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Northern Ireland to play Qatar in friendly

Michael O'Neill is looking forward to the game. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland will face Qatar in a friendly on May 31 at Crewe's Gresty Road ground.

Qatar are in the country to train at St George's Park and Northern Ireland were keen to arrange a friendly clash ahead of their match with Romania on June 13.

Manager Michael O'Neill said: "This match will help us retain our focus as a squad into June as we prepare for the crucial Euro match against Romania."


Fifa confirm 2022 World Cup will be four days shorter

FIFA's General secretary, Jérôme Valcke, has confirmed the 2022 Qatar World Cup will run for 28 days, four shorter than usual.

Valcke has been addressing the media in Doha this morning. Credit: Reuters

Addressing a media briefing in Doha this morning, the French national elaborated on recommendations set out by a Fifa task force on Monday, but would not confirm the exact dates of the event.

Football's World governing body will meet in Zurich on March 20th where they are expected to iron out the fine details.

Barcelona consider changing sponsors over 'social and political issues' in Qatar

Josep Maria Bartomeu pictured on the left when Barcelona signed Neymar. Credit: PA

Josep Maria Bartomeu believes "social and political issues" may force Barcelona to seek new sponsors next year.

The Spanish giants agreed a five-year deal with Qatar Sports Investment in 2011 worth a whopping £125m.

Club president Bartomeu expressed his gratitude for the substantial investment during an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1, but admits the political landscape has changed since the Gulf state was controversially awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar is an issue where we are looking at other options. Their contract finishes in 2016 and then it could be them or another sponsor.

We're not insensitive to the current situation in Qatar because there are social and political issues there that didn't exist in 2010 and we're sensitive to them.

As a sponsor we're happy and they make a contribution to the club, but we are also looking at other options. It wasn't a bad idea. Qatar have helped us improve the club economically.

– Josep Maria Bartomeu

FA: We did seek 'background information' on World Cup bids

The Football Association has said that "media and corporate affairs consultants" were used to gather background information on other countreis' World Cup bids.

But the FA says it disclosed all its activities to ethics investigator Michael Garcia as part of his investigation into the bidding process.

The Sunday Times has published claims that officials received information from former MI6 staff about the Russian and Qatari World Cup bids.

However this and the paper's claims there is a "database" of intelligence on rival bids has not been corroborated.

In a statement the FA said the England 2018 team "complied with all disclosure requests" from Mr Garcia.

The FA can confirm the England 2018 bid engaged with a number of parties around the world to provide general and background information on the progress of the bidding process within different countries and perspectives.

These were media and corporate affairs consultants engaged on a confidential basis to gather intelligence.

The fact the bid team had taken advice on intelligence gathering was referenced to Mr Garcia as part of the investigative process.

The FA reiterates that it has fully complied with all disclosure requests made by Mr Garcia.

– FA statement


Claims officials 'used information from ex-spies for World Cup probe'

England officials allegedly used information gathered by former MI6 agents about Russia and Qatar's World Cup bids, the Sunday Times reports.

The claims are contained in a dossier compiled by the paper that has been submitted to Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

According to the paper, a secret intelligence database linked to England's bid for the 2018 tournament includes unproven claims that Russia and Qatar swapped votes with each other to help ensure their bids were successful.

Among the allegations is that the Russian bid team handed out valuable paintings to officials from other countries to help secure votes.

Fifa open investigation against Germany legend Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is being investigated. Credit: PA

Germany football legend Franz Beckenbauer is under investigation by American attorney Michael Garcia along with Harold Mayne-Nicholls from Chile, who headed the inspection team which compiled reports into the countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The investigations come after Garcia stated "a number of individuals" have had formal cases opened against them.

Fifa members under investigation following Garcia report

Angel Maria Villar Llona is one of the members being investigated. Credit: PA

Three current Fifa executive committee members - Spain's Angel Maria Villar Llona, Michel D'Hooghe from Belgium and Worawi Makudi from Thailand - are under investigation by ethics chief Michael Garcia following his probe into World Cup bidding, Press Association Sport understands.

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