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Fifa give green light to major change to Premier League fixtures

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FIFA are set to clear the way for Premier League games to be played outside England.

World chief had previously been fiercely against allowing domestic league matches to be played outside their “home” territories.

Prem chief Richard Masters says there are no plans to stage matches overseas

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Prem chief Richard Masters says there are no plans to stage matches overseasCredit: PA

But last month, Fifa signalled a change of stance as it withdrew from a court case between US Soccer chiefs and event promoters Relevent Sports over the federation blocking attempts to stage La Liga games on American soil.

And now, at its meeting in Bangkok, Fifa’s ruling council approved the establishment of a new working group expected to officially confirm backing for “out of territory matches” – which could see pressure on the Prem to play games abroad within a handful of years.

That would see major European leagues, including the Prem, being allowed to play matches overseas – although it is likely such a move would bring a huge backlash from fans.

And it would also clear the way for Uefa to stage its showpiece matches including the Champions League final in the USA.

Earlier this month, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters conceded Fifa’s court stance meant “the door looks more ajar for games in the US” although he insisted: “It’s not part of our current plans. It really isn’t.”

But Jon Miller, a senior executive at the Prem’s US broadcast partner NBC, went public to say he wanted to see “a couple of Premier League games open the season here in big stadiums on our opening weekend”.

And with more than half of Prem sides now under US ownership, the prospect of club chiefs pushing for the “door” to be smashed open appears increasingly likely.

The working group will be 10-15 strong and drawn from national associations, confederations, clubs, leagues, players, supporter groups and “private entities engaged in organising international matches or competitions”.

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It has been asked to consider a “revised legal framework” for Fifa to authorise matches played outside domestic territories – a clear indication of the direction of travel.

But the new group must consider 10 different aspects before asking Fifa to approve the change.

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They include addressing fan concerns over “fairness” and “missing the opportunity to attend a home or away match”, demanding “adequate provision” for supporters to be able to watch the game.

That could imply clubs and leagues being expected to fund supporter travel to games played abroad.

The working party must also weigh up the “potential impact on the balance of the competition” if every team no longer plays the same number of genuine “home” and “away” games.

It seems certain that “international” games would not be allowed to clash with domestic matches in the venue country, while there would be a cap or limit on the number of matches from any league or competition allowed to be played abroad.

Spain and Italy both played their Super Cup competitions in Saudi Arabia this season.

Uefa have promised they will NOT play major games outside Europe, with deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti vowing: “Supporters believe the final should be played in Europe and we will not do anything which would be seen by them as disrespectful.”

But Fifa’s new position is a game-changer in every sense and will see Prem leaders facing pressure from both sides of the debate.

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