POSTED: June 5th 2009

Blatter heads off yet another London 2012 football row

Sepp Blatter: keeping change to a minimum /
Sepp Blatter: keeping change to a minimum /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Sepp Blatter appears to be close to resolving confusion over possible amendments to the rules and regulations governing football at the Olympic Games.

In Beijing last year the men’s tournament was restricted, as it has been since Atlanta in 1996, to players aged under-23 but with the option of using three over-age stars.

Very few managers took up the over-age option however and FIFA president Blatter told SportsFeatures that he would seek to have this clause scrapped by his executive and FIFA Congress. In that case the Olympic tournament would fall entirely within the FIFA competitive development strategy which also features world championships for under-17 and under-21 age teams.

After Beijing, however, the executive decided that the Olympic tournament would better be served by an age reduction to under-21 players. This was partly in response to pressure from European clubs upset at seeing regular first-teamers denied them at the start of their domestic league seasons.

However Blatter, always doubtful about lowering the age limit, has used the suggestion of IOC displeasure to maintain the status quo.

During FIFA Congress in Nassau, Bahamas, he said: “There have been declarations by some members of the IOC executive board that if we are going to lower the age limit again that we will be kicked out of Olympics.

Task force

"The IOC president Jacques Rogge has told me that will not be the case but we could suffer in another way: right now we have 28 teams involved, 16 men and 12 women and we could lose that privilege."

The likelihood is that a task force commissioned by the executive will confirm the sense of Blatter’s original idea merely to scrap the over-age players option.

This would come into effect at the London Games of 2012 at which football is expected to pull big crowds – particularly now that it has been confirmed that the Great Britain team will be made up of only local, English players without Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh involvement.

The proposed stadium line-up includes Hampden Park, Glasgow, the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, and Windsor Park, Belfast. However, this may well now be revised with only English grounds selected.

Also in Nassau, FIFA decided to study an admitted failure of its contentious player agents licensing system while also reporting a surplus of $184m in 2008 despite the global economic crisis. FIFA, however, is budgeting for a loss in 2010 because of staging costs from the World Cup finals in South Africa.

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Keywords · London 2012 · Blatter · FIFA · IOC · Rogge

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