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Premier League and British government in battle to prevent Euro takeover

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/...r-Football.html

 

The British government will move next week to block French plans to pass control of English professional sport, including Premier League football and Premiership rugby, to a pan-European sports "super regulator".

 

European sports ministers will meet in Biarritz next week to discuss plans, proposed by the French presidency of the European Union, that would see domestic governing bodies lose control over financial regulation, transfer policy and the training of young players.

 

The French plan, driven by Bernard Laporte, the sports minister and former national rugby union coach, is to establish European administrators for major team sports based on the all-powerful French football regulator La Direction Nationale de Controle de Gestion (DNCG).

 

The proposals could also see sport granted an exemption from large sections of European law, a move that according to officials would open a Pandora's box of issues for the commission.

 

In football that would see Uefa assume many of the powers presently held by the Football Association and the Premier League, while in rugby power could shift from the Home Unions to the little-known Association Europeenne de Rugby.

 

Laporte will meet with his British counterpart Gerry Sutcliffe, next Tuesday to discuss the proposals but Telegraph Sport understands he is unlikely to win support for the plans.

 

Sutcliffe and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham share some of the French concerns over the destabilising effect of financial imbalances in football in particular, but will oppose any move to shift regulation of sport away from domestic governing bodies. They would also oppose and moves to offer sport a blanket opt-out of European law.

 

The French proposal has the support of Michel Platini, the Uefa president and former French football captain who has been openly hostile to the huge wealth of the Premier League and the massive debt levels carried by Manchester United and Chelsea – last seasons Champions League finalists owe a combined £1.2 billion. Earlier this season Platini also suggested that the proliferation of foreign owners and overseas players in the Premier League amounted to cheating.

 

If accepted the plans would have a devastating effect on the Premier League, which has become the richest league in the world and an international success largely because of the light-touch regulation of its clubs.

 

That success has led to huge financial imbalance however, with the clubs at the top of the league regularly competing in European competition enjoying turnover well in excess of their rivals. It has also seen English clubs dominate European competition, with at least one of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United appearing in the last four Champions League finals.

 

It is this perceived "competitive imbalance" that the French proposal intends to curb, but it will meet with implacable opposition from the Premier League, which has been lobbying hard to prevent the plans being accepted.

 

Football is not the only sport that would be affected, and British rugby and cricket authorities are watching developments closely.

 

If the French proposals are accepted next week they will be included on the agenda for the Council of Ministers meeting at the end of the year, raising the prospect that sport's regulation could become a bargaining chip in horse-trading over weightier issues among heads of state.

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