Football: Uefa rules under fire: German challenge

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The Independent Online
IT WILL be of scant consolation to Frank Clark this weekend, as he attempts to keep Nottingham Forest's championship challenge on course without Brian Roy, but the ruling which denies him the flying Dutchman might soon be changed to tilt the balance back the way of the clubs in their enduring conflict with the international game.

Roy is trapped by the Uefa rule-book, which decrees that countries can demand the release of their players a full five days before a competitive fixture. With France playing Romania on Saturday in the European Championship, the Premiership programme is the weaker for the absence of Eric Cantona from Manchester United's visit to Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham's loss of Ilie Dumitrescu and Gheorghe Popescu.

The situation would have been significantly worse had other nations taken the same stance as the Netherlands, who are insisting on Roy's full involvement in their preparations for Wednesday's game in Norway. Ironically, the Norwegians are happy with a Sunday rendezvous, so at least Forest have Lars Bohinen at Manchester City.

Likewise, Arsenal can parade their Scandinavians, Stefan Schwarz and John Jensen, this weekend, while Chelsea's defence remains intact with Dimitri Kharin and Jakob Kjeldbjerg available.

The Welsh, who last month insisted that their Football League contingent report before the Saturday along with their Premiership colleagues, who had a free weekend, decided this time that they could report after Saturday's fixtures to begin their build-up for the visit to Moldova.

It is an unsatisfactory situation, and that is why the German Footall Federation has begun moves to make it a four-day ruling, with the effect that Saturdays remain free for club football.

It has the support of England's Football Association, whose spokesman, David Bloomfield, said: 'We are already covered by this, because for competitive fixtures we set aside blank Saturdays.'

However, there will be resistance to change. Mark Evans, the international secretary at the Football Association of Wales, said: 'It's all very well for the Germans because they have an abundance of talented players. We have only a small band and we have to protect them.'