Football: Uefa has Balkan verdict on hold

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The Independent Online
UEFA, EUROPEAN football's ruling body, has refused to dismiss the possibilities of reallocating places in their major club competitions for next season because of the Balkans crisis.

League football in Yugoslavia has been suspended, and there are major problems playing club matches in Macedonia, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia. The problems led to the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, suggesting at the weekend that other countries could be given extra places in the Uefa Cup if the Yugoslav war stops Balkan countries completing their fixtures.

That could mean countries such as England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain being given more qualification places. A Uefa spokesman said yesterday: "We don't want to speculate on the issue at the moment, all sorts of things could change, you can't tell what will happen."

Redknapp has a vested interest in the situation because, even if West Ham finish fifth this season they will not win a European spot. The same applies to Aston Villa, who are fifth, one place ahead of the Hammers. Both clubs have applied to compete in the Intertoto Cup this summer.

Although Uefa is unwilling to discuss the problems, the draws for the Intertoto, Uefa Cup and Champions' League preliminary rounds take place in mid-summer and there is a possibility that the conflict in Yugoslavia could still be going on. Then a decision over the format of next season's European club competitions will have to be taken.

The former England midfielder Trevor Booking was yesterday appointed as chairman of the English Sports Council. Brooking, a CBE, has been acting chairman since Sir Rodney Walker left the council in July last year to become chairman of the UK Sports Council.