Fifa threat over youth tournament

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Leeds and Everton could be banned from playing League games during the World Youth Championships next month if they do not release players for the event.

Fifa have threatened to take action against both clubs and Benfica, who were all concerned about safety and medical facilities for the Nigeria tournament.

Leeds manager David O'Leary announced recently that he would not allow any of his players to take part in the tournament.


But Fifa general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen said that if clubs do not release players they risk being banned during the length of the championship.

Such a move could derail Leeds' hope of winning a place in Europe next season, while Everton's hopes of avoiding relegation could also be hit.

"The regulations of FIFA will be strictly applied," Zen-Ruffinen said.

"If a player is not freed by his club we will suspend him during the length of the championship. The clubs could also be suspended."

Fifa are determined that the international teams, including England and Portugal, send their best players. Wolves striker Robbie Keane is also expected to attend the tournament.

"If a national association reports to us that a club has withheld a player from competing we will take action," Zen-Ruffinen said.

Improved infrastructure

In a bid to allay fears, Fifa have put special medical provisions in place for the World Under-20 finals.

They include specially trained personnel, a dedicated telecommunications network and the provision of seriously injured or sick players to be evacuated abroad if necessary.

FIFA vice-president Jack Warner insists that the problems in Nigeria have been overstated.

"I've been to Nigeria seven times altogether and I have examined every detail. There is absolutely no cause for concern," Warner said.

It remains to be seen whether Fifa's warning will come into effect - particularly after FA technical director Howard Wilkinson's promise that Premiership clubs need not select regular first team players for the tournament.