14 February 2008

“Is that that now, Mrs. That’s That?”

Fifa rejects Premier League plans

I actually agree with Sepp Blatter. That’s him and Michel Platini in the same week. Wow.

This doesn’t mean I’m starting a local chapter of the Blatter fan club, but even a broken clock’s right twice daily, and I’ll gladly recognize when it is.

"This does not take into consideration the fans of the clubs and it gives the impression that they just want to go on tour to make some money," Blatter said.

"This will never happen, at least as long as I am the president of Fifa."

You can’t make a more concrete statement. If you listen to the BBC interview, which I recommend, Blatter even says (although prompted by Bose’s question) that this could hurt England's 2018 World Cup chances. Now that’s a shot across the bow.

He then goes on to state (surprise, surprise!) that the issue absolutely falls under FIFA’s brief, and it doesn’t matter what the FA does, because FIFA’s executive committee isn’t going to approve it.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore had previously expressed his belief that Fifa could not stop the plan if the clubs receive the go-ahead from England's Football Association.

But Blatter rejected that claim.

"It is not true," he added. "Even if the FA did sanction it, all the national associations receiving these clubs would have to sanction it also. This will be very difficult.

"In addition to that, the Fifa executive committee will apply article two of the Fifa statutes: 'to prevent all methods or practices which might jeopardise the integrity of matches or competitions or give rise to abuse of association football'.

"This is abuse. The rich Premier League is trying to get richer and wants to expand the importance of that league."

I’m no legal scholar, but “abuse of association football” and “jeopardizing the integrity of competitions” could be challengeable grounds, but most likely grounds that would stand up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is where a case would go if it ever went that far.

I don’t doubt Scudamore’s desire for this plan to happen, but I do doubt the Premier League’s willingness to buck FIFA on this issue, especially if the FA’s not in complete agreement with their actions. I’m not even sure if the Premier League can appeal to CAS on its own; I believe the FA has to first take it up with FIFA’s appeal committee, and if they don’t like the verdict, then it goes to CAS.

And that the FA hasn’t publicly backed the idea (and seems to be doing all it can to stay mute during this debacle) says there’s probably not much support at Soho Square.

Plus, it's hard to see how they'd push a court case with the national associations where the proposed games would be played against it; the Australia and the Asian Federation have already condemned the plans, while the USSF agreed to abide by FIFA's ruling.

But where there’s a will there’s a way, especially when money’s behind it. It can't be dead just yet.

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