Football: Fifa fails to solve Kinsella problem

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The Independent Online
THE TUG-OF-WAR between Premiership clubs and the Football Association of Ireland over international call-ups showed no signs of abating last night - despite efforts by world football's governing body, Fifa, to urge compromise between the two sides.

Several clubs, with Charlton the main protagonists, are calling for players involved in Ireland's Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia next Wednesday to be allowed to play in the Premiership on Saturday.

They argue that the Football Association of Ireland and their Yugoslav counterparts should have given them 14 days' notice of the players' call- ups, while the governing bodies insist that only five days are required.

Fifa attempted to intercede in the row yesterday by urging the two national associations to compromise by allowing the players to join their international squads on Saturday evening.

The letter sent to the FAI and Yugoslav FA spoke of reaching a "pragmatic solution" and of developing a "flexible approach". Fifa's spokesman, Keith Cooper, confirmed: "We have suggested a way around the problem and will wait to see what reaction there is from the parties concerned."

However, the FAI remained unmoved, with their spokesman Brendan McKenna insisting: "We have considered the suggestion but have replied to say that we don't accept it and are going ahead with our original plan."

Charlton, who want their Irish international Mark Kinsella and Yugoslav goalkeeper Sasa Ilic to play against Middlesbrough on Saturday, are nevertheless optimistic that Fifa's attempt at a compromise means that the governing body accept their argument.

Charlton's managing director, Peter Varney, said: "We are not going to release the players unless instructed to do so by Fifa and we would expect Fifa to abide by their own rules, which make clear that we are entitled to 14 days' written notice."

With many other teams - including Leeds, Wimbledon, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester United and Blackburn - also with players in the Irish squad, the governing body are now likely to have to make a definitive ruling in the club versus country row. Even then the problem may not be over, for if Fifa come down on the side of the FAI, then Charlton believe they may leave themselves open to a legal challenge.

Noel Le Graet, the president of the French league, says that the new dates for the controversial Confederations Cup will create as many problems as those originally proposed by Fifa. The governing body originally planned the competition for January 1999, but rescheduled it to August after complaints that the competition would fall during European domestic leagues. But that has not reduced opposition to the event.

"I don't understand," Le Graet said in the French sports daily L'Equipe. "The new dates pose the same problems as January, perhaps even more."

Le Graet, speaking in Geneva after a Uefa working group on television rights, said that the new dates would mean players missing the start of the 1999-2000 season, particularly with the proposed new structure of the European Champions' League. He would rather the games were played in June.

France pulled out of the competition last month after many European clubs and domestic leagues said they would not release their players.

Fifa says that a decision on a possible change of date will be taken next Tuesday.