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Wed 27 Feb 2008 02:33 AM

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Premier League puts overseas plans on hold

Presentation to FIFA to be indefinitely postponed after fierce opposition from fans and authorities.

The English Premier League on Tuesday put plans to take matches around the world on hold, admitting they needed more time to develop a proposal that has provoked fierce opposition among fans and football authorities.

In a statement, the EPL announced that they had indefinitely postponed this week's planned presentation of their ideas to FIFA and admitted they would "need to conduct further internal studies and consultation" on the plan to play ten matches a season overseas from 2011.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who had been due to meet EPL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore on Thursday, has made it clear he vehemently opposes the plan, declaring earlier this month that it would "never happen as long as I am President of FIFA".

Blatter, who was infuriated that the Premier League clubs announced their intentions without seeking prior approval from the world governing body, had also made it clear that the EPL would be jeopardising England's chances of hosting the 2018 World Cup if they defied FIFA.

The proposal for clubs to play an extra, 39th, match each season in places like Hong Kong, Dubai or New York has also been opposed by the Asian Football Confederation, by England's own Football Association (FA) and by a string of influential figures including Liverpool and Manchester United managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez.

The scale of the opposition was acknowledged in the EPL's statement.

"The project is still very much in its infancy, was always subject to development, clarification and wide consulation and we remain disappointed that these facts and many others were lost when early opinions were formed by many without detailed knowledge," the statement said.

"Having consulted with FIFA, we have decided to delay our planned visit whilst we conduct further work prior to addressing them and their confederations formally".

It added: "There never has been a rush to conclude these matters and we are more than willing to take time to develop our proposals before seeking approval, without which it is not our intention to proceed”.

FIFA welcomed Tuesday's announcement by the EPL, which is bound to be interpreted in some quarters as an indication that the plan for overseas matches is effectively dead.

"FIFA is happy with this development and thanks the Premier League leadership for its constructive approach," the organisation said in a statement.

The plan for an international round of matches was revealed by the EPL after a meeting of executives at the league's 20 clubs on February 7.

At the time, Scudamore voiced his confidence that the clubs were all unanimously behind the proposal and that he had the backing of the FA.

But the scheme immediately sparked an angry reaction from fans organisations and, despite drawing support from the likes of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Everton's Australian midfielder Tim Cahill, the majority of players and managers who have expressed opinions have been unhappy with the idea of a 39th match.

The FA initially appeared relaxed about the proposal but the English governing body's stance soon hardened into outright opposition in the wake of Blatter's warnings about the implications for the 2018 World Cup bid.

Opposition to the proposal in Asia was underpinned by concerns that staging EPL games in the region would serve to further restrict the development of local leagues which are already hampered by the huge popularity of televised English matches.

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