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Wed 13 Feb 2008 07:45 AM

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AFC chief rejects Premier League expansion plan

Mohamed bin Hammam says plan to take matches overseas was 'not a good idea'.

Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed bin Hammam on Tuesday said the plan to take Premier League matches overseas was "not a good idea" and called for the proposals to be rejected.

The world's top football league has suggested adding one more round of fixtures to their schedule, with 10 games to be played at five different venues outside England from 2011.

Asian cities touted as possible venues include Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Melbourne, and Singapore.

While football's elite league is already hugely popular in the region, with fans flocking to watch the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool when they visit on pre-season tours, bin Hamman is unimpressed.

He fears that the popularity of English football is already acting as a barrier to the development of Asia's own leagues and national sides and said he would recommend his executive committee throw out the plans.

"I always welcome the exchange of knowledge and expertise between foreign football associations and clubs," he said in a statement emailed to newswire AFP.

"And I support matches organised between AFC and other confederations which benefit the development of our clubs here in Asia.

"But at the present time, I can't see the wisdom in the proposed plans.

"With relation to the overall principle, it is my belief that it is not a good idea to organise domestic leagues in other territories other than their own," he added.

"If this principle is accepted, then the FA Premier League must accept reciprocal arrangements within their own territory.

"Saying that, my recommendation to the AFC executive committee would be to reject any initiatives of this nature.

"And we would urge the AFC member associations to protect their own national leagues and clubs within their territories. This is our position."

English media and supporters groups have also flayed the proposals but influential figures within English football, including Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, have welcomed the initiative.

Bin Hammam's opposite number at UEFA, Michel Platini, described the plans as "comical".

Platini believes there is no chance of the sport's world governing body FIFA backing the plans when their executive committee meet on March 14 in Zurich.

"It's a strange and comical idea," the former France and Juventus playmaker said over the weekend.

"I was laughing. I laughed because it will never be received by FIFA, by the fans and by the national associations. It's a nonsense idea.

"Soon you will have in England no English presidents, you already have no English coach, you have no English players and maybe now you will have no clubs playing in England. It's a joke."

Nevertheless, English Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore has vowed to push on with the proposals.

The matches would help consolidate the popularity of English football around the globe and boost club revenues by increasing the value of broadcasting/new media rights and attracting new sponsors from the markets concerned.

The sale of overseas broadcasting rights is already the fastest-growing source of revenue for the league, particularly from armchair fans in Asia and the Middle East.

Scudamore estimated that the clubs could generate more than five million pounds ($10 million) each for their one trip.

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