Blatter lays down law to Blair

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Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, yesterday told Tony Blair that the Rio Ferdinand affair is a text-book example of how not to handle doping cases.

Ferdinand's appeal is to be held on 18 and 19 March and the president of world football's governing body made it clear during a meeting at No 10 about drugs issues that the saga should not have been allowed to develop.

Blatter, speaking at a media briefing in London, said: "I spoke to him [Tony Blair] about the fight against doping and Wada [the World Anti-doping Agency] and talked to him about individual case management and that a very good example about how not to handle doping was the famous Rio Ferdinand case. It will go into our schooling books about how not to deal with it.

"The regulations of Fifa are very clear and are valid for all national organisations. If a player fails to attend a drugs test that player should be immediately suspended until the case is dealt with by the relevant authority. This was not done, and we were not informed at the beginning. Then it was too late to intervene - that's why we let it go. I felt I had to bring it to his [Blair's] attention, and he took note about it."

The Prime Minister raised the matter of London's 2012 Olympic bid, and Blatter, who cannot speak about the bid because he is an International Olympic Committee member, said in his role as head of world football that there would be no problem fielding a British team for the football tournament should London win. Blatter said there would be no threat to the four home nations' separate status within the sport.

Blatteralso revealed that the first step towards limiting the number of domestic matches will be put into motion at Fifa's congress in May. Blatter will seek a mandate for Fifa's strategic committee to look into the issue and report back to the 2005 congress. He believes 20 teams in a top-flight division is too many, but rather than impose a limit, the committee may recommend a maximum of 45 domestic matches in a season.

Blatter also had his say on the subject of the Fifa centenary match on 20 May, two days before the FA Cup final and the final weekend in many leagues across Europe. Blatter said it would be disrespectful to world football's governing body if the match between France and Brazil was to be affected by its proximity to domestic programmes.

Should Arsenal and Manchester United reach the FA Cup final, as many as eight of their players could be expected to play in the match, despite the proximity of the final. But Blatter was adamant that the clubs should respect his wishes. "Fifa's centenary is exceptional," he said. "The other competitions take place every year, and the centenary's date was known for a long time. If I was nasty I would say it's been known for a hundred years."

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