Fifa unanimous against 'Game 39'

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The Independent Online

Fifa's executive committee has unanimously opposed the Premier League's plan for staging matches overseas. Sepp Blatter, the president of football's world governing body, said that even the former Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson, now a Fifa vice-president, was in opposition to "Game 39".

The issue was raised at yesterday's committee meeting in Zurich. Blatter said: "This idea for the Premier League to play a 39th round outside the country does not work. They would be playing 12 hours away west and east and 24 hours difference in the south. Even the former chairman of the FA, Geoff Thompson, said we should oppose it."

Blatter also said that the decision to scrap trials of goal-line technology had been given full backing by Fifa's football and technical committees.

The International FA Board decided last weekend to freeze experiments in favour of testing a system put forward by the Uefa president, Michel Platini, which will involve employing two extra assistant referees behind the goal-line. The Premier League's chairman, Sir Dave Richards, accused Platini of "killing football". The League had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the Hawk-Eye system.

Blatter said: "Both the football committee, chaired by Franz Beckenbauer, and the technical committee supported the International FA Board. They said, 'Why should we resort to really complicated goal-line technology such as the microchip in the ball that works in 95 per cent of the cases but not 100 per cent, or the famous Hawk-Eye, which is appropriate for tennis as the players can stop the game to challenge the decision?'"

Blatter said he would issue a personal request to clubs to release over-age players for the Olympic football tournament in Beijing this summer. "We cannot oblige the clubs to release these over-age players. But as Fifa president I would ask the clubs to abide by the Olympic spirit and release these players so they can play in the Olympic Games."

Blatter said he and Platini would visit Brussels next month to push for a ruling allowing teams to have a maximum of five foreigners. "The executive committee has unanimously stated this is a positive solution, but we do not want to clash with European Union laws concerning free movement of workers. We will meet in Brussels on 8 and 9 April to speak to people from the Commission and European Parliament."

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