Conference blocks Stevenage's plans to go 'interactive'

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The Independent Football

Plans for Stevenage Borough supporters to decide on substitutions during the course of a match by using mobile phones have had to be scrapped after a board meeting of the Nationwide Conference ruled that the idea was "unethical".

But television viewers will still be allowed to vote on the composition of the team as part of a docu-soap on the club which Channel 4 will broadcast over the next two months.

A select group of fans will help the manager Paul Fairclough nominate three players whose places are in jeopardy and three possible replacements. Viewers will then vote on which lucky trio play. "We have agreed that the programme can go ahead, and Channel 4 will pay the league a £15,000 fee," said a member of the Conference board. "How the manager picks the team is up to him, but we won't sanction people deciding on substitutions during as a game, which was thought to be unethical."

The idea of interactive team selection by supporters has been condemned by the Professional Footballers' Association, whose chief executive, Gordon Taylor, called it "a farce". Channel 4 claim that the Stevenage players are all in favour. Until, presumably, they are voted out of the team and have to submit to tearful Big Brother-style interviews about their fate.

The Sheffield Wednesday manager, Terry Yorath, has completed the signing of Shefki Kuqi from Stockport for an undisclosed fee, believed to be £1m. The 25-year-old has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract at Hillsborough after agreeing personal terms and passing a medical.

Another departure from Stockport sees the defender Mike Flynn joining Stoke on a two-month loan. The 32-year-old will act as cover for the injured Peter Handyside and will go straight into the squad for tomorrow's game at Northampton.

The New England Revolution have unveiled the former Scotland and Liverpool defender Steve Nicol as their new assistant coach. Nicol, 40, has been player-coach at Boston Bulldogs for the last two years.

He also took charge at the Revolution for two games – winning both – in 1999 after the former Italy goalkeeper Walter Zenga was dismissed.

The man behind Newcastle United's crop of potential stars of the future has landed a top job with the Football Association. The Academy director Alan Irvine will leave the club in the summer to take up the role of national coach, one of five new appointments by the FA's technical director, Howard Wilkinson.

The BBC have confirmed they will screen live the FA Cup fourth-round tie between Arsenal and Liverpool at Highbury on 27 January. The match will kick off at 1pm – the same time as the other two Cup matches taking place on that day.

It had been thought the game would start later, but a 7pm kick-off appears to have been ruled out because of fears that all-day drinking could spark crowd disturbances like those seen at the Cardiff v Leeds third-round tie last Sunday.

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