Cup question for Leeds and City

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The Independent Online

LEEDS UNITED and Manchester City yesterday played down talk that they could be thrown out of the FA Cup because of their involvement with BSkyB.

LEEDS UNITED and Manchester City yesterday played down talk that they could be thrown out of the FA Cup because of their involvement with BSkyB.

Claims that the clubs could be in contravention of FA Cup Rule 30 because Rupert Murdoch's satellite television company holds a 9.1 per cent stake in Leeds and last week secured 9.9 per cent of City, have been dismissed amid fears of yet more disruption to the beleaguered knock-out competition.

Football Association officials will seek clarification but have stressed they do not anticipate a problem, and officials from Leeds and Manchester City are confident they will not fall foul of the rule book, which states that no individual or organisation can maintain an influence in the financial, commercial or administrative functions of two competing clubs.

"Each case will be looked at on its merits," the FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said. "If there is an issue we would contact the respective clubs to make sure there is no clash of interest."

Leeds have expressed "grave concerns" over the possibility of their Uefa Cup third-round, first-leg tie with Spartak Moscow being played in Vladikavkaz.

Spartak received the offer after they beat Alania Vladikavkaz 3-0 in their final league game of the season at the weekend. The southern Russian town is 31 miles from war-torn Chechnya, however, and presents the kind of problems which surrounded Leeds' first-round tie with Partizan Belgrade in September, which was eventually played in the Netherlands.

"We have grave concerns," said the Leeds secretary Ian Silvester, who will fly to Russia later this week to finalise arrangements. "We would object strongly if the game was to be played away from Moscow."

Newcastle's Uefa Cup third- round, first leg tie against Roma will go ahead on 25 November despite an attempt by the Italian side's coach, Fabio Capello, to have it changed. Capello wanted the match brought forward 48 hours, complaining it interfered with their domestic programme.

Watford have signed the French striker Xavier Gravelaine on a short-term contract from Paris St-Germain. The 31-year-old has moved to England after a decade in his native country, during which time he won a championship medal with PSG in 1994. Jimmy Gilligan, the assistant director of Watford's youth academy, is to join Nottingham Forest as reserve-team coach.

Charlton Athletic have signed the Finnish international goalkeeper Antti Niemi on a three-month loan deal from the Scottish champions, Rangers.

The First Division strugglers Walsall have sent the striker Samassi Abou back to West Ham following the end of his month-long loan spell at Bescot.

The Derby County midfielder Francesco Baiano is to return to Italy. The 31-year-old former Italian international, signed from Fiorentina in 1997, had his contract cancelled by mutual consent. His family wish to return home and Baiano hopes to find a new club prior to the reopening of the Serie A transfer season in January.

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