Spain on collision course with Fifa ahead of Euros

MADRID - Spain's participation in the Euro 2008 finals could be in jeopardy after a clash between the country's courts and the national football association threatened to lead to a row with Fifa.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) and its president Angel Maria Villar wanted to delay the next presidential elections despite demands from the government in December that all non-Olympic federations hold elections before the Beijing Olympics in August.

Spanish judicial sources said that the appeal by the RFEF was rejected because public interest demanded that the vote take place.

However, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has threatened that any unnecessary government interference in the administration of football in Spain could result in the exclusion of national teams and clubs from international competition.

Two weeks ago, the Spanish secretary of state for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky insisted that Fifa directives were compatible with Spanish law.

"I hope this will only be a debate and not develop into anything," Lissavetzky said.

Greece escaped a ban from international competition before the 2002 World Cup after Fifa expressed displeasure at government interference in footballing administrative issues.

"We respect everyone's opinion but I defend the sovereignty of Spain," insisted Lissavetzky. - Sapa-AFP