Man Utd to deal blow to '39th step'?

February 20, 2008

Manchester United chief executive David Gill is expected to deliver a blow to the Premier League's proposal for overseas games by telling the Football Association board tomorrow that the club opposes the plans.

Gill is one of only three top-flight representatives on the FA board, so it will be an uphill struggle for Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards to persuade the other members to back the scheme for each club to play a 39th match in a foreign city.

The best the Premier League can hope for is to be given more time to develop their proposals, and it is thought that the Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney will argue the case for that course of action.

But with Gill in opposition, even that may be in doubt if the other board members - of whom half come from the amateur game - feel the plan on the table is unworkable.

In that case, the league will have little option but to go away and return with an entirely new concept of how to harness overseas interest.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore had a meeting today with his FA counterpart Brian Barwick, and FA chairman Lord Triesman, where he presented the plans in detail.

But the opposition within the FA has hardened over the past two weeks and Triesman has made it clear there are four hurdles for the league to overcome, and that if the objections are not dealt with the league will have to drop the idea.

These are ensuring there is no adverse impact on England's 2018 World Cup bid, that there is no impact on fixture congestion or the fortunes of the national team, that fans are not opposed to the move and that the format of the competition is fair.

Triesman said: 'So far we have not had sustainable answers to that.'

Gill is expected to tell the FA board that with the current plan, there is no chance of overcoming those hurdles. He may also point out that those in charge of Liverpool have the same view.

Scudamore hopes to fly to Zurich next week to persuade FIFA president Sepp Blatter of the benefits of the plan ahead of the March 14 FIFA executive committee which will look at the proposal.

Scudamore conceded yesterday for the first time that the idea will be dropped if it does not get the all-clear from FIFA and the FA.

Blatter has already reacted with clear hostility to the concept.