Football: Premier men to stand firm over finale: Unhappy Sunday

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The Independent Online
The Premier League, facing protests from Ipswich Town's relegation rivals over the rescheduling for live television coverage of the Suffolk club's final fixture, last night intimated that it may resist pressure to switch the match back to its original Saturday date.

Ipswich's game at title-chasing Blackburn, initially scheduled for 7 May, was put back 24 hours at the start of the month as part of a package on Sky that would also feature Manchester United against Coventry. Their ensuing descent into the danger zone suggests the arrangement was premature, but complaints that Ipswich would go into the match knowing their target did not prompt the anticipated climbdown.

Adrian Cook, the Premier League's assistant secretary, said no decision would be made until after tomorrow's Premiership matches. 'We've got to balance Blackburn going for the championship against Ipswich fighting relegation,' he said. 'At the moment it seems impossible to satisfy both sides. We can upset Blackburn, or the clubs in the relegation area, or Sky.'

Therein lies the rub. The money clubs receive from their satellite TV deal is vital to their hopes of complying with the Taylor Report and buying players. The League's reluctance to insist that all games take place on the Saturday appears to suggest that whoever loses out, it will not be Sky. And by forcing Ipswich to play on Saturday, Blackburn would then doubtless protest that United had an unfair advantage.

Dissent was co-ordinated by a flurry of faxes sent by Sheffield United to their companions in distress. Derek Dooley, United's chief executive, said: 'We feel the Premier League can make only one decision in the circumstances.' His counterpart at Everton, Jim Greenwood, agreed: 'We consider it would be grossly unfair if any one club had an advantage.'

Oldham, already unhappy about having to squeeze their final four matches into eight days, also registered their disquiet. Their own request to play the home match against Tottenham, postponed last week, on Tuesday 10 May had been rejected 'quite firmly', according to their secretary, Tony Cale.

Television may also play a crucial role in resolving championship and relegation issues in Germany, where the DFB (German FA) is to decide today whether to order a replay of Saturday's match between Bayern Munich and Nuremberg.

Bayern won 2-1 and hold a two-point lead with two games left, but the relegation-threatened losers formally protested after video evidence proved that Thomas Helmer's shot had trickled past a post.

Bayern have confirmed Giovanni Trapattoni, the Juventus coach, as the Bundesliga's first Italian manager next season. Tony Woodcock, the former Cologne and England striker, is to take charge of relegation-bound VfB Leipzig.

Aston Villa and Liverpool are to proceed with South African tours next month, having taken Foreign Office advice on the violence in the republic.

Eric Steele, Wolves' goalkeeping coach, has left Molineux because of 'personal friction' between himself and Graham Taylor dating back to their time together at Watford. Peter Bonetti, the former Chelsea and England keeper, replaces Steele.

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