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Fifa president Sepp Blatter
"Our target is to introduce order, discipline and respect in time for Fifa's 100th birthday in 2004"
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Fifa general secretary Michel Zen Rufinen
"The aim is to preserve the health of players and improve the tricky situation over release for international duty"
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The BBC's sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar
reports from Fifa HQ in Zurich
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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 17:41 GMT
Fifa approves global football calendar

Sepp Blatter: Wants a World Cup every two years
Football's ruling body has approved a dramatic overhaul of the worldwide calendar, which could mean a mandatory one-month mid-season break and a possible reduction in Premiership teams.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced on Thursday that the executive committee had agreed to introduce a new worldwide fixture framework by the year 2004.

"Each association will be able to organise their own competition as they wish but they will have to respect the framework which has been elaborated," said Blatter.

Fifa stopped short of ratifying the full plan - brainchild of former French international Michel Platini.

Pele, left, congratulates England's Bobby Moore at the 1970 World Cup
Pele is one of the big names to back Platini's plan
Instead the executive committee sanctioned a compromise in an attempt to appease the increasingly powerful top European clubs who wanted in the main to keep the status quo.

The new unified calendar will allow national leagues to play whenever they like, as long their seasons do not clash with international dates.

The 52-week calendar will be broken down into various blocks although no specific months were mentioned.

Four weeks will be reserved for holidays, four weeks for training and six weeks for continental championships or for the Fifa World Cup.

That leaves 38 weeks free for national, league and cup competition.

Those 38 weeks would have to include 16 dates for continental club competitions and 12 dates for national team matches, with four of those friendlies.

The effect will be a shortening of the English season which could mean Premiership teams playing more midweek matches unless numbers are reduced or cup replays abolished.

Platini: One of the greats
An extra 2 dates remain for arbitrary use.

Fifa also agreed to toughen its stance on banned steroid nandrolone in a bid to appease the International Olympic Committee.

Footballers who test positive will be banned, but only those found to breach the legal limits by some margin.

Those with concentrations just above the threshold will be investigated to find out if the drug has been produced naturally by the body.

In other doping issues, Fifa said it would begin a trial of out of competition testing at the upcoming Euro 2000 tournament.

Four teams will be drawn - one in each group - and will be tested sometime in the three-week period before the start of the tournament, until four days prior to the first kickoff.

Arsenal were highly reluctant to release Kanu for duty with Nigeria
On Wednesday Fifa agreed to modify the rules on the release of players for international duty.

The rules usually require teams to free players 14 days ahead of international tournaments.

But after pressure from European clubs, Fifa have reduced the period to ten days in an effort to limit the effect on teams who will already be engaged in domestic league action during this September's Sydney Olympics.

The new time-scale is still double the five-day period requested by the influential group of top European clubs, known as the G-14.

"It's a good compromise which allows clubs to keep players longer but allows players to adjust to a long trip," said said Fifa general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen.

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