Fifa hits Welsh clubs with ban

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The Independent Online
The three rebel Welsh non-league clubs were banned by Fifa yesterday from all competitions from the end of this season, for daring to challenge the authority of the Football Association of Wales.

The surprise announcement from the world governing body cut through all the legal argument in the High Court, where the clubs - Newport AFC, the leaders of the Beazer Homes League Midland Division, and Colwyn Bay and Caernafon Town of the UniBond League - are fighting a restraint of trade action against the FAW.

Since the formation in 1992 of the Konica League of Wales, the clubs have played in the English pyramid system, which could ultimately take them into League football, in defiance of the FAW, which sees their stance as detrimental to the status of the Konica League and its representation in European competitions.

About nine days before Mr Justice Blackburne is expected to reach a verdict in the court case, it has been revealed that Fifa has thrown the clubs out of the game "indefinitely". In addition, their officials have received a two-year ban from any involvement in football.

Fifa said last night that the clubs and the English FA, under whose umbrella they play, had been informed of the move. "They will be excluded from all activity relating to the game of football with effect from 15 June or the end of their current season, whichever is the earlier," a spokesman said. The punishment comes after the three clubs had ignored warnings that taking action against any country's official governing body was contrary to Fifa statutes, and would lead to sanctions.

Eddie Wulff, a director of Newport, said all three clubs had been aware of the Fifa decision for some time, but held the view that it was not as final as it sounds. "From what we are led to believe, Fifa still wants to see the outcome of our court action," he said. "We are confident that if the judge finds in our favour Fifa will rescind its decision."

Together with the other two sides, Newport embarked on their legal campaign to gain recompense for the two years in which they were obliged to play all their games outside Wales because they felt they were being victimised by the FAW, which agreed to allow Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham to remain in the Football League and Merthyr Tydfil in the GM Vauxhall Conference. "The Welsh FA have been bully-boys and we believe they have got it wrong," Wulff said. "We are disappointed at the Fifa ruling, but we are confident that it won't reach a point where we are thrown out of the game."