Barwick moves to lock in England's Euro 2008 dates amid Uefa threat

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The Independent Online

England will attempt to resolve their Euro 2008 fixture impasse this week to prevent Uefa imposing its own schedule. A first attempt to arrange the qualifying campaign ended in failure last month.

While England managed to agree their own fixture list, there was disagreement among the other countries - Croatia, Russia, Israel, Estonia, Macedonia and Andorra. It is thought the major stumbling block is Russia's preference not to play matches in the two allotted dates in March because of their proximity to the start of the domestic campaign.

Uefa officials are ready to step in and have confirmed that they will draw lots on 9 March to determine the schedule if an agreement is not reached at a meeting in Switzerland tomorrow, organised by the Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick.

While England are favourites to advance into the finals as one of the top two teams in the group, the difficulty of their task could be increased if a random draw went against them.

Common sense dictates that whoever replaces Sven Goran Eriksson following this summer's World Cup would prefer not to play in June - after an arduous club campaign - and especially in Russia, whose own players would be far fresher.

However, the FA accepts a June date is almost inevitable if Uefa is forced to intervene - highlighting the need to reach an agreement tomorrow.

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said yesterday that the deadline for World Cup squad selection could be pushed back following objections from Eriksson and Jürgen Klinsmann.

The England and Germany managers have called for Fifa to allow national teams extra time to complete their plans for the finals, which begin on 9 June. Eriksson says that he also has the backing of the Netherlands coach Marco van Basten.

If there is no change from Fifa, Eriksson will have to name his 23-man party on 15 May, more than three weeks before England's opening game against Paraguay. The date also falls before the Champions' League final and England's warm-up games against Hungary and Jamaica.

Managers want to delay their final selection until the start of June and plan to discuss the problem at a Fifa workshop in Dusseldorf this month. Now Blatter admits that they could get their way, saying: "That is not completely ruled out. If that is now officially stated, then the Fifa organisation committee can debate it again in mid-March."

Blatter also yesterday rejected criticism in Germany of the strict rules governing food and drink in World Cup stadiums. "I need to be clear about this once and for all. The World Cup does not belong to Germany, this is not a German World Cup. It is a Fifa World Cup in Germany that cost us 1 billion Swiss francs [£1.25m]."

Fifa has contracted 21 firms to sponsor the month-long tournament and has placed strict limits on the presence of non-sponsors in Germany's 12 World Cup finals stadiums. Budweiser, brewed by the US beer-maker Anheuser Busch, will be the only beer sold in the stadiums - a slap in the face to many Germans who pride themselves on the quality of their own brew.

"It was on the basis of these ground rules that Germany was given the World Cup," Blatter said. "They approved them, not only the German Football Association but also the government."

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