FIFA have given Wales their backing in the latest club versus country row ahead of the forthcoming EURO 2004 qualifier in Azerbaijan.
There has been consternation among certain Premier League clubs about Mark Hughes’ insistence on players being released from club duty four days ahead of the match.
Birmingham City for one, had complained about the FA of Wales decision to force Robbie Savage out of the St Andrews club’s match with Fulham on the Sunday before the Azerbaijan match. Other players involved in the dispute include, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, Everton’s Mark Pembridge,Fulham’s Andy Melville and in Scotland, Celtic’s John Hartson.
Ordinarily, the players would be able to play for their club sides on Saturday before reporting for international duty the following day, but due to a round of European club fixtures in the preceding week, the games have been put back 24 hours to the Sunday.
But FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot stated: ‘The date, November 20, is set aside for international fixtures.
‘If the Wales game had been a friendly they would only have been able to ask for their players 48 hours before the game. But the match is a competitive one in the European Championship.
‘That means the ruling is that Wales can have their players four days beforehand.
‘It is as simple as that, full stop, and clear in our regulations.
‘Why should we send out anything further in writing when it is already clear in our rules?’
Wales boss Mark Hughes admitted he was frustrated that the issue had taken so long to resolve.
‘It is disappointing that there are still problems about this several months down the line from fixing the game,’ said Hughes.
‘The question has arisen because of the different interpretation of the rules for a friendly or a competitive international.
‘It would be nice to have known one way or the other so everyone can plan accordingly.
‘The people who have been suffering are the players, they are in the middle and they need to be able to get things clear in their heads so that they can plan for the match.
‘I don’t think this looks bad for the FAW. We have checked with FIFA and been advised accordingly, they have come back to us and told us we are okay to ask for our players four days before the game.
‘Then we hear from Birmingham that things might not be as we thought. There should have been clarification, clubs need to plan with or without players, and so do we.’
‘I want to get my best side out on the pitch and this will at least give us some kind of guarantee that the spine of the team would be intact.’
Meanwhile, Hughes named his squad which, unsuroprisingly, is unchanged after last month’s impressive win over Italy.