moscow last July.

France now hosts the women's World Cup which kicks off Friday in Paris.

FIFA leaders Gianni Infantino, of Switzerland, and Fatma Samoura, of Senegal, accepted the invitation one day before soccer's national federations re-elect for a fresh four-year term.

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2:45 p.m.

Asian soccer leader Sheikh Salman of Bahrain wants the continent to unite behind a single candidate to host the 2030 World Cup.

That probably means China.

Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman says "within a continent, it has to be a unified bid ... if we want to succeed."

His stand echoes UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who said having only one European bid go forward will avoid diluting support.

Europe has 55 of the 211 FIFA member federations and Asia has 46.

China is eligible to bid for the 2030 edition. Because Qatar is the 2022 host, Asia could not propose a candidate in the 2026 contest won by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Sheikh Salman says "we need to see what is best for everyone. And we need to be fair as well."

An expected European contender is a combined British and Irish project. South America plans a coalition of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and the 1930 host Uruguay.

FIFA has not announced a timetable for bidding and the vote.

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1:20 p.m.

Supporters of Tunisian side Esperance are protesting outside a hotel in Paris where African soccer officials are deciding whether their African Champions League final victory should stand.

Esperance won the Confederation of African Football showpiece last week when Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca wouldn't continue playing because their equalizer was disallowed and there was no video replay available. The players hadn't been told the VAR system wasn't working.

After a long delay, Esperance was awarded the Champions League title and earned a spot in the Club World Cup.

But the CAF executive committee was discussing the incident and the outcome of the game on Tuesday afternoon in Paris.

Mehdi Ghandri from Esperance's Paris fan group says "Wydad has left the field so there is no way for them to contest anything."

Ghandri added that "we expect CAF to make some decision and maybe to make some decisions against Esperance. That is why we are here — to put pressure on them and to say that the decision on the field has to be confirmed."

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12:30 p.m.

The United Arab Emirates is pursuing a protest against Qatar, saying the eventual Asian Cup champions fielded ineligible players at the tournament.

The UAE federation's vice president, Abdullah Aljneibi, tells The Associated Press it needs a written verdict from the Asian Football Confederation before filing an appeal.

Aljneibi says "we are still waiting to have all the documents" more than four months later.

Qatar beat the UAE 4-0 in a politically charged semifinal game in Abu Dhabi in January. The AFC's disciplinary panel dismissed the UAE's formal protest hours before Qatar beat Japan in the final.

The UAE questioned if Qatar players Almoez Ali, who scored the second goal, and Bassam Al-Rawi complied with FIFA's nationality requirements.

When players are ruled ineligible, teams forfeit disputed games as a 3-0 loss.

Aljneibi says "from what we have seen, it is a clear case."

The UAE would first challenge the ruling at the AFC appeal committee, then could take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

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12:10 p.m.

FIFA vice president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain says Asia will likely host the newly expanded Club World Cup in 2021.

The 24-team tournament is expected to be played in June 2021 with FIFA offering places to eight European clubs. Continental governing bodies must decide how to allocate qualifying entries for quadrennial tournament.

Sheikh Salman says "I think '21 will be in Asia," with the options of China, Japan or South Korea.

On Monday, Qatar was chosen by FIFA to host the Club World Cup in December 2019 and '20 — the last two editions of an annual tournament played in December with only seven teams.

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11:55 a.m.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has urged African members to "find solutions, not problems" amid allegations about the conduct of the continent's soccer leader.

Confederation of African Football President Ahmad has been accused by former secretary general Amr Fahmy of bribing heads of soccer associations and misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Infantino told a CAF meeting in Paris "I know there is a certain amount of turbulence. I would urge you at this difficult point to urge you to always keep your cool and keep the spirit of solidarity. ... Try to find solutions not problems."

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11:15 a.m.

China will host the 2023 Asian Cup in June that year.

Asian Football Confederation members have picked China, which was the sole candidate on Tuesday after South Korea withdrew last month. China previously staged the 2004 tournament.

China proposes using 12 host cities each with one stadium staging games in the 24-team tournament. Nine stadiums will be newly built.

The four-yearly Asian Cup traditionally kicks off in January. However, that would mean starting within weeks of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar finishing on Dec. 18.

China is likely also to bid for hosting the expanded 24-team Club World Cup in 2021, and the 2030 World Cup.

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10:15 a.m.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is meeting his 211 voters one day ahead of his re-election for a new four-year term.

Infantino is attending a series of meetings on Tuesday hosted by soccer's six continental governing bodies in central Paris hotels.

Asian soccer leaders are preparing to elect China as host of the 2023 Asian Cup, while African officials are dealing with fallout from a chaotic African Champions League final game last Friday.

All 211 FIFA member federations meet Wednesday for their annual congress, where Infantino is unopposed to extend a presidential term that began in February 2016.

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