FIFA threatens Spain with Euro 2008 expulsion

February 25, 2008

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Spain is threatened with possible expulsion from this year's European Championship because of the government's demands upon the national soccer federation.

"It's by no means an empty threat," William Gaillard, a spokesman for European soccer's governing body, told The Associated Press. "I think FIFA would sanction Spain if there is no agreement."

The Spanish government asked all sports federations not competing in this year's Olympics to hold elections before the Beijing Games in August. The Spanish soccer federation, however, doesn't end its four-year term until November.

"It's not up to a government to tell a federation when to hold elections," Gaillard said.

FIFA, soccer's ruling organization, can ban teams from international competition. It "is a very powerful weapon, so governments do give in," Gaillard said.

"FIFA has the utmost respect for national laws," FIFA said by e-mail. "But if you are a member of an organization, and you agree to adhere to its regulations, then you must do so."

FIFA also said it wouldn't let Spain off easy because it is among the best teams.

"We do not look at the ranking or status of a member association when determining if it should be suspended or not," FIFA said. "In 2006, the current European champion Greece was suspended."

Spain, ranked fourth, isn't the only country facing such problems, but it is the only one that could be suspended from June's continental championship in Austria and Switzerland.

"FIFA's rules regarding elections are 100 percent compatible with Spanish law and with its electoral processes," Spanish Sport Minister Jaime Lissavetzky said. "The truth is I don't see anything to the contrary."

This month, FIFA warned Albania it could be suspended, provisionally lifted a suspension against Kuwait, forced Turkey's government to accept independent soccer statutes and monitored elections for soccer officials in Iran, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Burkina Faso.

FIFA also said it was working with soccer officials to hold elections in the Central African Republic, Indonesia and Palestine, and resolved a government interference case in Peru. Other cases are pending in Cyprus, Dominica and Togo.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press