Blatter backs FA's 'determined' Palios

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The Independent Football

Sepp Blatter has described a dismal future for English football if the "unacceptable trend" of questioning the FA's authority continues.

The president of Fifa, the game's world governing body, gave his backing to the Football Association's chief executive, Mark Palios, who has endured a testing start to his tenure. Having dealt with a threatened England squad revolt, Palios has also come under fire from the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, over the disciplining of Arsenal players after incidents at Old Trafford.

But Blatter has urged support for Palios from "all quarters" as he tackles what the Swiss lawyer called "a difficult inheritance".

"The tasks on his plate - and that of FA chairman Geoff Thompson - are difficult to handle because it is never pleasant having to be unpopular from the outset," Blatter said.

"But if he doesn't show a determined hand, if he doesn't seek to streamline the FA's operations and to clarify some ambiguous rules, and, most of all, if he doesn't get the support he deserves from all quarters, then English football will be left facing an institutional problem. This will be on top of the rapid deterioration in discipline evident on and off the field."

On the England squad's protest about the treatment of Rio Ferdinand after he missed a drugs test, Blatter said: "What the incredulous observer from overseas perceives is the following: an unnerving trend towards questioning the FA's authority; the rapid decay of players' morale; questionable conduct on and off the pitch; and completely unacceptable actions such as the recent threat by England squad members not to play in the Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey."

Blatter also revealed problems in Fifa's drugs policy. While keen to "get tough" on doping cheats, it is reluctant to sign up to the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

Under the code, Ferdinand could have faced a two-year ban, and Blatter said this backed Fifa's case for keeping its independence from Wada.

"Ferdinand's case is a perfect illustration of our disagreement," he said. "He is an individual player who may or may not have made a mistake.

"He deserves to be treated as an individual with all the rights one associates with a system that must be determined by individual case management and not mandatory sentencing guidelines."

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