FIFA forms working group to review rules on staging regular season games in foreign markets

May 15 – Decades of footballing tradition could soon be scrapped with FIFA reviewing rules that currently block domestic league games being played overseas.

The FIFA Council has announced the formation of a working group that could overturn the current ban, likely to prompt a huge backlash from fans.

Last month, FIFA signalled a review of its stance as it withdrew from a court case brought by event promoters Relevent Sports in the US, following Relevent’s failed attempts to stage regular season La Liga games on American soil.

And now, FIFA is setting up a panel to look into sanctioning of “out of territory matches”.

If approved, the move could see major European leagues being allowed to play matches overseas – although it is likely such a move would face considerable opposition from fans who consider their domestic games sacrosanct.

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

A backtracking by FIFA over its ‘out-of-territory’ policy will be attractive to the growing number of international owners of European clubs, including the wave of US investors in the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1, as well as state-backed teams like Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City, Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain and Saudi-owned Newcastle.

How any new rules could kick in, however, is currently vague in terms of kick-off times and away day travel. The potential objection of fans to their teams’ home matches being moved thousands of miles away could possibly be FIFA’s ‘protection’ in terms of keeping leagues playing in their home countries, though it looks unlikely to have belt and braces protection within their own laws.

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