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Foreign owners oppose relegation

League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan has warned some foreign owners of Premier League clubs want to scrap relegation from the top flight.

With the number of foreign owners increasing in recent years, Bevan is concerned their growing numbers could see them succeed in forcing through a vote to abolish relegation and promotion.

Bevan is hoping that can be prevented by the recent parliamentary inquiry into football governance, which recommended the Football Association adopts a licensing system for clubs.

Speaking at the Professional Players Federation conference in London, Bevan said: "Because there are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League. If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen.

"We're very keen that the recent DCMS report is successful in helping the FA get to a stage where they've got a licensing programme for clubs."

Relegation does not exist in some other sports and in some other nations. For instance, none of the major American sporting leagues use relegation, with fixed membership in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the minor leagues that serve as their feeder teams.

With the increasing number of American owners in the Premier League, it should come as no surprise that promotion and relegation could be under discussion.

Four of the five American ownership groups in the Premier League - those at Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa - also own sports teams competing in the American major leagues, and they are not used to the threat of relegation, and the huge financial losses that can follow.

Bevan added: "You'll find that with American owners and you'll find that with some of the Asian owners as well. If you look at sport all around the world and you look at sport owners trying to work out how to invest and make money, you'll find that most of them like the idea of franchises.

"If you take, particularly, American owners, without doubt there have been a number of them looking at possibly having more of a franchise situation. That would mean no promotion or relegation. That would obviously not be good news for English football.

"You need to make sure that the FA is strong enough to ensure that the principles on which our clubs are run, if I'm an owner coming in, I must recognise and embrace the history, the tradition, the supporters, the community, the philosophy of actually how this club should be operating and not deciding my club should be taken abroad or whatever.''

A formal licensing system would give the FA the power to prevent clubs operating in this country should they vote to abolish relegation and Bevan wants to see it come in.

''We want to see a more formalised licensing programme. It has to sit with the FA and, ultimately, it has to sit as well with FIFA and UEFA,'' he said. ''That has to be the pyramid and structure. The role that the FA play has to be a much stronger one than in the past. The RFU and the ECB and the FA are institutions. And institutions, when they're around successful businesspeople, often move a little bit slower. Government are important to help them.''

Even if a two thirds majority of Premier League clubs voted in favour of abolishing relegation, the move would still be unlikely to come about as the league's own rules dictate it would also require approval from the FA, which would expect to hear widespread opposition from the rest of the game.

The Premier League clubs have not formally discussed any such move since Bolton chairman Phil Gartside proposed his two-tiered structure two years ago, an idea soon dismissed and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is leading the opposition to Bevan's claims.

''I don't see where the end product comes in,'' said the Scot. ''There are at least eight teams in the Championship at the moment with great history. What do you say to those eight teams, they can never play in the Premier League? You may as well lock the doors. It would be absolute suicide for the rest of the teams in the country, particularly the Championship.''

As Ferguson pointed out, if the axe fell now, two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest would be out, along with Leeds and both Sheffield clubs.

''All these great teams are the nucleus of the Premier League many years ago,'' he said. ''The only place you can make money and realise your ambition is the Premier League. You can't take that away from clubs.''


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