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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 26, 2008

Premier League delay '39' meeting with Blatter

The Premier League's plans for overseas matches have been effectively sent back to the drawing board, after they pulled out of a visit to FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Chief executive Richard Scudamore had planned to go to Zurich on Thursday to persuade Blatter of the merits of each club playing a 39th game in a foreign city. Blatter had already displayed vehement opposition to the '39th step' and now the League has decided to delay the visit indefinitely. FIFA believe the move signals that the proposals in their current form are now dead and that new plans will have to be produced if the controversial scheme is to be revived. The Premier League are adamant the idea is still alive but accept the proposals need to be 'developed' and that they will not push ahead without FIFA's approval. The decision will also prevent the controversy torpedoing the official launch of England's bid for the 2018 World Cup, which is expected at the end of next month. It should also go some way to restoring relations with Blatter, who had called the plans 'abuse' of football, and UEFA president Michel Platini - who had branded them 'crazy'. The Premier League said in a statement: 'Having consulted with FIFA, we have decided to delay our planned visit while we conduct further work before addressing them and their confederations formally. 'We sincerely believe that the Premier League has much to offer the development of the game internationally as witnessed by the many federations and leagues that currently seek our involvement and advice. 'There never has been a rush to conclude these matters, and we are more than willing to take time to develop our proposals further before seeking approval - without which it is not our intention to proceed.' Football Association chairman Lord Triesman, who revealed last week that the Football Association's board viewed the proposals as 'unsustainable', was due to accompany the visit to FIFA, who said it welcomed the Premier League's decision. A statement from the world governing body read: 'FIFA have been advised by the English Premier League that the league, accompanied by senior representatives of the English FA, does not seek a meeting with FIFA at this time to discuss the project of a 39th match day to be played abroad. 'FIFA welcome the Premier League's decision and initiative - which re-establishes the positive and constructive relations between the FA, the FA Premier League and world football's governing body.' Three weeks ago, Scudamore announced a year-long consultation process before the 20 clubs voted on a final proposal. It now looks as though entirely new proposals will be needed - and perhaps even put before FIFA before the proposal is even made public. The decision will also be welcomed by Manchester United and Liverpool, both of whom had expressed severe reservations about the overseas games.