Editorial deadline for this issue: 19 February 1996


The opening weeks of 1996 have been largely consumed with the ongoing discussions of the consequences of the now famous Bosman Case, an issue which is of vital and far-reaching significance for our sport. The discussions between FIFA and UEFA and also involving the European Union and other interested parties are evolving so rapidly that it is impossible here to go into any specific detail for fear of being outdated by the time FIFA NEWS appears.

Nevertheless, some points are already abundantly clear, not least the solidarity that exists between FIFA and the confederations, in this case UEFA, also in times of difficulty. FIFA's main concern is to ensure that the same conditions shall apply throughout the entire football family, and that this community shall not be splintered into regional factions.

It is totally against the concept of international sport, a concept which has existed and flourished for a far longer period than the European Union, to adopt new supranational entities inspired purely by economic or political motives. FIFA is prepared to acknowledge the sovereign right of law-making bodies but is not willing to stand as idle observers while the fabric of our sport is dismantled with no evident understanding or feeling for its special nature.

At the same time, if the voice of football is to be imposed to protect its own interests, then it is even more essential that the game's authorities themselves coordinate their efforts and their opinions. And this can only be done at the level of FIFA, the confederations and the national associations. The interests of the clubs have always been protected by these bodies and will continue to be so, but the current uncertainty created by the Bosman case should not be taken as a pretext for even the wealthiest clubs to assume a leverage of power which is not theirs. Principles of solidarity must always be respected - in the interests of everybody.

Joseph S. Blatter
FIFA General Secretary

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The preliminary competition is due to kick off on 1 March for some of the 172 national associations that originally enrolled for the 1998 World Cup (cf. FIFA News 12/95 concerning the systems according to which the preliminary competition will be played in the various confederations and stages). As already announced, these matches will have to have finished by 16 November 1997 (and any remaining play-offs by 30 November 1997). For the first time ever, a number of dates have been reserved for the preliminary matches. The definite dates, venues, stadia and kick-off times must be announced to FIFA at least 3 months before the respective matches take place.

Two representatives from CONCACAF have just announced their withdrawal on the threshold of the start to the preliminary competition. The associations from Bermuda and the Bahamas informed FIFA at the end of January that they were unable to take part for financial reasons.

The World Cup Regulations stipulate that matches may only be staged in all-seater stadia. However, if only stadia combining seats and standing room are available, the standing area may not be used.

FIFA intends to be flexible on the issue of the height of the backrests of stadia seats. The FIFA Executive Committee took this decision at a meeting held in Paris last December. Circular 578 sent out on 23 January prescribes 30 cm as the standard measurement for backrests so as to provide comfortable support for the spectator's back and to avoid old-fashioned backrests of only 5 to 10 cm height being installed in future.

For existing stadia, FIFA will, for the time being, allow backrests that do not comply with the prescribed height of 30 cm. However, this measurement will have to be complied with for stadia currently under construction or undergoing renovation.

The fixtures for the final competition as deided by the FIFA Organising Committee are reproduced on page 4. Also see France '98 on FIFA On-Line.

The matches in the first round will be played from 1 January 1997 to 30 June 1997.

The games in the second round will be staged in October 1997. The 3rd round schedule is yet to be determined. Both play-offs between the winner from Oceania and the team coming fourth in Asia must have been contested by November 1997.


1st round
1st leg: 31 May, 1 or 2 June 1996 2nd leg: 14, 15 or 16 June 1996

The definite dates, venues, stadia and kick-off times must be notified to FIFA no later than 29 February 1996.

2nd round
Dates: - 8, 9 or 10 November 1996 - 10, 11 or 12 January 1997 - 4, 5 or 6 April 1997 - 25, 26 or 27 April 1997 - 6, 7 or 8 June 1997 - 15, 16 or 17 August 1997

Preliminary match calendar cf. FIFA News 12/95.

1st round

The matches will be played in March 1996.

2nd round
The games will be played between April and mid-May 1996.

3rd round
The matches will be contested between the middle of May and June 1996.

Central America
The games will be played between March and June 1996.

The matches will be played between September and December 1996.

Final round
The matches will be staged between February and April 1997 and between early September and 16 November 1997. Each team will play two games in February, two in March, one in April, one in September, two in October and two in November 1997.

The preliminary competition will be played between 1 March 1996 and 11 October 1997. Any play-offs to determine group winners or the final rankings will have to be contested by 19 October 1997.

To determine the best runner-up in the nine groups (after the group ranking has been completed) only the matches played against the teams coming top, third and fourth in each group will be taken into account. The following conditions apply:

  1. points gained in the matches against the teams coming top, third and fourth in the group;
  2. goal difference in these games;
  3. higher number of goals scored in these games;
  4. higher number of goals scored against these opponents in the away games;
  5. play-offs on neutral ground (on 19 October 1997).

Play-offs for the eight remaining runners-up

Melanesia group: tournament in 1996

Polynesia group: tournament in 1996

The games between the winner from the Polynesian Group and the runner-up from the Melanesian Group must be played by 15 February 1997. Play-offs against Oceania: see under Asia.

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Two important events will be taking place in Zurich in a few months' time. On 1 June the Executive Committee will be holding a special session to designate the host for the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Just one month later, on 3 and 4 July, the international football community will be gathering in Zurich for the 50th FIFA Congress. All these dates are listed in the FIFA CHRONO on the front page.

In addition to the Congress there will be two media briefings on Friday, 31 May and Saturday, 1 June after the Executive Commmittee meetings.

Friday:         09.00 h.        Executive Committee meeting 
                16.00 h.        media conference 
Saturday:       09.00 h.        2002 World Cup extraordinary
                                Executive Committee meeting 
                12.00 h.        media conference

As host broadcaster, Swiss Television DRS, will be providing the international signal for the media conference in connection with the 2002 World Cup host, television stations wishing to report on the event are requested to get in touch with DRS television, Ms Esther Schallberger (Telephone: 41-1/305 6557, Telefax: 41-1/305 6554).

The FIFA offices will not be open to media representatives on these two days owing to confined space. All media activities will therefore be taking place in the Dolder Grand Hotel where an office will be installed for the convenience of the members of the press.

Media representatives are requested to apply for accreditation for these two events (Designation of 2002 World Cup host and the Congress). Forms can be obtained from the FIFA Communications Division (telefax: 41-1/384 9696). Hotel reservations should be made well in advance. Contact the Zurich tourist information office for details:

Telephone 41-1/211 1131, Telefax 41-1/212 0141

If any further information is needed, the FIFA Communications Division will be glad to be of assistance.

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From 1997 onwards, referees and linesmen who are proposed by the national associations for inclusion in the FIFA International Lists for the first time must not have turned forty in the year they enrol. The associations were informed of this FIFA Referees' Committee decision in circular 579 on 23 January. The committee also recalled that international referees and linesmen may only wear the badges which correspond to their qualification and to the function they are exercising at the time.

The Referees' Committee was also concerned about the latest trends for celebrating goals, such as forming track chains, which can often cause undue timewasting. The committee reiterated its previous viewpoint that a reasonable degree of jubilation could be condoned but if players went too far and behaved unsportingly the referee would have to intervene.

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The Oceania Football Confederation, the youngest of the confederations, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The confederation was founded in 1966 and currently has ten national associations as full members and another four as associated members.

The anniversary celebrations will be held in conjunction with the congress in Auckland on 23 March, where the confederation is based.


The 1996 edition of the FIFA List of International Referees has been amended as follows:

  1. the two Norwegian lineswomen, Monica Harsvik (d.o.b. 17.4.69) and Lode Lisbeth Hoch (d.o.b. 31.8.67), have been accepted
  2. the two Pakistani referees, Awan Salahuddin and Qazi Mohammad Asif, are no longer active on account of age.

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