Americans step in to ease Fifa's insurance headache

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The Independent Online

Fifa has secured a new cancellation insurance contract for the 2002 World Cup finals.

The US insurance firm National Indemnity Company stepped in after the previous insurers, AXA, asked for a higher premium in the light of terrorist attacks in America and the resulting military action in Afghanistan. World football's ruling body was unable to resolve its differences with AXA and has negotiated terms with NIC which do not allow the deal to be terminated by the insurer.

"I'm delighted that in just a few days Fifa has managed to seal a new contract and that we can count on a strong insurance partner in an emergency," said its president Sepp Blatter. His organisation is also expected to change its policy on the rights of Australia and France to select whichever players they want for the 11 November friendly in Melbourne.

World football's governing body had originally requested that neither side should select more than one player from any club in a move to head off protests from some of Europe's most influential sides. However, Blatter has hinted at Fifa's change of heart. "Australia obviously has every right to choose whoever it wants to make up the best possible team," he told L'Equipe.

The clubs at the centre of the dispute, who include Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, are unhappy that their players will have to endure such a gruelling journey in the middle of the season.

The only possible restriction under Uefa rules which could apply to the game is Article 36 of the amendments of the Fifa regulations for the status and transfer of players. That limits the number of international matches a player can be called up for to five per year, after which he is only available for the qualifying rounds and finals of the World Cup, confederation championships and the Olympics.