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CLUBS STEP UP OPPOSITION TO FIFA

Officials said on Tuesday that a letter backed by 10 of the continent’s leagues had been sent to FIFA president Sepp Blatter protesting about the eight-nation competition which has annoyed clubs because it comes in the middle of the season.

“As yet there has been no reply from FIFA or acknowledgement of the letter which is a bit disappointing,” English premier league spokesman Mike Lee said. “We have offered them a meeting (on the matter).”

The tournament, which was won by Brazil last year and is set for Mexico from January 8-20, clashes with league and cup action in England, Spain, France and Italy.

Although England and Italy, for example, are not competing, clubs like Juventus, Arsenal and Chelsea have French internationals in their ranks who are due to play.

Arsenal, who have Frenchman Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka in their squad, said on Tuesday that they were reluctant to release players.

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates, whose club has Frank Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly on its books, told London’s Evening Standard newspaper: “I think it is a waste of time and I will not be releasing my players for the Confederations Cup.

“And if FIFA try to impose sanctions they will be ignored. The tournament is another one they have dreamed up from nowhere. It’s got nothing to do with promoting football.”

The competition features world champions France, runners-up Brazil, Bolivia, United States, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and New Zealand.

Lee said the clubs were annoyed by the competition since it had been set up without consulting them. He said European governing body UEFA also backed their view that the event was unfair.

The letter was supported by the leagues from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, England and the Netherlands following a meeting at the end of last month.

It was sent directly to Blatter by English premier league chief Peter Leaver. A copy was also sent to UEFA president Lennart Johansson who was also invited to a meeting on the subject with Blatter.

“The Leagues resolved that any attempt by FIFA to impose sanctions on any club or player in respect of a refusal to release a player to play, or a refusal to participate in, the Confederations Cup would be resisted by all Leagues, ” he wrote.

“The Leagues fully supported the position of UEFA in relation to the Confederations Cup. No such competition should be organised or sanctioned by FIFA. The Leagues would be happy to meet with you, if you so wish.”

Belgian league director general Jean-Marie Philips said last month the cup had no special sporting value but was linked to commercial partnerships.

He noted clubs would also be forced to pay their players’ insurance fees for the trip to Mexico.

Reuters