Football: League clubs vow to fight on

THE PREMIER LEAGUE'S plan to become the dominant voice in running English football faces continuing opposition despite the victory of its chosen candidate in Saturday's election of a new Football Association chairman.

David Sheepshanks, whose challenge to acting chairman Geoff Thompson ended in defeat by 53 votes to 31 in the poll of FA Council members, is considering a second bid to unseat his rival amid growing concern that an offer of pounds 120m from the Premier League for grassroots football would effectively buy control of the game. He is encouraged by the size of his own vote and by the defeat, by 49 to 35, of Thompson's running mate, David Richards, of Sheffield Wednesday, in the vote for vice-chairman. He lost to Oldham's Ian Stott, whose fellow Football League representatives aligned themselves with Sheepshanks. It was Richards who made the money offer to Thompson on the Premier League's behalf.

Nicolas Anelka seems unlikely to wear a Gunners shirt again. Although the French international striker apparently wants to join Real Madrid, Arsenal have discussed selling him to the Italian club Lazio for about pounds 22m. While the 20-year-old has reportedly discussed terms with Lazio, his brothers, who act as his agents, have been negotiating with the Spanish club.

David Dein, Arsenal's vice-chairman, launched a bitter attack this weekend on Anelka, who signed a four-year deal with the Gunners 11 months ago. "We will meet Anelka to discuss his future when he returns from holiday," he said, "but the club's view is that when a player is under contract he should not be able to move of his own volition. He cannot choose another club and expect us to acquiesce. If that happens you may as well hand agents and players the key to the door."

Another Frenchman, Olivier Dacourt, also looks set to abandon the Premiership. The 24-year-old Everton midfielder, a pounds 4m signing from Strasbourg a year ago, is likely to complete a pounds 6.5m move to another French club, Lens, this week.

The former Luton Town midfielder, Radomir Antic, has been sacked as coach of Atletico Madrid for a second time. Antic was dismissed by the club's autocratic president, Jesus Gil, in his side's dressing-room after Saturday's 3-0 Spanish Cup final defeat to Valencia.The replacement for Antic will be the Valencia coach, Claudio Ranieri, who agreed to switch clubs after Saturday's final in Seville.

Newry Town became the first Irish League club to win an Intertoto Cup tie when they overcame the Croatian outfit, Hrvatski Dragovoljac, on Saturday. A 2-0 victory in County Down gave the part-timers a 2-1 first-round aggregate success and earned them a second-round tie against the German Bundesliga club MSV Duisburg, with the first leg in the Ruhr on Saturday.

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