The Premier League's plan to play 10 games abroad may have incensed football fans but for Sir Alex Ferguson it was the timing of the announcement that caused the Manchester United manager to lose his temper. He was so angry about the proposal being leaked that he even hinted yesterday that he "will not be here" by the time the plan is projected to come to fruition in 2011.
Ferguson lambasted the Premier League's decision to announce the plans before they had been discussed with players and managers and even had sharp words for his own club's chief executive, David Gill. In fact, it made Ferguson so angry that he inadvertently hinted at the prospect of his own retirement – "I'll not be here by that time I hope" – a subject that, even at 66, he normally refuses to discuss under any circumstances.
The controversial proposals to add a 39th game to the regular season and to play two games in each of the five host cities – starting in January 2011 – was, Ferguson said, a proposal that needed much greater discussion before it could be finalised. Among his managerial peers there were many who were supportive of the idea but Ferguson was more incensed at how it came to be leaked following Thursday's Premier League meeting.
"I'm not going into it all because I will just lose my temper," he said. "It is disrespectful not to be consulted. They're all blabbing down there, they cannot get out of their offices quick enough to tell their pals in the press. Bloody useless. David Gill said to me: 'We're going to discuss this before coming to a decision. Don't say anything about it.' I pick up the papers and it's all over them. Well done, David. A real secret – the whole world knows.
"If they are going to do these things they should have had discussions with managers and players before they come out with all this stuff and make an issue of it. These issues should be discussed internally by clubs before they come to this position we are now but until I speak to David Gill again I have nothing more to say about it."
Among the management fraternity there was a general support for the plans including those individuals who could not be described as on-message at the best of times. Roy Keane, the Sunderland manager, went as far as to describe the proposals as "great". Kevin Keegan, Steve Coppell and Gary Megson all backed the idea in principle as well, while Avram Grant also did not rule it out. Arsène Wenger said that such a move was "inevitable" but added that he had doubts about the logistics of playing a game in locations such as Los Angeles or Dubai.
Unlike the rest of the Big Four in English football, Wenger has resolutely opposed taking Arsenal abroad on lucrative summer tours of Asia and north America on the grounds that the travelling does not help his players. Yesterday he said that he was in favour of the "principle of innovation if the spirit of the game is respected" but in the proposal's current format he was "20 per cent for and 80 against because it is not concrete enough".
Wenger said: "Ten per cent of our fans [who live in Britain] can attend games, but 90 per cent [who live abroad] have no access. Do you want to give them something? I agree with the idea. Is this the best way to do it? That has to be checked. I'm not sure.
"One issue to sort out is that every team plays every team home and away. Now there is to be another game. It is an idea that is not completely respected. I like that people try to improve and promote the English game. You go for a European League or you say 'Let's make this league the strongest in the world, keep the tradition and add something innovative'. Or you'll be eaten by somebody else."
"Change is good sometimes," was Keane's take and he said that he thought the embattled Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, had "spoken brilliantly". Keane added: "They will look at a few proposals, they will do it properly – and it is three years away. But in terms of the bigger picture – and please God, we are in there with Sunderland – then it is progress and we should all be positive about it."
Keegan said that it would be tough on Newcastle's fans but thinks the idea should not simply be rejected because it broke with tradition. "The trouble with a lot of people is when something new comes in, they want to knock it," he said. "I can think of just as many reasons to say 'Wow, it's good'. It will give everybody in the world a chance to see [our game] where they don't get a chance to."
The Reading manager, Coppell, said that the Premier League should not be apologetic about the success of its league. "There is no point in shying away from saying that football is all about money because it is and the Premier League has been successful in acquiring money for its member clubs," he said. "So if their management thinks it is a good idea then fine."
Not all managers, however, welcomed the idea. Harry Redknapp likened the proposal to turning the league into a Harlem Globetrotters tour.
World game The global view
LA Galaxy general manager, Alexei Lalas: "It's great to pit our level against what is perceived as the world's greatest league. Teams have toured here for years, America is an emerging market, but the competition wasn't there so to see teams in meaningful games is great for the spectators."
Japanese FA vice-president Junji Ogura: "It's problematic. We are opposed to having Premier League games in Japan as we have to protect our league and clubs. In Japan, we don't let anyone play a match that involves only foreign and no Japanese clubs."
A La Liga spokesman said there are no plans to follow the Premier League's lead but added: "It is an idea that fits in with the notion of football as a global game – a sport without borders... Something like this is a sign that the sport is adapting to the time in which we live."
The head of Football Federation Australia, Ben Buckley, would be happy to discuss the idea but said: "FFA's overwhelming priority is to promote the Hyundai A-League and to continue to invest in, and grow, the game in Australia."
Hit, miss or maybe? Premier managers' verdicts
Arsène Wenger (Arsenal)
Martin O'Neill (Aston Villa)
Gary Megson (Bolton)
Avram Grant (Chelsea)
Rafael Benitez (Liverpool)
Kevin Keegan (Newcastle)
Steve Coppell (Reading)
Roy Keane (Sunderland)
David Moyes (Everton)
Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough)
Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth)
Steve Bruce (Wigan Athletic)
Alex McLeish (Birmingham)
Mark Hughes (Blackburn)
Paul Jewell (Derby)
Roy Hodgson (Fulham)
Sven Goran Eriksson (Manchester City)
Juande Ramos (Spurs)
Alan Curbishley (West Ham United)Reuse content