Hammam opposes EPL plan

Kuala Lumpur, February 13:

Asia’s highest-ranking soccer official opposes plans by England’s Premier League (EPL) to hold an “international round” each January from the 2010-11 season.

Cities including Beijing, Melbourne and Hong Kong have been floated as potential venues for the international round. Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam said his organization’s priority was the promotion and protection of club competitions in the 46 member nations across the continent.

“I always welcome the exchange of knowledge and expertise between foreign football associations and clubs, and support matches organized between AFC and other Confederations, but I can’t see the wisdom in the proposed plans,” he said.

Bin Hammam said the principle of playing a full round of the Premier League abroad was wrong and he would be recommending to the AFC executive committee and member associations to “reject any such initiatives.”

“With relation to the overall principle, it is my belief that it is not a good idea to organize domestic leagues in other territories other than their own,” he said. “If this principle is accepted, then the they must accept reciprocal arrangements within their own territory.”

The Premier League is televised live in Asia and clubs such as Manchester United have a massive following in the region. The wide popularity has led to an increase in the number of pre- and post-season tours to Asia by some of Europe’s biggest clubs.