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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK

Sport: Football

Monsoons threaten World Cup start date

Wet World Cup? Yokohama International stadium will stage the 2002 final

The 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea could be brought forward to May 23 - in a bid to avoid the worst of the region's monsoon season.

Gordon Taylor of the PFA: Sceptical about Fifa's planning
But the move would cause major problems for British football, with the tournament starting just as the English and Scottish domestic seasons come to an end.

World football's governing body Fifa is discussing the issue following the recent flooding problems in Asia.

The 2002 World Cup had been due to take place in June and July - but there are growing fears that the event could be washed out if it staged so late in the summer.

Even if England and Scotland do not qualify for the tournament, the scheduling would hit the preparations of teams with British-based players, with the cup finals due to take place at the same time.

Players' boss criticises planning

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, is worried about the impact of the change on his members and believes the problem should already have been resolved.

"It looks as though there's not been enough foresight," he said.

[ image: Fifa boss Sepp Blatter faces a headache over World Cup scheduling]
Fifa boss Sepp Blatter faces a headache over World Cup scheduling
"To even have the World Cup in separate countries was a political decision rather than a practical decision.

"They should be able to look at a particular country, sort out its facilities, sort out the practicalities and concentrate on that.

"It's becoming as unseemly as the bidding for the Olympics."

If the move is given the go-ahead, English and Scottish league administrators may be forced to start the 2001-2002 season earlier in the summer.

'No alternative'

The official start date has yet to be finalised, but observers of the region believe the debate is academic.

Michael Church, editor of The Asian Football News, says Fifa has no alternative but to begin the event in late May.

"I think if you try to hold a World Cup in Japan or Korea during June and particularly at the start of July you will all sorts of problems with the weather," he said.

"I was in Korea earlier in the week when it was hit by typhoon Olga. For four days straight it rained and the Korean All-Star match was washed out on Sunday.

"It just wouldn't be possible to play a World Cup in Korea or Japan in that kind of weather."

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