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Blatter drops sanctions hint on errant Spain

Paris: Fifa president Sepp Blatter has hinted that Spain may face sanctions for ignoring guidelines over the scheduling of this month’s Confederations Cup.

Leading players, including France playmaker Zinedine Zidane and Brazil striker Ronaldo, are missing the controversial tournament because their Spanish clubs have not finished their domestic season.

“There is still a league in Europe which is playing now and this is a lack of respect for the Fifa rules,” Blatter told a news conference on Tuesday. “This is also a lack of discipline from this league.

“The calendar voted by the Congress of the Fifa in 2000 and implemented since 2002 set specific dates for national teams from June 15 to the end of July.”

The Spanish championship is due to end on June 22, four days after the start of the Confederations Cup.

Asked if the Spanish federation could face sanctions, Blatter said the situation would be reviewed next week at a Fifa executive committee meeting.

“We will see what are the steps to take regarding the situation,” he said. “But obviously it does us no good. When I talked to the Spanish federation’s chairman he closed his ears, he closed his eyes and he closed his mouth.

“As for the absent players, I would say that they are wrong as we are going to have a great tournament here in France.”

The Confederations Cup has received heavy criticism from club coaches concerned that the players taking part will be denied a proper rest before the start of the new season. France, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Colombia, New Zealand, Cameroon and the United States are the teams in the tournament.

Blatter also said he was against the draft backed by some South American federations to extend the World Cup’s format from 32 to 36 nations.

“I would like someone to explain to me how we could deal with 36 teams in a fair and clear manner. We could not avoid having groups with only three teams in the first round of the championship.

“It would also create troubles for the broadcasting of the games. The number of 32 is so easy to divide by two that I don’t see any reason not to stick with it.”

Blatter said organisers of the 2006 World Cup in Germany want to stay with a 32-team set-up.

“On the top of it contracts have been signed for the next World Cup and we have to respect them,” he said. “If some federations feel wronged they have to discuss the matter with some others and see how they can handle the qualifying rounds.”

Blatter, re-elected in 2002, said he was not ruling out bidding for a third four-year term as Fifa chief.

“I was re-elected with 70 per cent of the votes,” he said. “Our financial situation is to be stabilised and there is still a lot of work to do regarding our organisation.

“I want to be able to hand my successor a Fifa in a cleaned up situation. So let me do my work and we will see when the time comes.”

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