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Mar 14, 2012

Richards launches rant at FIFA

Premier League chairman Dave Richards has launched a fearsome rant at UEFA and FIFA, who he has accused of stealing the game from the English and later apologised for 'any offence caused.'

Richards was speaking at a sports and security conference where he was sharing a panel with FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan and International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

The former Sheffield Wednesday chairman is also a member of the Football Association's board and fell into a fountain shortly after making his comments, which are sure to attract international attention.

"England gave the world football. It gave the best legacy anyone could give. We gave them the game," said Richards. "For 50 years, we owned the game. We were the governance of the game. We wrote the rules, designed the pitches and everything else.

"Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you're liars and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA. Fifty years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more."

Richards was reminded by Hussein that the origins of the game are still disputed, with China and England both laying claim to have invented it. But Richards was in no doubt.

He replied: "It started in Sheffield 150 years ago. We started the game and wrote the rules and took it the world. The Chinese may say they own it but the British own it and we gave it to the rest of the world."

The Premier League immediately disassociated themselves with Richards' comments saying: "Sir Dave is attending the conference in a private and personal capacity; his comments in no way reflect the views of the Premier League."

After Richards' had expressed his views Hussein made the point that football is now owned by the globe and not just an individual country, saying: "The point I'm trying to make is the whole world loves the sport and it is the most popular sport. We have to continue to work on developing it and obviously competing and helping our youth."

Richards was at the conference to talk about new frontiers in sport with the Premier League now truly a global competition that is watched by millions around the world.

Lorgat, who has been an advocate of taking cricket to new regions added: "This exchange could well have taken place in the cricket boardroom about who owns the game. It is less about ownership and more about of what is good for the game."

The Premier League chairman later apologised for any offence by the remarks he had intended to be ''lighthearted'' and said he would be writing to UEFA and FIFA to make that clear.

Richards said in a statement: ''Further to the comments I made earlier today at a conference in Doha I would like to apologise for any offence caused. It is important to clarify that I was expressing my personal views and not those of any organisation I represent.

''My comments on the heritage of the game were intended to be light-hearted. They clearly have not come across in that way and I sincerely regret making them and any resulting negativity that may have been interpreted towards FIFA and UEFA. I will be writing to both organisations in these terms.''

An eyewitness told the Press Association of the fountain incident: "It was quite a shallow pool but he fell into it face first, so his suit was completely soaked.''

He was with Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, who told BBC Sport later: "I was on the way to dinner with Sir Dave at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. We were walking across to our table in a dark courtyard area. There were three fountain areas nearby, no pool.

''They had switched off the lights. He thought he was stepping on to flat marble, but his foot went down into the water, he fell over and hurt his leg quite badly. Any suggestions he had a drink is nonsense. It's a dry place.''

Richards had his leg checked out in a Doha hospital before being released.

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