Football: Fifa threatens to ban super league rebels

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FIFA, WORLD football's ruling body, yesterday threatened national football associations, clubs and players with suspension if they linked up with a European super league.

A statement from Fifa's Swiss headquarters said it would use every means at its disposal to prevent any formation of a new league outside its auspices or those of Uefa, European soccer's ruling body.

The Fifa Executive Committee's statement read: "Football's principles are under attack by commercial companies, with the agreement of certain prestigious clubs, which intend primarily to make huge financial gains.

"One of the aims of Fifa is to control every type of football, taking whatever steps are appropriate to prevent infringement, improper practices and abuse." Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, said that those steps could include banning national associations, clubs and players taking part in any new league from all international competitions.

The new league is being proposed by a Milan-based media sales group called Media Partners, which is proposing that an initial 18-club league is formed and starts competing in the 2000-01 season.

"These entities trying to enter the Fifa family and then attempting to lift out of our family the best, the most talented, is not acceptable to our moral approach to football," Blatter added. "I am of the opinion that we must show we are in charge of football."

A spokesman for Media Partners said: "We continue to develop the project with Europe's top clubs and are perfectly willing to discuss this with Fifa. "As things stand now, Fifa have had no details or briefing of the project and are in no position to criticise it."

In a separate development, Fifa's Executive Committee yesterday approved a pounds 31,500 per-year salary for its (part-time) members.

The scathing attack on the referee Steve Lodge, and on the overall standards of Premiership officials, made by Liverpool's joint manager Roy Evans after his side's 2-0 Premiership defeat to Manchester United on Thursday has drawn a swift response from the Football Association.

Yesterday the FA maintained that standards "are as high as ever" - despite Evans's claim that officials are "ruining the game." Evans said he was "sick to death" of decisions going against his team after Jason McAteer was penalised for handling in the penalty area. But the FA spokesman, Steve Double, said: "Standards are as high as ever. [Evans] is entitled to his opinion - other managers will say the same next week."

Liverpool are switching their search for a defender to the pounds 5m- rated Swede, Patrik Andersson now of Borussia Monchengladbach but once of Blackburn Rovers, and are preparing an exchange deal involving their unwanted striker, Sean Dundee.

The chairman of Sheffield United, Mike McDonald, called on Fifa yesterday to punish Benfica for not paying the transfer fee for the striker Brian Deane, who signed for the Portuguese side in January.

The Wolves winger, Steve Froggatt, is having talks with Middlesbrough despite having agreed terms with Coventry. He had been close to joining the Sky Blues yesterday in time for today's trip to Charlton, after Wolves accepted pounds 2m bids from both clubs.