Football: Coaches oppose super league

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The Independent Online
EUROPE'S LEADING national coaches said yesterday that a super league would act against the interests of international football.

At the end of a three-day Uefa conference, the top coaches called on both the European governing body and international governing body, Fifa, to protect national teams from what they said were purely commercial interests.

"The introduction of private commercial leagues could spell the end of national teams and the public should be aware of the threat to the future of the game at international level," the coaches said in a statement.

The Milan-based media sales group Media Partners hopes to launch the new Super League featuring 36 European clubs in 2000. The competition, will generate $2bn (pounds 1.2bn) a year in revenue, it predicts.

Delegates from 50 Uefa member associations attending the conference said Uefa and Fifa should pave the way for greater cooperation between football clubs and the national sides.

The coaches also hit out at the controversial "Golden Goal" knock-out rule, saying it was an unsporting and incorrect way of deciding the outcome of a game.

The Uefa general secretary, Gerhard Aigner, said that the European body would take the coaches' points on board but was not considering dropping the rule.

Referees' interpretations of certain aspects of the laws of the game need to be unified and professional refereeing should be introduced, the coaches said.

They pressed for unified criteria on issues such as tackling from behind as well as concepts like "passive offside" [not interfering with play] to avoid confusion.

"If you are going to introduce a modification, then people should know a season in advance so leagues and coaches can get used to it," Andy Roxburgh, the Uefa technical director and former Scotland manager, told a news conference.

The coaches also called for a second round with group matches in World Cup finals instead of the current system where there is a knock-out phase after the first round.

The former French coach Aime Jacquet, who stepped down after steering France to their first World Cup triumph, was given a special award by the Uefa president, Lennart Johansson. The Croatia coach, Miroslav Blazevic, whose team secured third place in the World Cup finals in France, also received an award.

Barcelona issued a hands-off warning to clubs eyeing their 15-year-old Nigerian striker Hauruna Babangida by slapping an 800 million pesetas (pounds 3.3m), price tag on him on Wednesday.

Haurana, the younger brother of Ajax Amsterdam and Nigerian international striker Tijani Babangida, became the youngest person in Spanish league history to have a buy-out clause inserted into his contract.

The 15-year-old is currently playing for the Barcelona reserve team in the Spanish second division but, after impressing during pre-season, many observers expect him to be incorporated into the first team squad during the December "transfer window".

Ironically, the man whose place he could be taking is his compatriot, Emmanuel Ammunike, who has a long term knee injury and is likely to miss the rest of the Spanish season.

Babangida, who celebrates his 16th birthday on October 1, has hit the headlines in Spain not just for his playing ability.

Last season he scored 37 goals in 21 games for Barcelona's youth side - which also led to some controversy.

Injured in one match, he was sent to hospital for X-rays which some critics said showed that bone scans taken indicated he was at least three years older than the date claimed by the Catalan club.

Barcelona club doctors shrugged off the controversy by saying Babangida was "well developed for his age".

The Hungarian authorities said yesterday that they will introduce a compulsory identity card scheme for supporters from next season in a bid to curb a wave of hooliganism.

Attila Kovacs, the president of the Hungarian Football Federation, said that only fans with the card would be able to buy tickets or enter stadiums.