The Football Association yesterday remained resolutely non-committal to the Premier League's controversial plans to play a 39th game overseas in 2011 – despite claims some FA board members were "excited" by the prospect. The governing body is keeping its powder dry on the topic, well aware that for once the Premier League desperately needs its support.
The Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, put his proposals to the Professional Game Board yesterday – which is essentially the professional representatives who sit on the FA's main board. With them were Brian Barwick, the FA chief executive, and the new independent chairman, Lord Triesman. The pair did not lend their names to a subsequent statement from Lord Mawhinney who said that the 39th game proposals were "innovative and exciting".
Those in the meeting were representative of a variety of interests and typical of the crossover of power between the Premier League and the FA. David Gill (Manchester United chief executive), Phil Gartside (Bolton Wanderers chairman) and Sir Dave Richards (Premier League chairman) heard Scudamore's presentation at last week's Premier League meeting. Lord Mawhinney (Football League chairman) and David Sheepshanks (Ipswich Town) were there as the Football League representatives on the PGB.
However, Mawhinney's subsequent gushing statement – he "appreciated the strategic need for it [the proposal] to be explored comprehensively" – does not reflect the views of Barwick and Triesman. They are biding their time, well aware that Scudamore needs them on side.
As opposition mounts around the world to the proposals, Scudamore is pushing ahead with a criteria for the bidding cities. The likelihood is that five different cities will be selected to host two games over a weekend. Under consideration will not only be the infrastructure to host the matches but other factors, too.
It means that the millionaire footballers' holiday paradise of Dubai, for example, may be asked to relax its immigration laws preventing Israeli passport holders from entering if it wishes to be considered.