- Associated Press - Thursday, September 12, 2013

ZURICH (AP) - FIFA President Sepp Blatter and top official Jerome Valcke will handle discussions of a Russian anti-gay law, the head of soccer’s discrimination panel said Thursday.

Panel chairman Jeffrey Webb said the top soccer officials, not the officials of the FIFA task force against discrimination, will deal with the issue ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The issue is overshadowing preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. FIFA joined the IOC in seeking clarification from Russia ahead of the Sochi Olympics and the World Cup about a new law banning promotion of “nontraditional” lifestyles to minors.

“We have been advised that the FIFA administration, the president and secretary general, are in discussions with the Russian authorities,” Webb said after the panel’s six-hour session on Thursday.

Webb said FIFA “does not tolerate or accept any form of discrimination.”

However, his panel doesn’t plan to send guidelines to Russia and 2022 World Cup host Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal.

“Whatever we do as a task force has to have the universality of the 209 (nation) membership of FIFA,” said Webb, a vice president who leads the regional soccer body for North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF).

“If there is an infringement in regard to the FIFA statutes, that is for the FIFA disciplinary bodies and FIFA executive committee to address,” he said. One of Webb’s FIFA board colleagues is Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko.

The meeting Thursday was a second for the task force, which pushed through in May recommendations for tougher sanctions for racist actions in soccer.

Webb said priorities include better identification of high-risk World Cup matches and helping FIFA member countries recruit and train anti-discrimination specialists.

Promoting a global campaign using players as ambassadors is also planned at the task force’s next scheduled meeting in December.

“FIFA, of course, cannot address the issues for society as a whole,” Webb said. “But I think FIFA can definitely address it internally with coaches, players, clubs and stadiums.”

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