Soccer body defies government after warning from FIFA

4th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish Football Federation voted on Monday against holding early elections, defying government pressure that FIFA had warned could cost Spain its place in the Euro 2008 tournament.

4 March 2008

MADRID - The Spanish Football Federation voted on Monday against holding early elections, defying government pressure that FIFA had warned could cost Spain its place in the Euro 2008 tournament and lead to Spanish teams being barred from the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

By 115 votes to 23, the federation's general assembly voted to hold the election to choose its president before 26 November when the current mandate expires, but not before 31 March as the Spanish government had demanded. Last week Spanish courts upheld the government's decision to demand that the federation hold elections well before the start of the Games in Beijing.

"There are going to be elections. The federation, the president and the board want to abide by the law but not by the way it has been interpreted, so we have rejected the government directive," Ángel María Villar, the president of the federation for the last 20 years, said.

Villar had been under pressure from FIFA, soccer's international governing body, not to bow to government demands on grounds that doing so would be a violation of FIFA rules that force federation presidents to serve full terms. If the Spanish Football Federation had gone along with the government's request, it would have put Spanish teams at risk of exclusion from international competitions, FIFA President Sepp Blatter warned last month.

"Spain would not be able to play at Euro 2008 and their clubs wouldn't continue in the Champions League or UEFA Cup," he said.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / JUAN JOSÉ MATEO 2008]

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