Football : League ignores pleas

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The Independent Online
The Football League yesterday decreed that the Nationwide season will not be extended beyond 4 May, despite the threat of fixture congestion.

Manchester City have registered their discontent over the likelihood that Northern Ireland's two World Cup qualifying games with Portugal and Ukraine will disrupt their Easter programme.

Scotland also have two qualifiers, against Estonia and Austria, arranged for the same week, while the Second Division clubs, Wrexham and Stockport, have been in touch with Lytham over the problems that their respective FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup campaigns have brought to their promotion bids.

A Football League spokesman, Chris Hull, said: "Manchester City's main worry was the dislocation of their season through international call-ups, while Stockport and Wrexham's cup commitments have caused them problems. But there is no question of the League extending the season beyond the scheduled final weekend of Saturday 3 May and Sunday 4 May.

"We have put forward a proposal to Manchester City that we feel will ease their worries, while our contact with both Wrexham and Stockport has just been a case of liaising with the two clubs to help them balance their remaining fixtures."

The week beginning Saturday 29 March was designated for World Cup qualifiers by Fifa, the world governing body, well in advance of the League announcing its own fixtures, and Wales play host to Belgium while the Republic of Ireland travel to Macedonia.

Hull explained: "Although we knew that it was a World Cup week, we did not have specific dates when our fixtures were arranged. That both Northern Ireland and Scotland will play on the Saturday and then again in midweek means that we will lose the weekend as well as the following midweek.

"It means it becomes an even more difficult balancing act for us, but we feel that there will be no real problem in fitting in all the games by the designated end of season date."