FIFA denies refereeing leniency claims

FIFA has rejected reports of issuing a directive to referees to issue fewer cards at the 2014 World Cup.

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In the wake of Neymar's vertebra injury, it was claimed by media in Germany that FIFA urged referees to be more lenient and only issue yellow and red cards as a last resort.

German tabloid Bild alleged that FIFA was to blame for the Brazil star's injury, as well as Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga who committed the challenge.

In a piece headlined "Referee scandal at the World Cup," the German tabloid Bild picked up the story which had been reported on established referee blogs like Collinas Erben and The 3rd Team since the beginning of the 2014 World Cup.

"There is a story today... that there is a secret plan from FIFA telling the referees not to sanction with yellow or red cards in order to have more entertainment or television shares," FIFA's chief spokesman Walter De Gregorio said in quotes reported by Reuters.

"In other words that FIFA is risking and tolerating that players like Neymar and others are injured. This is just unacceptable.

"This goes into the core business -- protecting the main actors, the players, it's the most important thing we have to do at FIFA.

"We have to protect the players. If Neymar isn't playing the semifinal or the final, it's not good for us too."

De Gregorio added, according to German wire dpa: "This report is a declaration of bankruptcy for a journalist."

While the Bild report was without quotes, people like the former FIFA referee Urs Meier and the German referee boss Herbert Fandel have also hinted at the possibility of the existence of a directive in recent interviews.

"Sadly, they avoid the public like the plague. There's a good reason, to not make certain things public. But the lack of transparency only fires up the discussion about the alleged directive," Alex Feuerherdt of Collina's Erben told ESPN FC.

"It's a fact that referees are briefed ahead of the tournament."