Wednesday 26 October 2016

FIFA to intervene as Celtic and Dundee consider playing league match in America

Andy Newport

Published 24/11/2015 | 18:48

Dundee United's Robbie Muirhead in action with Celtic's Virgil van Dijk
Dundee United's Robbie Muirhead in action with Celtic's Virgil van Dijk

FIFA has warned Dundee and Celtic it might have the final say on their plans to host a Ladbrokes Premiership clash in the United States.

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Dundee's American owners Tim Keyes and John Nelms have raised the possibility of taking the Hoops Stateside.

Early talks with their Celtic counterparts have taken place, with both clubs keen to exploit the Parkhead side's large US faithful by staging a match in either Boston or Philadelphia.

An official request has not yet been lodged but the Scottish Professional Football League was quick to warn that it would have to give the green light for any game to be played overseas.

And now FIFA has also confirmed it could yet step in to rule on the plans.

In a statement given to Press Association Sport, the world game's governing body said: "In accordance with the FIFA Regulations Governing International Matches, any such match could only be played if approved by the member associations and confederations concerned.

"Further, according to art. 82.4 of the FIFA Statutes, FIFA may take in any case a final decision.

"For the time being we have not been contacted with regard to the specific proposal referred to and therefore we are not in a position to comment further."

Dundee's proposal is similar to the "Game 39" scheme discussed by English top-flight clubs in 2008 before it was ultimately dismissed after FIFA hinted it would not give the plan its backing.

The Dark Blues confirmed talks had taken place with Celtic but admitted their plans were still to be fleshed out.

A statement on the club's official website said: "We can confirm that Dundee Football Club and Celtic Football Club have had initial discussions about the possibility of playing a fixture in the United States of America. The proposal is very much is in its early stages and of course the relevant approvals would be sought from the SPFL Board at the appropriate time.

"As a club we are always looking to bring new ideas to the table and should this progress we firmly believe it will be a fantastic opportunity for Dundee, Celtic and Scottish Football as a whole.

"We will be making no further comment on this matter at this time."

But UEFA also warned both clubs they would face hurdles before they could start planning to cross the Atlantic.

A spokesperson for Europe's governing body added: "First and foremost this is a matter for the national associations concerned and for FIFA. But it must be remembered that the framework of the game worldwide is based on association football and the rules and boundaries which apply.

"As a result, clubs cannot simply choose which country they want to play in. There are rules in place and procedures which need to be respected."

However, the plan has been backed by Hoops fans in America.

Celtic have played a number of friendlies in North America and have been looking into the feasibility of starting a franchise in the North American Soccer League.

John Joe Devlin, chairman of the Philadelphia Celtic Supporters Club, told Press Association Sport: "If the NFL can take games to London I don't see why the SPFL can't allow a game to take place in the States.

"There is certainly enough support out here to make it worthwhile. I've seen Celtic play Manchester United and Real Madrid in friendlies over here and we probably had 35,000 to 40,000 fans there.

"I think the fact they're talking about playing a competitive match now means you'd definitely get people coming from all over the country. We get 3,000 people going to Vegas just for a convention, so that just shows you the reach the club has.

"Ever since the story came out everybody over here has been texting each other saying it would be great. I've had guys from as far off as Detroit and Florida on the phone all saying they hope it goes ahead."

Press Association

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