Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has said he is still in favour of the contentious proposal to add a ‘39th game’ to the season, adding that he believes clubs in the top division of English football are also supportive of such a plan.
The prospect of an extra round of fixtures to be played overseas was first raised in 2008 but proved hugely controversial amongst the English football fraternity. Indeed, the response to the proposal saw Scudamore label the idea as “old-fashioned and passé” ahead of the 2011-12 season.
Speaking at the official launch of the 2014-15 campaign, Scudamore resurrected the topic. “The clubs wanted it then and they all would still probably want it now,” he told UK broadcaster the BBC. “It will happen at some point – whether it is on my watch, who knows?”
However, Scudamore concedes the current appetite for Premier League clubs playing in friendly games abroad may mean the prospect of competitive overseas fixtures would have little additional impact. The recent International Champions Cup attracted huge crowds in the US, most notably 109,000 at the University of Michigan’s ‘Big House’ stadium for Manchester United’s clash with Uefa Champions League holder Real Madrid.
“What has been interesting over the summer, particularly in the US, watching those audiences, you could argue that we don’t need to do it (bring in the 39th game),” Scudamore said. “To get 109,000 to what we would call a pre-season friendly – you wouldn’t get more even if there was three points, six points, or even nine points riding on that particular game.”
Scudamore has also defended the Premier League’s status amongst the world’s leading competitions, amidst growing claims from the Spanish Liga.
He added: “The fact of the matter is we have got the most competitive league. The way we distribute the TV rights to all the clubs, the way we make every club able to compete is very, very different to how they do it in other leagues – particularly in Spain. I would far rather have a league where we are talking about five, six, maybe seven teams that can possibly come and challenge to win the title. In Spain, it’s not quite the same in terms of strength in depth.”