Football: Sheffield talk unity

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The Independent Online
SHEFFIELD UNITED insisted yesterday that while speculation surrounding a merger with Sheffield Wednesday is "extremely premature" they have refused to rule it out.

United's managing director, John Thurman, said yesterday that he believed merger talks with their arch rivals will begin "sooner rather than later" and in a statement the club said: "Neither Sheffield club is a global football brand and both are competing for the same supporter base, so major benefits could be achieved by pooling resources.

"Whilst senior administrators in both camps have acknowledged the benefits, they have also recognised that the feelings of both sets of fans would be crucial. The people of Sheffield would have the final say."

Mike MacDonald, joint chairman of United's plc, also refused to dismiss the merger talk outright, saying it would be discussed at the next meeting of United's Fans Forum.

Gordon Taylor, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, has called on England to harmonise its season with the rest of the world.

"We are getting ourselves into a right mess in a way with World Cup preparations and football calendars and we have seen what has happened with Manchester United and the FA Cup," he said.

"We will start to think seriously about a mid-winter break but if we do have a harmonised football calendar it's vital that in those periods we don't go rushing around having cosmetic international tournaments and friendly games."