Football: Uefa attacks Blatter's plan

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The Independent Online
A BIENNIAL World Cup would damage football and the public would abandon the game, European football's governing body said yesterday.

"A biennial World Cup, in the current situation, would be disastrous for the basic components of soccer - players, clubs and domestic leagues," Gerhard Aigner, the general secretary of Uefa, said. "The European Championship would risk being devalued and maybe destroyed. That would damage Uefa which, on technical, organisational and financial levels, is the motor of world soccer. I fear that the biggest loser in all of this would be the spectator, our true `sponsor' who Fifa [world football's governing body] seems to be overlooking. The public could all of a sudden abandon soccer."

Aigner's comments came on the same day that Sepp Blatter, Fifa's president and the man who proposed last weekend that a World Cup should be staged every two years instead of four, emphasised his determination to see his proposal become reality. "This idea's not a toy," said Blatter, after a meeting with the International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

"If we go to a [cycle] of two years we will not play the same years as the summer Olympic Games," Blatter added, addressing the issue of the World Cup coming into conflict with the summer Olympics, which are held every four years.

The next Games are in Sydney in 2000, followed by Athens in 2004. The next World Cup will be in 2002 in Japan and South Korea and the bidding process for the 2006 finals is underway. Blatter insisted that, with or without a World Cup every two years, work is needed on a "streamlined" international calendar to avoid "chaos" in sporting fixtures.

"One can start changing the calendar from 2005 on," he said, but did not elaborate further on his plans to stage a scaled down World Cup in 2004 to celebrate Fifa's centenary.

Blatter's plans came in for fresh criticism yesterday. Michel D'Hooghe, president of the Belgian FA, said the plans were "hardly possible to realise" and "unreasonable" because of the physical demands they would make on players. He added: "As a doctor, I can only strongly reject these plans."

Germany's national team doctor, Professor Wilfried Kindermann, said: "It is almost impossible to play a full season year after year and play in a World Cup or European Championship afterwards."

Blatter will meet with Uefa representatives, including Aigner, and the secretary generals of the other five football confederations to discuss the project on 15 January.