July 20, 2017 / 5:59 AM / in a year

Premier League 'Game 39' idea dead, says Scudamore

HONG KONG (Reuters) - England’s top clubs remain keen to play competitive matches abroad but the idea of a putting on a dedicated additional round of fixtures outside the country is dead, Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore conceded on Thursday.

Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League, listens during a news conference after attending the World Leagues Forum in Mexico City, Mexico May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero/Files

Dubbed ‘Game 39’, Scudamore’s proposal to play an extra series of matches outside the league’s traditional base was widely panned when it was proposed back in 2008.

While clubs remain interested in the concept, Scudamore believes it would just be impossible, politically and logistically, to accommodate an international round.

“Is there still a burning desire to do it? The clubs would like to do it. But we’re also realistic that until the fan reaction or the political reaction or the general media reaction is more warm towards it, it’s not going to happen,” Scudamore told a small group of journalists in Hong Kong.

“If it did happen it would never be a 39th game. It wouldn’t be an extra game, but I think there would still be a desire to do a round of fixtures internationally.

“But there is no prospect of it happening any time soon or in anybody’s realistic time frame. We have got no time for it.

“I’m a man of belief and I believe it was a good idea to try to do it then and I still believe it’s a good idea to do it now, but I understand that it’s unacceptable.”

Scudamore said the original suggestion was a genuine proposal and not just an attempt to stimulate debate within the English game. “It was about wanting to do it,” he said. “I put my neck out there and I said I think we should do this. I thought it was the right thing to do and I still do. I just think it would be an unbelievable thing to do, but it’s not going to happen.”

The success of the Premier League Asia Trophy pre-season tournament played a key role in stimulating the debate over international round of fixtures.

Original plans had been to play half matches in this year’s version in China - with Shanghai or Shenzhen the intended venue - but logistical issues meant Hong Kong was called upon to host the entire event for the fourth time.

Despite missing out on a return to the mainland, having previously played the tournament in Beijing in 2009, Scudamore is taking considerable interest in what is going on in Chinese football.

“There isn’t a business in the world, including ours, that hasn’t looked enviously at the opportunities it creates,” he said.

“But just as exciting for China is their own commitment, from President Xi all the way down. He has set himself a target of being a football power by 2050.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see how Chinese football develops. Most importantly they’re investing hugely in grassroots, hugely in infrastructure, in coaching.

“You can’t just come along and implement something at the very top end because it’s unsustainable really just to do that.”

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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