Executive: Foreign EPL owners want no relegation
Some of the Premier League's foreign owners want to abolish the relegation and promotion system, a senior English football executive said Monday.
With half of the Premier League's 20 clubs under foreign ownership, League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan said many are keen on emulating the American system, where major leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL have no relegation.
''There are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League,'' Bevan said at the Professional Players Federation conference in London. ''If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen.''
Forcing through any change to the Premier League's rules requires the support of 14 of the 20 clubs, and The Football Association would still have to ratify the decision.
But Stoke chairman Peter Coates, one of just 10 English owners in the top flight, warned of the dangers of scrapping the ''lifeblood of our game.''
''I'd be horrified to think that was someone's long-term agenda,'' Coates told The Associated Press. ''Although it happens in America with franchises, our traditions are totally different ... it would be an absolutely unthinkable thing to happen if we wanted to try and close that particular (relegation) door. It would be so bad for the game and would do it immense damage.
''You'd take away the thing that's so important: the opportunity to go up and down which creates a mass amount of interest. There's as much interest in the relegation battle as the title battle.''
Coates said there was not a ''shred of evidence'' to support Bevan's comments, stressing: ''I don't know anything of this conspiracy.''
As a club that has only been in the Premier League since 2008, Stoke would be a prime candidate to back an end to relegation.
But Bevan said support was coming from the American and Asian owners. Arsenal, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester United and Sunderland are owned by Americans, while Blackburn is under Indian ownership and Queens Park Rangers has Malaysian backers.
United manager Alex Ferguson said he supported the current system that sees the three bottom clubs relegated each season from the top flight to the Championship, while three clubs are promoted from the second-tier to the Premier League.
''You may as well lock the doors (without relegation),'' said Ferguson, whose club is owned by the Glazer family. ''It would be absolute suicide for the rest of the teams in the country, particularly the Championship.''
The Villa board headed by Randy Lerner, who also owns NFL's Cleveland Browns, said in a statement that it was ''confused and surprised by Mr. Bevan's remarks.''
''If he intended this group to specifically include Aston Villa, as could be inferred by his comments, then we would ask him to confirm as much,'' the club's board said.
But Bevan said that ''particularly American owners without doubt'' have been looking at having a system without relegation.
''Obviously if I was an American owner and I owned a football club or I was an Indian owner I might be thinking I would like to see no promotion or relegation, my investment is going to be safer and my shares are going to go up in value,'' Bevan said.
The issue has not been publicly raised at a meeting of clubs since 2009 when Bolton chairman Phil Gartside proposed a 38-team Premier League split into two divisions.
Premier League owners also would meet opposition from Europe's football and political institutions if they tried to abolish the ability of lower-tier teams to rise into the elite.
Since becoming UEFA president in 2007, Michel Platini has made good relations with the 27-nation European Union a priority to help ensure that the EU protects football's right to govern its own affairs.
UEFA has highlighted promotion and relegation among its core values in the so-called ''European sports model.''
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.