Football: France pull out of Fifa event

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FRANCE HAVE pulled out of the controversial Confederations' Cup against the wishes of Fifa, world football's ruling body, but to the delight of leading European clubs.

"We decided to pull out of this competition because we did not want to send to Mexico a team which would not have been the one which won the world title," the French Football Federation president, Claude Simonet, said. He suggested that France would instead play a friendly against "an English team" some time in February.

The eight-nation Fifa-organised competition has been heavily criticised by both clubs and a number of countries because of its timing in the middle of the European league season. "I think it was a wise decision," Arsenal's French manager, Arsene Wenger, said.

Fifa backed down in September in the face of the opposition, allowing clubs to release their players just 48 hours ahead of the start date to reduce the inconvenience. But this failed to satisfy the clubs who pay the players' huge wages.

Chelsea's chairman, Ken Bates, said this week: "I think it is a waste of time and I will not be releasing my players.

"If Fifa try to impose sanctions they will be ignored," Bates added. "The tournament is another one they have dreamed up from nowhere. It's got nothing to do with promoting football."

The tournament in Mexico, from 8 to 20 January, will involve Brazil, Bolivia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, New Zealand and the hosts, plus whichever European team replaces France.

Lee Bradbury could be playing for Manchester City or Crystal Palace today. City's record buy is in Joe Royle's City side for the First Division game with Reading - but Terry Venables, the Palace manager, is trying to finalise a deal to put the striker in his team at Bradford City instead.

Because of a change in transfer rules, Bradbury can join Palace on loan by noon and still make his debut today before completing a pounds 1.5m transfer to Selhurst Park on Monday.

While the two clubs sorted out the details of the deal yesterday, Bradbury trained at Maine Road and Royle said: "Lee is available to play for us and, if Shaun Goater is not fit, he will be in the team." The City manager is also lining up a loan striker to replace Bradbury today, if the sale is agreed in time.

Palace have raised funds towards the purchase of Bradbury, who cost City pounds 3m from Portsmouth, by selling another striker, Bruce Dyer, to Barnsley for pounds 700,000. The 23-year-old has signed a two-and-a-half year contract with the Oakwell side. The former England under-21 international cost Palace pounds 1.1m from Watford in 1994.

Millwall have been charged by the Football Association following a series of pitch invasions during their game against Manchester City at the New Den on 29 September. The Second Division club have 14 days to respond to the charge of failing to control their supporters.

Though John Motson has done well out of televised football, he thinks it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

In a new video, Motty Takes The Mike, the BBC commentator rails against the overhyped world of the Premiership.

"It's overkill and I'm not sure the game can sustain it," he said. "Everybody's having a great time feeding off the game but, hold on, one day the grain is going to run out - the fat of the land will not be there forever.

"If pay-per-view television makes watching soccer comfortable and cheaper and more accessible you're persuading fans not to go to the grounds. It may be terrific for Manchester United, Arsenal and to an extent Liverpool or Chelsea, I'm not sure what pay-per-view does for Coventry or West Ham or Southampton. I don't want to see us with five or so super clubs and the rest just making up the numbers."