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Four-goal Faris dreams of AFC Cup final

By ESPN Staff

Scudamore pragmatic over overseas expansion

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has told English fans to embrace the concept of domestic matches being played abroad or see their clubs overtaken by the rest of the world.

Scudamore has defended his organisation's controversial proposal to extend the season to 39 games from 2010-11, with a round of matches taking place overseas, and even hinted that the scheme could be expanded further if a space can be found in the calendar.

The idea of the country's top 20 sides heading off around the globe has divided football, with top-flight clubs in favour of the move and some supporters' groups up in arms over the issue.

But Scudamore argues it is a necessary step if the Barclays Premier League is to stay ahead of the likes of La Liga and Serie A as the most commercially successful domestic league on the planet.

'It allows us to grasp the globalisation nettle, which we cannot ignore,' he told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

'It is my duty not to ignore it. I would be criticised wholly if we let the league stray into the slow lane while others passed us in the fast lane.

'We have to do something. It is a strategic play.'

The plan currently envisages only one extra round of games hosted by five major cities across the world during one weekend in January.

But there are fears global success could lead to more overseas games being introduced.

Scudamore added: 'You can't sit here in the job I have and say never.

'We've said it is a six to 10-year deal and it will be three years before it starts. We think it is a 10-year play in terms of protecting our domestic position, because that's what it does.'

However, Scudamore admitted any expansion of the scheme would be hindered by the current fixture list.

He said: 'I don't envisage this being able to be expanded, not within the current structures. The calendar just would not allow it.

'We would be, by doing this, at the absolute limit in terms of being able to fit this into the calendar.'

Scudamore has also claimed that the proposal would protect the interests of the top flight's smaller clubs, as the bigger ones would end up doing it of their own accord in the end.

Only last month, Manchester United netted a reported £1million for playing a friendly in Saudi Arabia.

Scudamore said in the News of the World: 'If we don't do something that involves all 20 clubs, the world will not stand still.

'There are four or five clubs - I won't name them but you know who they are - who will go off and do this anyway.

'Whether that will be in the Middle East, as they have in the last month, or whether it will be off to wherever, they will go and fill the space.

'They will make £X out of it and the rest will make nought and it will create further imbalance in our league. If we don't do this, our big clubs will go off and do it to the exclusion of small clubs.'

He added: 'This plan limits a more radical future. By doing this, it limits more radical nonsense.'

It had been assumed the Premier League needed the permission of the game's world governing body if they are to move ahead with the proposal.

Under FIFA statutes, any competitive fixture played in a foreign territory needs the approval of the body's executive committee as well as the football association of the country in which the match is to be played.

But Scudamore hinted the Premier League would be within their rights to defy any FIFA edict prohibiting the plan.

'It needs sanctioning by our own FA and wherever we play it will need sanctioning by the local FA,' he said.

'There is no perfect hierarchy in football where FIFA can tell UEFA, who tell the Premier League what to do.'

Scudamore denied the move could lead to the abolition of promotion and relegation, describing such a notion as 'suicide''.

He also insisted there had been a 'torrent of offers' from cities eager to host matches, despite the likes of Japan and Australia indicating they were not keen on the idea.