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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 11:48 GMT
FA calms Conference fears
England semi-professional team boss Paul Fairclough

The FA hopes that next week's England National Game XI under-23 friendly in Belgium can go ahead as planned.

The fixture is the first under the management of newly appointed England boss Paul Fairclough.

But it had been thrown into doubt after chairmen of the Conference clubs threatened to withdraw their players, who make up the 16-man squad.

The chairmen voted not to release players until certain assurances regarding insurance cover and players' safety had been given by the FA.

"It is about welfare, security, liability covering players and compensation to clubs should anything untoward happen to these players," Conference chief executive John Moules told BBC Sport Online.

They will have exactly the same insurance as David Beckham and Michael Owen

FA spokesman

"We are concerned not about them representing their country but about the welfare and well-being of the players."

However, the FA insists those matters have been taken into account and hopes that the clubs will soon be back on board.

FA spokesman Alex Stone said: "We hope that the issues outstanding can be resolved and that the fixture against Belgium, the first of its kind, will be able to take place.

"All players will be covered with the same schedule of benefits as all England squads. They will have exactly the same insurance as David Beckham and Michael Owen.

"In the event of an injury to a player, clubs will be fully compensated by the FA depending on the number of games they miss. Every possible safety net is in place for clubs."

Moules also raised concerns about players' security in the current political climate.

But the FA says that will also come into consideration.

"On a trip like this we would make sure there are adequate arrangements. On all trips, the safety and welfare of the players is of paramount importance," Stone added.

The FA is keen to promote international football at semi-professional level and believe that the players welcome the chance to represent their country.

Confirmation that next Tuesday's game in Ostend, against young players from clubs in Belgium's top two divisions, will go ahead is still to be received.

But there are already signs that some of the Conference clubs, including promotion rivals Yeovil, Doncaster and Halifax, are happy to let their players go.

Links to more Eng Conf stories are at the foot of the page.


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