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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 17:23 GMT
FA concerned over top-flight plan
Arsene Wenger
The idea of playing games at a neutral venue is not new to Wenger
The Football Association has told Fifa it has serious reservations over the Premier League's proposal to play additional top-flight games abroad.

It is the first official FA reaction since the Premier League floated its global plan to start in 2010-11.

The FA said it was worried the plan could damage its 2018 World Cup bid.

The FA said: "We don't want the Premier League's proposal to affect England's 2018 World Cup bid in any way. At this time, we do not believe it has."

The FA, which would need to approve the plan and is set to discuss the initiative on 21 February, added: "We did speak to Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke about this matter on Thursday.

I very strongly believe one of the outcomes of the FA board meeting could well be, 'right, we don't want any more of this'

5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar

"We explained that while we had received a verbal summary on the subject, at this time we aren't in possession of any detailed proposals from the Premier League to pass on to Fifa.

"It was also made clear to Fifa that the Football Association has some serious reservations about the proposal."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he was against the plans, but Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is still planning to discuss the proposals with world football's governing body.

But BBC 5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar believes the matter could now be over.

"When Sepp Blatter says, 'look, pursuing this isn't going to help you', that's a warning shot across the bows," said Farquhar.

"I very strongly believe one of the outcomes of the FA board meeting could well be, 'right, we don't want any more of this', and that could be the end of it."

Despite the FA's reservations, some aspects of the plan have won the support of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

He said: "First there is a desire to innovate and be the strongest league in the world and the second thing is to do something for the fans abroad."

The Football Association has worked extremely hard for several years to improve our relationships and standing with Fifa and Uefa

FA statement

Wenger experienced a similar plan to the Premier League's proposals during his time as a manager in Japan.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, he also cited the recent success of an NFL match at Wembley as a reason why it could work and said that people had been too quick to dismiss the idea.

"When I came to Japan in 1995 we had to play 20% of our games at a neutral ground," he added.

"At the start I thought it was completely crazy, but it worked tremendously well and games were sold out everywhere we played.

"Just look back, for example, at Wembley and everyone celebrated the Americans playing an American football game at Wembley.

"It was exactly the same idea. It's nothing different, which is why it is too early to speak against it."

But former Football Association chief executive David Davies says the Premier League's proposal is "unlikely to survive".

I think to play another game in another country is not right

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez

Davies told BBC Radio 5 Live: "The current plan, at least as described in the public domain, is very hard to sustain - it has taken a pounding.

"There wasn't a widespread consultation and the fireworks have gone off.

"The crux of the problem is can English football act as one, or will its sectional interests break off and go in their own way?"

Davies said he expected the Premier League to revise its proposals in the face of hostility from Blatter and football federations around the globe.

"As I understand it, the plan is a work in progress but there is a perception that it is more than that," he said.

"There is a team of people within the Premier League who will look at the plan with a view to making it more acceptable.

"But the basic point is if the national associations in Asia, Africa and North America don't want these games then they can put a stop to them."

BBC sports editor Mihir Bose

Davies added the Premier League could yet salvage its plan if it placed less emphasis on its commercial benefits.

"I believe there are people at the League who have more than just financial interests in all of this - they care about the future growth of football," he said.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has voiced his opposition to the overseas games plan, saying: "To play another game in another country is not right.

"You must play here in England with the same opportunities for every team."

The Football Supporters' Federation has launched a petition against the proposals on their website and are planning campaign meetings next week.

Mihir Bose blog
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