Welsh FA under concerted attack

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The Independent Online
THE FA of Wales found itself under attack last night from four clubs facing important First Division fixtures tomorrow because it wants to withdraw players to ensure their fitness for the vital World Cup qualifying game against the Representation of Czech and Slovakian Republics next week, writes Trevor Haylett.

Leading the protests were promotion-seeking Portsmouth who had reluctantly agreed to bring the visit of Wolves forward to this Saturday, thereby forfeiting pounds 80,000 from ITV who wanted to show the game live the following day, because that way they thought they could guarantee Kit Symons's inclusion.

It was the understanding they thought they had reached with the Wales manager, Terry Yorath. However on Wednesday afternoon the FAW executive committee faxed all clubs concerned indicating it was invoking Uefa's six-day rule which permits countries to claim first call on the players from today onwards.

Also involved are Swindon, themselves closing on a play-off berth, who want Paul Bodin for their game at Notts County; Oxford (Andy Melville) who go to Barnsley fighting relegation and Derby (Mark Pembridge) who entertain Luton.

In each case the clubs are angry over what they say is a change of mind by Wales and the fact that they were given only 72 hours' notice. They called on the Football Association and the Football League to protest on their behalf and Fifa is expected today to rule in their favour.

A spokesman for the world governing body said: 'We are still waiting for a few documents about this protest but should be able to give a decision in the morning. If the English clubs are being harmed by Wales changing what they first said to them they must have a hearing.'

The wrangle has embarrassed Yorath while the reaction of Jim Smith, the Portsmouth manager, was one of rage. 'I'm annoyed because they have said one thing and then done another. If they had made a decision in the first place all this mess could have been avoided.

'We have upset a lot of people including the fans and the television company. We have lost money in TV rights and advertising and there's nothing we can do.

'If they had come to me last week and said there is no way Kit could play either on Saturday or Sunday, I would have had to say fair enough. But that's not what has happened.'

Yorath admitted: 'I made it clear I didn't want him playing in a Sunday match but I said Saturday would be all right. Then the FA of Wales held an emergency committee meeting which I wasn't party to. They have brought in the six-day rule and I can understand the clubs being upset but it is the committee's decision.'

There is sympathy for the Welsh, again fighting the odds to qualify. Suspension ruled out first-choice central defenders, Eric Young and Mark Aizlewood, for the game in Ostrava then Cardiff's Kevin Ratcliffe injured a hamstring on Tuesday.