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FIFA approves maternity leave for women players

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RESENDING WITH COMPLETE SCRIPT

VIDEO SHOWS: VIRTUAL NEWS CONFERENCE WITH FIFA PRESIDENT GIANNI INFANTINO WITH COMMENTS ON DIEGO MARADONA, MATERNITY LEAVE IN SOCCER, ANNOUNCING THE CLUB WORLD CUP WILL BE HELD IN JAPAN, SUPPORTING AN INTER-SPORT AGENCY TO TACKLE SEXUAL ABUSE AND SAYING VAR IS AN OVERALL POSITIVE FOR SOCCER

SHOWS: ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (DECEMBER 4, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON DIEGO MARADONA, SAYING:

"Let me just start this press conference by just mentioning and paying tribute to Diego Maradona. To a legend, to a giant, to somebody that definitely marked not only the history of football, but really the legends and the fairy tales and everything that has to do with football. Sadly, he's not anymore with us. It is also difficult for me to say and to speak about Diego, still, because I think like many of you, we all love, I love Diego and this will be forever. I want to keep him, like everyone that loves football, in memories for how he made us all fall in love with the game. He was really unique. And he is, definitely, eternal."

2. NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS

3. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON MATERNITY LEAVE FOR WOMEN'S FOOTBALL, SAYING:

"Because we passed, indeed, landmark reforms for female players and for coaches and it is maybe surprising that these reforms are coming only now, but now they are coming. We always have to remember that the players are the protagonists of the game, they are the most important part of the game. We have to make sure that we set the stage for them to shine. And we want them, of course, to be healthy, to be safe and to be happy. And when it comes to female players, this means and we should bring also more stability to their careers so that for example, if they need to take maternity leave, then they do not have to worry about their careers when they are ready to play again. We have introduced rules - minimum standards at worldwide level that guarantee this. And if you are serious about boosting the women's game, and we are serious about that, then we need to look at all these aspects."

4. NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS

5. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON JAPAN BEING AWARDED TO HOST THE CLUB WORLD CUP, SAYING:

"Also and still due to the COVID-19 situation, which has led to the postponement of the revamped, the new Club World Cup, which would have taken place in the summer of 2021 in China but which we agreed of course to postpone in order to make space for the Euro and the Copa America, well we have decided to organize a Club World Cup in the current format, again in 2021, in December and we awarded the hosting rights to Japan. Japan which has a long tradition, as you know, of hosting of course Club World Cups."

6. NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS

7. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON FIXTURES AND PROTECTING PLAYER HEALTH, SAYING:

"Now I understand, of course, your remarks about the number of games being played and I think we have all to understand here that we need to, as I said before, protect global football. Protecting the players, protecting the clubs, protecting the national teams. Trying to find and to strike the right balance is not easy. That's why we had to come with some rules and with a detailed protocol. A protocol that tries, obviously, and has done, to a great extent, protect the health of the players which is the most important."

8. NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS

9. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON SETTING UP INTER-SPORT AGENCY TO PROTECT AGAINST ABUSE, SAYING:

"We should really set up a new international inter-sport agency to deal with exactly these matters (sexual abuse). It's not only about football. When you have children, and even when you don't have children, you want that your children can do sport in a safe environment. Now, we know that, sadly, you have children in a dressing room and you have sick people and these things - terrible, terrible things are happening, but we need to tackle them. Now we are sports federations. We have some limits in terms of what we can investigate how we can investigate, but if we set up, together with governments, together with intergovernmental associations, together with sports federations - a bit similar to what has been done for doping matters - a new agency that can investigate abuse, that can take measures dedicated exclusively to that. This is something that I feel we should not put under the carpet, that we should not hide. It's something that we should embrace and that we should do because we owe it to all children who want to do sports. We are working on that and I hope that we can see some results."

10. NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS

11. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, GIANNI INFANTINO, ON THE VAR, SAYING:

"I think that VAR is helping football. It's certainly not damaging football. I think also that, we have to member that VAR was introduced for the first time two years ago, not 200 years ago, or indeed not 20 years ago. And we don't have to make a confusion between VAR and maybe sometime wrong decisions which are taken because of the wrong way in which VAR is used, maybe in some places, because the lack of experience of those who are using VAR. Let's not forget that this really is a landmark change for a referee who, you know, was used to and has made - all these referees who are using VAR, they didn't grow up with VAR. Let's not forget that. It's not that easy."

12. CLOSE OF NEWS CONFERENCE

STORY: Professional women footballers are to be guaranteed maternity leave under new rules approved by FIFA on Friday (December 4), the global soccer body's president Gianni Infantino said.

Under the new rules, approved by the decision-making FIFA Council on Friday, a player will be given 14 weeks maternity leave and her club will be obliged to reintegrate her afterwards and provide adequate medical support.

"If we are serious about boosting the women's game, we have to look at all these aspects," Infantino told reporters.

"Female players need to have stability in their careers and if they take maternity leave, they should not have to worry about when they are ready to play again."

The rules will be incorporated into FIFA's regulations on the status and transfer of players and will be enforced worldwide.

Infantino started the virtual news conference with a tribute to Argentine football legend Diego Maradona who died on November 25.

The Council also decided to stage an additional edition of its old-style Club World Cup, featuring seven teams including the champions of each continent, in Japan in 2021.

A new-style tournament, featuring 24 teams, is due to be played in China in 2022, having been put back one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infantino also voiced support for an inter-sport agency to tackle sexual abuse in sport saying it would need the backing of governments because sports federations are limited in their powers to investigate.

The FIFA boss also said the often criticized video assistant referee system, known as VAR, was a net positive for soccer saying it's "certainly not damaging football," while also noting it has only been in use for two years.

(Production: Kurt Michael Hall, Iain Axon)