Football: Poland facing the threat of Euro 2000 expulsion

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The Independent Online
POLAND HAVE been ordered by Fifa, football's world governing body, to resolve a dispute between the country's sports ministry and football association within the next week.

If England's Euro 2000 qualifying group rivals fail to settle the long- running internal wrangle by 8 April, the maximum possible penalty would be the suspension of the national association and possible expulsion from the Euro 2000 qualifying stages. However, Fifa, which could also simply impose a fine, is unwilling to discuss the likely outcome.

The dispute, which dates back to last summer, centres around the Polish FA's unwillingness to organise new democratic elections after months of alleged mismanagement - something the sports ministry had requested. On 12 March, Fifa's executive committee ordered the Polish FA to hold elections as soon as possible, only to be told that these would not take place until the end of next year.

The world governing body therefore stepped up the pressure on the Polish FA on 26 March by setting a deadline of next Thursday, by which time a date for elections must be set.

The British Embassy in Budapest said yesterday that there is no reason why England's friendly with Hungary cannot go ahead as planned. The game has been in doubt because of the conflict in the Balkans, which adjoins Hungary, but an Embassy spokesman said suggestions of a possible postponement of the friendly game have emanated from Britain. "We have not heard anything here at all," the spokesman said. "The people here are quite excited about seeing England play here. There have been no calls for the game to be called off. It is safe to travel to Budapest and there is no problem here."

Yugoslavia's football association has suspended its domestic league programme in the wake of the Nato air strikes, but insists the national team will not be thrown out of the European Championship.

"We cannot play football while there is bombing going on so we will not be playing this weekend," the Yugoslav FA secretary, Branko Bulatovic, said yesterday.

He added that Yugoslavia would remain in the European Championship qualifying competition despite speculation that military activity in the area would force a re-think by Uefa, the European governing body.

Uefa has so far postponed six matches in the region involving Yugoslavia and neighbouring teams, fuelling reports that the country would be unable to resume its qualifying campaign. Uefa's Euro 2000 chief, Guido Tognoni, said on Monday that Yugoslavia remained eligible to play, and Bulatovic insisted that reports to the contrary were unfounded. "What has happened doesn't affect the national team," he said. "We don't have a problem with Fifa or Uefa. In fact, we have just received a fax from Uefa assuring us our position is safe."

Bulatovic stressed that no United Nations sanctions were in place this time, unlike in 1992 when Yugoslavia were disqualified from the European Championship finals in Sweden. "As long as there are no sanctions, there is no doubt about our participation," he said.

Bulatovic also said the national federation had nothing to do with the sporadic walk-outs by individual Yugoslav players with European clubs. "What the players do as far as their clubs are concerned is up to them," he said. "We have issued no dictat."