ANYONE FOR AN EARLY KICK OFF?IN JULY?

Last updated : 05 December 2006 By Ed
From the Times

The most powerful man in football has revealed his solution to some of its biggest ills. Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, says that the beautiful game could be rejuvenated by turning it into a summer sport.

Instead of the traditional European season, from August to May, Blatter believes that it should run from February to November. This, he says, would help to harmonise the world calendar, with some of the Scandinavian and Eastern European leagues, which already shut down during the most severe months of the winter, coming into line.

“I've recently suggested to the clubs that they play through the summer and base the season on a calendar year,” the head of the world governing body told Kicker, the German sports magazine. “The idea is supported by the major European clubs.”

Blatter may be notorious for his unguarded, off-the-cuff comments and bizarre solutions to the sport's troubles — it was he who suggested that women footballers should wear tighter shorts and that goals should be enlarged to encourage more goalscoring — yet his attempt to unify the seasons around the world, however complex and upsetting to traditionalists, could at least go a long way towards resolving the age-old problem of club versus country. A lengthy winter break would create a three-month “window” in which to stage World Cup and European Championship qualifying ties.

“The season should run from the end of February to the end of November,” Blatter said. “Then there would be enough recovery time for the players and you could play three-week blocks of qualifiers.”

England's football authorities gave a cool response to the suggestion. “It is not something that would be welcomed by our clubs, fans or other sports,” a spokesman for the FA Premier League said. The Football Association mustered little enthusiasm. “It would not be appropriate to comment before we see any concrete proposals,” a spokesman said.

Positive responses were thin on the ground, with Blatter's claims that “the idea is supported by the major European clubs” appearing little more than a convenient soundbite. A senior English football source said: “And what about the finals of the World Cup and European Championship in June?”