Football: FA bans league from big kick-off

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The Independent Online
THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION is at the centre of a row after banning the UniBond League from starting the new season.

All 44 clubs in the old Northern Premier League have been suspended because they would not accept Barrow in their ranks after they were thrown out of the Nationwide Conference.

The FA's sanctions committee has told the League that it cannot kick off next Saturday, 14 August, unless it includes Barrow in its Premier Division. The UniBond has said that it will not accept the Cumbrians as they were not relegated due to playing performances, but for financial reasons.

Barrow were voted out of the Conference despite finishing fourth from bottom last term, one place above the relegation zone. They are now a new company and, like Aldershot Town and Newport AFC did in the past, many feel they should start again at the foot of the non-league ladder, in the First North Western Trains League Second Division.

However, Barrow appealed to the then Sports Minister Tony Banks for support during the summer when the dispute began, and the FA chief executive David Davies was also involved in trying to persuade the league to change its decision.

As well as suspending the league, the FA has banned Unibond clubs from the FA Cup. UniBond officials have taken counsel's advice and asked for a judicial review and arbitration. One senior UniBond figure said last night: "The FA have got it into their heads that Barrow must be a special case. It looks like political pressure and it goes to the very top."

After weeks of haggling, Liverpool have accepted Tottenham's pounds 3m offer for Oyvind Leonhardsen. The Norwegian midfielder has agreed terms with the Spurs manager, George Graham.

Darren Anderton has vowed to stay at White Hart Lane even if Tottenham try to sell him after he turned down their offer of a new contract. The England midfielder's current deal expires at the end of next season and he can leave in the summer on a free transfer. Spurs have implied they would rather make him available to offers this season than lose him for nothing in June. Anderton said: "I want to stay at Tottenham and I'm confident I will. Certainly I'll be here all this season as far as I'm concerned because I intend to honour my contract. My thinking at the moment is that if the manager says `we want to sell you to so and so' I'll just say no thanks."

Aston Villa are set to sign Robbie Keane. The club has have made an improved offer for Wolves' young Republic of Ireland international, and are willing to pay pounds 5.5m plus an extra pounds 500,000 after he has made a certain number of appearances.

Aberdeen's proposed pounds 400,000 move for the Rangers out-of-favour midfielder Derek McInnes has collapsed after the player failed to agree personal terms with the Pittodrie club.

Brighton have been repaid the pounds 500,000 performance bond they had to make to the Football League to guarantee fulfilling their fixtures during their two years ground-sharing at Gillingham.

The former England No 2 John Gorman has confirmed he will stay on at West Bromwich as assistant to new manager Brian Little `for the time being'. Gorman was put in charge in a caretaker capacity before Little was appointed on Tuesday to succeed Denis Smith, who was sacked last week.

The Premier League has delayed the introduction of referees and their assistants being wired up with headsets in all top-flight games until the second weekend of the new season. The scheme will now start on 14 August.

The French international midfielder Youri Djorkaeff is to join the German Bundesliga club Kaiserslautern from Italy's Internazionale.