YOKOHAMA // The Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has condemned the idea of a 39th Premier League game to be played overseas. The concept first arose last spring but was greeted with widespread anger by the football community, with fans claiming it went against the principles of a league system and Asian football chiefs arguing it would adversely affect their own countries' domestic competitions.
Yet more recently there have been some conciliatory noises coming out of Asia, with the Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam stating he believed the idea had some merit and the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore insisting the thought process behind it was starting to be understood. Abu Dhabi and Dubai had both been mentioned as possible hosts for matches as had Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai.
But it seems the Premier League will not be able to count on Ferguson's support. The Scot cannot see the need for an additional game. And he certainly has no idea where it could be fitted into the fixture calendar. "I don't think there will ever be a 39th game and I don't believe there should be," said Ferguson. "I certainly am not in favour of it. "You look at our domestic programme allied to our cup competitions. It is impossible."
Earlier this month Scudamore and Bin Hammam announced plans that will see English teams twin with Asian clubs taking part in the AFC Champions League. A delighted UAE Football Association's general secretary Yousuf Abdullah said at the time: "This is great news. Any partnership with English clubs is bound to benefit us. "They have a rich history and they set the standards in professionalism. We are looking to improve the game here and this scheme will be of great help. We can make big strides in the game with their support.
"Our teams, officials and administrators can learn from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. The experience will be invaluable." *With agencies