Premier League chief: foreigners stole football

Foreigners stole football

Eurosport

Speaking at a conference in Qatar, Richards (pictured, middle) launched a seemingly xenophobic rant in front of a shocked audience, whom he repeatedly told that England still "owns the game".

As his comments were reported across the world, Richards moved to apologise, saying he had intended to be light-hearted.

"England gave the world football. It gave the best legacy anyone could give. We gave them the game," said Richards.

"For 50 years, we owned the game … We were the governance of the game. We wrote the rules, designed the pitches and everything else.

"Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you’re liars and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA. Fifty years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more."

When FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan put it to Richards that China also had a claim to inventing football, he reacted angrily, saying:

“It started in Sheffield 150 years ago. We started the game and wrote the rules and took it the world. The Chinese may say they own it but the British own it and we gave it to the rest of the world.”

Richards is also an FA board member, and was part of England's 2018 World Cup bid team until November 2009.

His comments represent a major embarrassment for the English game, particularly in light of accusations of cultural arrogance that dogged the country's failed 2006 and 2018 World Cup bids.

The Premier League was quick to disassociate itself from the remarks, telling AP: "Sir Dave is attending the conference in a private and personal capacity and his comments in no way reflect the views of the Premier League."

Richards also urged the sale of alcoholic drinks at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the Islamic country's laws restrict the availability of alcohol.

He said: "In our country and in Germany, we have a culture. We call it, 'We would like to go for a pint', and that pint is a pint of beer.

"It is our culture as much as your culture [in Qatar] is not drinking. There has to be a happy medium.

"If you don't do something about it, you are starting to bury your head in the sand a little bit because it needs addressing.

"You might be better off saying don't come. But a World Cup without England, Germany, the Dutch, Danes and Scandinavians. It's unthinkable."

A farcical episode was completed when Richards slipped into a swimming pool at a post-conference function and had to be rescued by Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside.

AP also reported Richards' subsequent apology: "I sincerely regret [the comments] and any resulting negativity that may have been interpreted towards FIFA and UEFA.

"My comments on the heritage of the game were intended to be lighthearted."

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