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Thu 14 Feb 2008 02:48 AM

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Premier League vows to press on with overseas plans

Controversial proposal for 'international round' will go ahead, insists Scudamore.

The man behind a plan to take English Premier League (EPL) matches around the world insisted on Wednesday that he remained on track to turn his controversial proposals into reality.

EPL chief executive Richard Scudamore has had to contend with a furious reaction from fans and the English media since he first outlined his scheme for an "international round" of top flight matches in five cities around the world from 2011.

There have also been signs that initial support from the current 20 clubs in the Premier League is beginning to waver in the face of opposition from UEFA, FIFA and governing bodies in Asia and Australia, who fear domestic leagues could be undermined.

But Scudamore insisted: "We're confident that we had the support of the 20 clubs and we still have the support of the 20 clubs.

"Everybody is in the same position. They want answers to some questions and they want to think through the implications for the competition. They want to know whether the whole thing stacks up and that's where we are."

The most controversial aspect of Scudamore's proposal is that the games played overseas will be an additional 39th match for each club, meaning some sides will play each other three times a season with some sort of draw - possibly involving seedings - deciding the additional fixtures.

This has an obvious balance to distort the league as a competition and Scudamore recognised that there was still a lot of talking to be done to come up with a way of organising the extra matches that would be acceptable to all.

"What we haven't talked about yet is the actual format of who will play who," Scudamore said. "We are not fixed on that at all.

"I have a cupboard full of models as to how it could and couldn't work. Fans can impact on things like that, on the basis of what is the fairest way. None of the solutions are entirely self-evident".

Middlesbrough chief executive Keith Lamb underlined the appeal of Scudamore's proposals by admitting that clubs like his could not afford to turn their noses up at the estimated five million pounds (ten million dollars) they will earn for playing one match a season overseas.

"It's not all about money, but it's not far off when you sit on my side of the table," reflected Lamb. "Everything is expensive and so if we can get another five million out of playing in a foreign country, it's a big help to us".

Australian football chiefs had earlier joined the AFC in expressing outright opposition to the EPL's scheme, raising serious doubts as to its feasibility.

AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam said on Tuesday that he feared the popularity of English football was 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.

Without AFC approval, English clubs will be unable to play in the Middle East but it remains to be seen whether the regional governing body would actually block matches from going ahead in the event of cities like Dubai or Hong Kong actually bidding for them.

World football's governing body, FIFA, also has the power to block the EPL's scheme, which its executive committee will review next month.

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