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Deadline looms for Azeri teams

UEFA has warned Azerbaijani clubs that the new domestic championship must start by 15 October.

Lennart Johansson, the president of UEFA, has written to the Azerbaijan president, Heydar Aliyev, to inform him that the country's new domestic championship must start by 15 October or Azerbaijani teams risk being excluded from all UEFA club competitions in the 2003/04 season.

Breakaway league
Ten Azerbaijan clubs withdrew from the championship last season and formed a breakaway league citing corruption within the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA). However, UEFA refused to recognise the alternative league and the clubs were banned from any UEFA competitions for this season.

Satisfactory solution
To find a satisfactory solution to the problem, representatives of the AFFA, Azeri clubs, the Ministry of Youth and Tourism, FIFA and UEFA all met in Zürich on 20 September and the outcome was that the clubs would rejoin the league under the auspices of the AFFA. The participants also agreed to establish a specific working group in order to prepare new AFFA statutes and new competition regulations for 2003/04.

New president
FIFA and UEFA will also assist the AFFA in improving the quality of refereeing and supporting and monitoring the new working group. There will be an AFFA congress to approve the new statutes and after that a general assembly will take place to elect the new president of the AFFA as well as an executive committee. These events will take place before 15 January 2003.

Final date
UEFA originally gave the clubs a 15 September deadline to rejoin the league and has, therefore, felt the need to remind the parties involved that missing the new cut-off date will not be tolerated. "[The 15th September deadline] was not observed and this is the last and final date for resumption of the national championship," wrote Johansson.