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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

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By ESPN Staff

Palios hits out at 39th step plans

Former Football Association chief executive Mark Palios has described the Premier League's proposed 'international round' of matches as 'a step too far'.

The plans have received little backing since they were first revealed two weeks ago and Manchester United chief executive David Gill is expected to tell today's FA board meeting his club are in opposition.

FA chairman Lord Triesman yesterday highlighted four areas of concern, including suggestions England's hopes of hosting the World Cup in 2018 could be damaged.

Palios, who endured a troubled 13 months at the FA from 2003 to 2004, told BBC Radio Five Live: 'Intuitively, I'm against it prima facie. At the moment, at one level we should have less football, not more.

'The players are getting used heavily and it's not surprising clubs want to use their assets but also I think anybody who knows the football scene knows unless it's worked through with other FAs, it was obviously going to cause concerns abroad.

'Having said that, the guardians of the clubs in the Premier League do have a responsibility and they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't look at the strategic issues that face them and try to address them.

'But so should the FA do their job, probably in this case more relevantly FIFA because they're looking after the wider interests of the game. They should police the commercialisation.

'For me personally it's a step too far, but it may be that they find some kind of compromise that isn't quite the 39th step as originally envisaged.'

Palios, 55, criticised the way the proposal was made public prior to consultation with FIFA or governing bodies around the world.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has condemned the plans and claimed they would never be given approval by his organisation.

'Maybe in this case it's the way this has been delivered,' said Palios. 'Based on the media reports, the way it has been delivered and communicated has caused the problem we're seeing.

'Football has a tremendously complex set of stakeholders. It does appear they weren't party to the process.

'One of the difficulties you have is when you try to do anything in football it's so high profile if it leaks out, but having said that clearly that's where the major concerns are with the likes of the Asian authorities.'

Palios praised the growth of the Premier League but echoed Blatter in calling for them to address the dominance of a small number of clubs.

'If you're talking about the Premier League as a commercial operation, I think they have done a fantastic job,' he said.

'They have had a free market in terms of television rights, and equally what they are trying to do here is to protect the international television rights, which have been very lucrative this time around.

'But one concern for the Premier League is there is not enough competition and, love him or hate him, Sepp Blatter did deliver one point, although he delivered it in a churlish way as a snipe at the Premier League, and that is the lack of competition.

'That is the lifeblood of sport and if you don't protect that you do have an issue. So for me that's a more strategic issue for the Premier League than whether or not the globalisation of the brand is possible to the extent they would like to see it.'

Palios also believes English football should focus its attentions on better coaching rather than limiting the number of foreign players.

Blatter is hoping to introduce a rule forcing clubs to field at least five home players in matches, although that is currently against European Union law.

There is a growing body of opinion linking England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 with the number of foreign players in the Barclays Premier League, but Palios does not agree.

He told: 'How many players do you need for an England squad, 30? And how many players have you got playing in the Premier League, acknowledged as the best league in the world?

'You may get difficulties with specialist positions such as goalkeeper but at the moment you probably have enough English players to fill a very good England side.

'The more difficult part of the solution is to address the coaching issues in this country. We need to train coaches to train kids.

'It isn't a question of just putting a National Football Centre in place because bricks and mortar never made a player. It's about coaching the coaches and that's something that takes a long time.

'In terms of looking at the numbers of foreign players, at this point in time I don't think it's an issue but it's something to keep an eye on.'