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FIFA and Europe Battle over League Size
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A possible clash between world football governing body FIFA and Europe's top leagues over plans to cut them to 18 clubs from next season was averted following a meeting on Thursday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter's idea was endorsed at a FIFA Congress in June and immediately sparked a row between Blatter and the major leagues in England, Spain and Italy.

However, after initially threatening a bitter battle over the issue, the leagues - represented by the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) - have decided to work with FIFA to find a solution after being told the decision was not binding.

"FIFA has stated that an imposition for leagues to reduce to 18 clubs does not exist," the EPFL said in a statement.

"It is rather an open discussion being considered by a FIFA task force within the context of a review of the international match calendar."

The EPFL added that they had accepted an offer by FIFA to have a representative on the task force for the first time.

Blatter attended the meeting in Zurich along with FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi. The EPFL was represented by its general manager Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros.

England, Spain, France and Italy all have 20 teams in their top divisions and Blatter believes a cut would free up more dates in the international calendar as well as reduce fixture congestion and the number of matches footballers would have to play.

The EPFL are in opposition as clubs in these divisions would lose revenue they would have generated from two home matches while there would also be less available for TV. The lower divisions in every country would also have to be expanded or re-configured.

FIFA believes that through its national associations it reserves the right to order the leagues how to organise themselves.

( September 8, 2006)

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