Football: Fifa rules for clubs against FA of Wales: Henry Winter on a decision that went against the Welsh and a day of reckoning for the Football League clubs taking centre stage

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The Independent Online
THE WELSH internationals, Paul Bodin and Kit Symons, will be playing for their promotion-chasing clubs today after Fifa, the game's governing body, ruled that the FA of Wales could not invoke a six-day ruling demanding first call on the players.

Four First Division clubs - Swindon Town (Bodin), Portsmouth (Symons) as well as Oxford United (Andy Melville) and Derby County (Mark Pembridge) - protested to Fifa via the Football Association and Football League to free their players for today's matches. Portsmouth, after talking to Terry Yorath, the Wales manager, had even brought their game against Wolves forward by 24 hours to give Symons time to prepare for the Principality's important World Cup qualifying tie against the Representation of Czech and Slovakian Republics in Ostrava on Wednesday.

The FAW then contacted the clubs saying it was implementing the Uefa regulation. This was overruled yesterday by Fifa, which contacted Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, to inform him that the four could play today. 'I would just like to know what the rule is and why when we tried to implement it we were overturned,' Yorath said. 'I'd just like someone to explain that to me.'

Yorath has called up Clayton Blackmore, of Manchester United, and Chelsea's Gareth Hall to replace the injured Kevin Ratcliffe (Cardiff) and Chris Coleman (Crystal Palace).

The Welsh striker, Dean Saunders, received a slight cut under one eye during an incident in Essex on Thursday night but was able to train yesterday. A few of the squad were relaxing at the Epping Forest Country Club - near to the party's pre-flight headquarters - when the altercation occured.

'As far as I understand it, some of the boys were just sitting around having a drink, when some guy allegedly hit Gary Speed,' Yorath said. 'Dean jumped in to try to sort things out. He and the other person were taken away by the police and cautioned. The players were the innocent parties. There is something the matter with some people if a few players can't have a little drink on their own.'

Roy Keane, whose goal at Highbury on Wednesday night kept alive Nottingham Forest's slim hopes of Premier League survival, may face an FA inquiry over allegations that he swore at Arsenal fans after equalising in the 90th minute. Although local police say they will not take any action against the Republic of Ireland midfielder, they have reported the alleged incident to the match referee, Martin Bodenham, who may include it in his report to Lancaster Gate.

Terry Phelan, Keane's international colleague, has withdrawn from the Republic's World Cup qualifier against Denmark on Wednesday. The Manchester City full-back tore a hamstring in midweek.

Sheffield Wednesday will convert Hillsborough's vast Kop into an all- seater stand over the summer, a pounds 750,000 scheme which will reduce the capacity at that end by 5,000 to 11,000. Kop regulars have their last chance to stand when Arsenal - who else? - visit on 6 May. Graham Mackrell, the Wednesday secretary, said: 'We know that supporters don't want seats on the Kop but it is the law of the land that leading grounds must be all-seater by 1994.'

With today's Premier programme postponed because of midweek internationals, the spotlight turns on the Football League. Portsmouth, buoyed by the availability of the solid Symons, will move to the top of the First Division if they win their all- ticket game at Fratton Park, as Newcastle, who currently lead by two points (with a game in hand) are not in action until tomorrow, when they could destroy Sunderland's season at St James' Park. In the Second Division, Stoke City will ensure promotion if they beat Preston at home while Bolton or Port Vale lose.

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