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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

FIFA to look at Premier League's overseas plans

BRUSSELS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The English Premier League's plans to stage a number of fixtures overseas are set to come under scrutiny from the game's ruling bodies FIFA and UEFA.

The league unveiled plans on Thursday to extend the season from 38 matches to 39 from 2010-2011, with an international round of fixtures involving all 20 clubs being played in January.

A spokesman for world body FIFA said: 'We are looking into it and will make our views known once we have looked at all the details.'

Senior sources within both FIFA and Europe's ruling body UEFA indicated they would look at the Premier League's proposals from a sporting perspective rather than an economic one.

'The statutes of FIFA are quite clear, so from a first glance it would seem the Premier League will find it difficult to get their way,' a senior FIFA source told Reuters.

'If this was to be allowed, it could open a whole new can of worms which would certainly change the goalposts for the international aspects of the game.'

FIFA statutes state: 'The Executive Committee shall be responsible for issuing provisions for organising international matches and competitions between Association teams and between League and/or club teams.

'No such match or competition shall take place without the prior permission of FIFA.'

A senior UEFA source said: 'This is no longer about football, it seems to be all about money.'

The source pointed to a previous case involving Belgium's Excelsior Mouscron in which UEFA had turned down their request to play a number of their games in France.

The refusal by UEFA to allow the Belgian club to play a UEFA Cup tie against FC Metz in 1999 was upheld by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, following an appeal to Brussels.

The UEFA source said: 'If Mouscron had been successful, they would have argued to play all their games in France. So this is likely to be seen as the precedent.

'UEFA based its decision on...the fact that every club must play its home match at its own ground, except in a number of very exceptional circumstances.'

In its official ruling, the EU executive said in a statement: 'The Commission considers that the 'at home' and 'away from home' rule and the exceptions to that rule is needed to ensure equality between clubs.'

Former London side Wimbledon, who later moved to Milton Keynes and became the MK Dons, had once toyed with the idea of playing a number of league games in Ireland.

The idea was given short shrift at the time by Ireland's FA, with the backing of UEFA, as Irish officials argued it would devalue local competitions.