LONDON (AP) — Some of the Premier League's foreign owners want to abolish the relegation and promotion system, a senior English soccer executive said Monday.
With half the Premier League's 20 clubs under foreign ownership, League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan said many owners would like to emulate the American system, where the major professional sports leagues have no relegation. if more teams are sold to overseas investors they could force a dramatic change to the rules.
"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 any change requires support from 14 of the league's 20 clubs. Even then, The Football Association must approve. League rules state the FA's consent is needed for "the making and adoption of or any amendment to ... promotion to and relegation from the league."
"Certainly you'll find that with American owners and you'll find that with some of the Asian owners (they have been talking about scrapping relegation)," Bevan said on the sidelines of the conference.
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 in which the three bottom clubs drop from the top tier 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, was "confused and surprised" by 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 "particularly American owners without doubt" have been looking at 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."
Stoke chairman Peter Coates, one of just 10 English owners in the top tier, 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."
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.
If Premier League owners tried to abolish the ability of lower-tier teams to rise into the elite, they would meet opposition from Europe's soccer and political institutions. 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 soccer's right to govern its own affairs.
UEFA has highlighted promotion and relegation among its core values in the "European sports model."
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.