Football: United to appeal as season extension ruled out

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The Independent Online
Manchester United will launch an immediate appeal to the Football Association over the Premier League's refusal to grant them an extension to the season to alleviate their massive fixture crisis.

Their chairman Martin Edwards reacted angrily to this morning's decision which leaves his club facing four games in the final eight days of the season to decide their title destiny.

Edwards slammed the Premiership as "amateurish" and the decision as "ludicrous". He said: "We will obviously appeal this to the FA. We have to do this. We believe this is the wrong decision.

"Time is of the essence so we will do that as soon as possible. We are extremely upset and aggrieved about the decision. If the FA turn it down, whether we can take it to law, I don't know. That's something we will have to look at in due course.

"We either have to win it by appeal to the FA or maybe a judicial review or something like that. I think it is that serious."

United, still clinging on to their dream of winning the European Cup, wanted an extra few days to arrange their outstanding fixture against Newcastle.

United's rivals Arsenal and Liverpool objected to them being granted special treatment and after meeting with the FA chief executive, Peter Leaver, and the Premier League chairman, Sir John Quinton, United heard the bad news.

"In reaching a decision the Premier League board has considered the need of all the clubs and taken full account of the issues at stake in the final weekend of the season," a spokesman explained.

"At this stage it is possible that every game on 11 May will have an impact on either the championship, European places or relegation."

However, Edwards is astonished that the climax of a nine-month campaign should be condensed into a week at the end of the season.

United will now meet Leicester away on 3 May, followed by home games against Middlesbrough, Newcastle and finally West Ham on 6 May, 8 May and 11 May respectively.

Edwards explained: "We are extremely disappointed. People criticise and say it is Manchester United moaning and whining again. But there are particular circumstances why we were aggrieved.

"We were due to play Middlesbrough but the date clashed with the FA Cup and that competition took preference.

"We rearranged the fixture but Middlesbrough had to reschedule their game against Stockport because the Stockport pitch was waterlogged and this time it was the Coca-Cola Cup that was given preference.

"We have been available on other dates to rearrange matches but other clubs were given preference.

"We have tried very hard to sort this out because we were aware of the fixture problems piling up. Suddenly now it is only Manchester United being asked to play these four games in eight days.

"To expect us to play more than 10 per cent of the season over eight days is quite ludicrous. They say this is the best league in the world, but this is amateurish. It's crazy and it simply shows how badly it is being run."

United could well have argued that Middlesbrough's offence in calling off their fixture at Blackburn because of injuries is at the root of United's own problems - something the Premier League surely would have found hard to resist, having docked Boro three points and then insisted their fine must stand after appeal.

Edwards added: "We just argued the case from our point of view. There are other points other people might make."

Sir Bobby Charlton, with the United team in Dortmund for Wednesday's European Cup semi-final first leg defeat, said: "You do hope that the FA would try to help clubs that are successful. They cancelled our Easter programme for internationals and now they are forcing us to play four games in eight days. It's madness.

"We are representing England - and Liverpool are as well - just the same as the national team. We would hope that our own association would try to help us, but they don't seem to be interested.

Charlton, a United director and a member of their 1968 European Cup winning team added: "I think we should have something to say about this decision, even if I don't believe that the FA will have a rethink we will appeal. They've had enough time to think about it already. But we can't let it rest like this, even if it's just to make sure that this situation never arises in the future.

"They said in 1992, after we were forced to play four games in six days and lost the league title, that the advent of the Premier League would make sure that this never happened again. But it has and we're paying for our success again."

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger and Liverpool's Roy Evans yesterday both backed the Premier League's rejection of United's bid for an extension to the season.

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