Tuesday, May 08, 2007

FIFA's Blatter tells Man United to move tour dates

The world football body FIFA has urged English Premier League club Manchester United to postpone its planned Asian tour in July, backing Asian Football Confederation Mohamed Bin Hammam's strong criticism of the club for scheduling a commercial program that clashes directly with the region's top tournament. Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Macau, which hope to host Manchester United, should select new dates that do not clash with the 7-29 July dates of the AFC Asian Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said. "It is legitimate to say you are welcome but please not at a time when we are playing, according to an international calendar accepted by the whole football family, our biggest competition in July here in Asia," Blatter said in a speech to the AFC's annual congress.

“The Asian Cup is on a date reserved for competitions for the confederations and they should also be respected by clubs who are touring in the same region where these competitions are taking place. I would personally appeal to the club, to the associations, but also to the organisers in the different countries. We have an opportunity for solidarity for football,” he said. "As president of FIFA, I appeal to your solidarity ... solidarity and respect are two things that go together," he said.

He also revealed he had been in contact with English Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson. “I had an opportunity to speak with him the other day when we met in Nyon and he said ’I will work on that’ but that it’s not so easy because this was an invitation by the Government (of Malaysia), not the federation,” said Blatter. “But we have a structure in FIFA and I told the Sports Minister here in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that when you organise a tour you have to go through the national association. They have to ratify such a match. They have to inform the confederation. For the clubs, FIFA’s okay is not necessary but I’m sure if such a case will be presented to the club, Manchester United, that the organisers of the tour will understand such a situation.”

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