The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blatter recommends fewer clubs in big championships

London: The world’s leading football championships should radically reduce the number of clubs so as to avoid a repeat of the tragic death of Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe, Fifa supremo Sepp Blatter has said.

Blatter said he would put his proposal to the Fifa Congress to be held in Doha in October, and if accepted, take it to the Fifa Centenary Congress in Paris in May 2004 for ratification.

Blatter acknowledged that if successful it would take time for the measures to be adopted, adding it was high time club football accepted that players were not machines.

“We must do something otherwise we will never get off this carousel of too much football with no holidays for the players, injuries and even deaths,” said Blatter, who attended the state funeral of Foe in Yaounde on Monday.

“The ideal number in a league should be 16, have 30 league matches and then Cup matches and international club matches on top.

“I will bring this up at the Congress in Doha where it can be discussed and then it shall be decided at the Paris Congress next year. If such a decision is taken I am sure everyone will abide by it, but it will not happen immediately, there needs to be time to adapt and it will take place step by step.”

Blatter’s proposal received a muted response from the FA — the Premier League has 20 teams in it at the moment.

“Clearly this is hypothetical and is not an issue of discussion at this time,” Blatter clarified.

Blatter also revealed on Wednesday that Britain could compete in the Olympic soccer finals for the first time since 1960 if London is awarded the 2012 Games.

Britain has not entered the Olympic soccer tournament since 1968 when it was knocked out by West Germany in the qualifying round.

The reason for its absence is a political one as Britain is not a member of soccer’s world governing body Fifa, although England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are all members as single entities. Since just one British team enters the Olympics in all sports, this has prevented it competing in the soccer competition as a unified team.

Blatter, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, said: “If the Games are staged in London, it would be good to have a British team.

“One way around the problem is if there was a mini qualifying tournament between the four (associations) with the winners taking part in the finals as Britain, whether it was the English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish team. That would not be a problem for Fifa.”

Another reason why the four British associations have declined Olympic entry for over 30 years is because of fears that other countries could force them to take part as one unified team in other, more senior, tournaments.

Blatter said, however: “The rights of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to compete as four separate countries are to be enshrined in a new Fifa statute in 2004.” (Agencies)

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