Football: Threat of smaller Premier

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THE dispute over sponsorship could hasten the Premier League's reduction to 18 clubs, the number suggested in the Football Association's original plan.

Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, wants a guarantee that the elite group can be trimmed back in the light of Monday's blocking by eight clubs of a pounds 13m sponsorship deal with Bass brewery. There are plans for the Premier pack to be trimmed to 20 clubs after three seasons, but the in-fighting has convinced Kelly that the FA must now give priority to its blueprint for an 18-club Premier League.

'A decision whether to sanction a Premier League consisting of more than 18 clubs after 1995 rests with the Football Association,' Kelly said after flying home from Spain for a meeting with his fellow Premier League officials, Sir John Quinton and Rick Parry.

Kelly plans further talks on a Premier League constitution described by Parry as 'unworkable'. 'A regular schedule of meetings with Sir John and Rick will be set up so information comes to the FA, avoiding the situation where the title sponsorship matter caused a stir,' he said.

Nigel Spackman, the midfield player who can play in defence, yesterday moved from one Premier club to another, leaving Rangers to move south of the border again in a pounds 485,000 transfer to Chelsea, who have lost their centre-back Paul Elliott with a long-term injury.

The transfer tribunal valued Scott Sellars at pounds 950,000 but because of a clause in his original transfer Leeds United will have to pay Blackburn Rovers pounds 720,000 to buy him back. Sellars moved the other way six years ago for pounds 20,000, on condition that Leeds received 25 per cent of any subsequent transfer profit.

Uefa, football's governing body in Europe, confirmed last night that the Welsh international Ian Rush will no longer be classed as a foreign player in Liverpool's European games. The rule applies to players who joined their club as juniors or have played in the country of their club for five years.