Just 24 hours after the English Premier League’s plans to host competitive matches overseas were revealed, they have been given an icy reception by Europe’s governing body UEFA. It was widely reported that England’s top division intends to explore the idea of hosting a regular round of matches overseas and capitalize further on its popularity in places like the Far East and the United States. The Premier League proposed something similar in 2008, but saw its idea for a “39th game” met by opposition from UEFA, FIFA and supporters’ groups. UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino suggested that landscape has not altered in the last six years.
“Let's see what the position of UEFA is,” he said at the Leaders in Sport Conference in London, reports the BBC. “But I don't think it will change, it will have to be discussed. These kinds of ideas and proposals are on the table every now and then and have to be discussed every now and then.
“But today already we have some associations who play their Super Cup in Asia so this is part of this wish to export European national football. Now we have to bear in mind that we have a pyramid in place. World governing body Fifa, the Confederations, the national associations, leagues and so on. Whenever these kind of things are discussed we have to act in a responsible way, within the rules that we've all agreed.”
Premier League teams have long played friendly matches in every corner of the globe during the off-season, but playing a competitive fixture abroad would be unprecedented. While UEFA wouldn’t have jurisdiction over matches played outside of Europe, the Premier League would need the approval of the host confederation and country as well as world governing body FIFA. That, too, currently appears a sizable obstacle.
“My personal opinion is that this is a very dangerous precedent and I am not in favor,” FIFA executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe told Reuters. “I understand the reasons why they would like to do it, they are financial I suppose, but if you start doing that, where does it end?
“If there is one thing I have learned in my 40 years as president of the Belgium Football Association you must be afraid of the word 'precedent.' If you do something special for one why refuse it for someone else. If it would be my decision at FIFA, I would not allow it.”