BBC BLOGS - Mihir Bose
« Previous | Main | Next »

What next for the Premier League?

Post categories:

Mihir Bose | 13:02 UK time, Friday, 15 February 2008

Fifa president Sepp Blatter's decision to break his silence on the Premier League’s plans for playing matches overseas may have been sudden - but it was telling.

When I spoke to him on Thursday it was in a hurriedly-arranged telephone call, but there was no mistaking the clarity and decisiveness with which he made clear that these plans would never be sanctioned by Fifa.

He added "as long as he is president" almost as an aside, but since he has no intention of retiring any time soon, that could be a very long time.

His other key comment was that the proposal would not help England's chances of staging the 2018 World Cup.

The Premier League's response to all this has been muted.


Officials are still seeking to go to Zurich to talk to Fifa and these talks may be held soon - but the way they have been organised is revealing.

Initially, after Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, sought a meeting, Fifa made it clear the request must come via the Football Association.

Then Scudamore reminded Fifa he was a member of its strategic committee and therefore part of its football family.

Fifa agreed he could come along but have told me it must be with a representative of the FA.

This is not just protocol. It is Fifa seeking to ensure everyone recognises that it is national associations and confederations that decide international matters. Clubs and leagues must come through national associations when they approach Fifa.

And this is where the Premier League has hit a massive stumbling block.

Its proposals were intended to help its clubs and make sure the global brand of the Premier League is protected and promoted.

But in order to do so, the plan requires them to play matches abroad and for that they require international permission.

The Premier League is understood to have had legal advice that it does not need Fifa's permission.

But Fifa disagrees and to challenge that, the Premier League would have to take Fifa to court, a step that would infuriate Fifa, and certainly not please the FA either.

There is no doubt that in the last few days, the FA has been working closely with Fifa and would not like to do anything that angers the international body.

It cannot afford to do that - it wants to host the 2018 World Cup - and it would be political suicide to take on Fifa on behalf of the Premier League.

It could be asked why does the Premier league not just go and find a friendly city or cities and play its matches?

It cannot because the Premier League is part of a trade body. At the top of that body in this country is the FA. The FA licenses the Premier League, and its matches are played only as a result of this licence. It was the FA that sanctioned the creation of the Premier League in 1992.

The granting of the licence is a formality – nevertheless, the FA has the right to deny a licence to the Premier League.

At the top of the international body is Fifa to which the FA belongs. The FA also has a "golden share" in the Premier League and could, if it chose, intervene although it would be exceptional if it did so.

So where does the Premier League go from here?


To answer that we need to understand why the Premier League decided to explore overseas matches.

The League is immensely successful and sport’s greatest global brand, but it is a lopsided league.

For several years now only three clubs have had a realistic chance of winning the title - Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

In the early 90s when the Premier league was formed by the old First Division breaking away from the Football League and with the blessing of the FA,which had to sanction it, there was a top five of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton.

Tottenham and Everton have since dropped out of the "big time", and Chelsea have replaced Liverpool in the top three.

This concentration of wealth has meant that there are a host of clubs in the Premier League that are day by day, season by season, getting poorer compared to Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

The big three can go abroad to make money at any time and often do.

The league’s proposals are aimed at helping the smaller Premier League clubs and giving them the chance to savour and benefit from the global brand the league has become.

But now it seems Fifa has killed the proposal stone dead.

If, as looks likely this does not happen, then it will be a rare occasion when a Scudamore initiative has not worked.

Scudamore’s decision to initiate the Quest inquiry into transfers made him unpopular with several clubs and there were murmurings then that some of them might like him to go. In general, however, clubs are very supportive of the chief executive.

It is interesting that the Premier League in its briefings has highlighted that by the story breaking first on the BBC it had effected the way it wanted to present the plans.

But what I had done was reveal the story a couple of hours before their scheduled news conference later that day, the news would have come out anyway, happily though I was able to confirm the details with my contacts and break the story.

When the plans were announced a highly placed official told me it must mean Scudamore is staying on at the Premier League.

If the overseas plan is dead, will it mean the most successful football administrator of our time will seek new pastures?

That might well be the next thing to watch out for.

More from this blog...

Topical posts on this blog



These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.