Liverpool owner John Henry, who also owns baseball's Boston Red Sox, denied on Thursday that foreign owners in the English Premier League want to end the relegation and promotion system.
Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, said this week that some of the American and Asian owners of Premier League teams have been talking about scrapping the system that sends the bottom three teams to the second-tier Champions League.
But Henry called that "complete nonsense,'' telling The Associated Press it "hasn't been discussed.''
Half of the Premier League's 20 teams are foreign-owned. 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.
American sports leagues don't follow the European model that relegates the bottom teams in the standings and promotes the top teams from the minor leagues. Bevan warned that, if more teams are sold to overseas investors, they could force a change in the longstanding 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.''
A change would require support from 14 of the league's 20 clubs and approval by The Football Association; 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.'' It would also meet opposition from Europe's soccer and political institutions.
Other American-owned teams have also dismissed Bevan's claims.
United manager Alex Ferguson, whose club is owned by American Malcom Glazer and his family, said eliminating relegation "would be absolute suicide for the rest of the teams in the country, particularly the Championship.'' The Villa board headed by American Randy Lerner, who also owns NFL's Cleveland Browns, was "confused and surprised'' by Bevan's remarks.
But Bevan said "particularly American owners without doubt'' have been looking at a system without relegation.
Welcome to the RSL Cup blog
I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.