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English Premier League plans to go overseas
February 08, 2008 08:13 IST
England's [Images] top 20 clubs could be playing league matches overseas from the 2010-11 season after all agreed to examine a proposal released by the Premier League on Thursday.
The new 'International Round' of fixtures, to be staged over one weekend in January in cities that had bid for the host rights, would extend the league season to 39 matches per club from 38.
"This is a huge strategic move, it's as big a strategic move that the League has made since it started," chief executive Richard Scudamore told a news briefing.
"It makes the idea of putting a few games on pay-per-view nine years ago look relatively small compared with the idea of taking a whole round and playing it internationally."
He said the proposal, with a final decision on whether to proceed expected in January 2009, was for five chosen cities to each host two of the matches -- one on the Saturday and the other on Sunday.
The cities would be spread geographically in different time zones to allow British television viewers the possibility of watching all 10 games from Saturday morning onwards.
"There will be no club influence that will determine which host city they go to," said Scudamore, who recognised that there would be major issues to address with an already crowded calendar and sanctioning bodies.
"The current plan envisages that they (the host cities) will take the games they are given."
Senior sources within world ruling body FIFA, who confirmed they had received a proposal from the Premier League late on Thursday, and Europe's UEFA expressed concern.
"The statutes of FIFA are quite clear, so from a first glance it would seem the Premier League will find it difficult to get their way," a senior FIFA source told Reuters.
"If this was to be allowed, it could open a whole new can of worms which would certainly change the goalposts for the international aspects of the game."
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, called the plan "pure greed" while Andy Burnham, Britain's secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, said it raised serious issues about the "integrity of the game".
Scudamore suggested fans would not lose out from the proposal and, with several of the Premier League clubs in foreign hands, denied pressure from the new overseas owners.
"We are excited about it, the clubs are excited about it," he said. "We have been wrestling with how one might do something internationally for some time.
"We have been inundated in the last five years...and certainly in the last 18 months with a whole host of proposals.
"We set ourselves some key principles and the primary one was that this had to be for all clubs...because that plays to the collective strength of the Premier League and allows every club to benefit."
Scudamore said there was no question of any of the existing 380 league matches being played anywhere else, with all clubs certain to play each other at home and away.
"This proposal as currently drafted doesn't detract at all from the home and away symmetry, what you currently get for your season ticket," he said.
"This is taking nothing away, this is adding."
The chief executive said the Premier League had to face up to the increasing globalisation of the game, and raised the scenario of another league getting in first with the idea.
"If we are going to move this league forwards, we have to do something because standing still doesn't work," he said
Scudamore said the "International Round" would never be the first or last game of the season, there would be no attempt to expand beyond 39 matches and the Premier League would only go to countries where it was welcome.
"We want this to shore up our domestic competition, not to transition our domestic competition into the international arena," he said.
Scudamore said no bid cities had been agreed as yet.
Asked about potential problems some players might face, such as Liverpool's Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun being allowed into Middle Eastern countries, Scudamore said bid cities would have to guarantee entry to all.
"It won't be just the financial criteria that will decide it," he said.