Game 39

Game 39

"Game 39" or the international round is a proposed extra round of matches in the Premier League to be played at neutral venues outside England. The top association football league in England, it is currently played as a double round robin, with each team playing the other 19 home and away, giving a total of 38 games. The international round was proposed at a meeting of the 20 Premier League clubs on February 7, 2008, with a view to being introduced for the 2010–11 season, when a new television broadcasting rights contract will be in place.cite news
title=Premier League to embark on world tour
first=David |last=Bond |date=2008-02-08 |accessdate=2008-02-17 |work=The Daily Telegraph
] The proposal has met with strong opposition from supporters' organisations and from international governing bodies.


The proposal envisages one round of ten matches being played over one weekend in January. Two matches would be played in each of five cities, one each on Saturday and Sunday. Cities would bid for the right to stage matches, but would not be able to specify which teams are involved. The matches would be held at staggered start times, with venues in different timezones, making it possible in theory to watch live television coverage of all ten. There are conflicting reports about whether the draw for the extra fixtures would be seeded or not.]

The week prior to the international round would be free of matches, to allow for travel and acclimatisation. The week after the international round would see each team face one of the teams which had played at the same foreign venue, to avoid any disadvantage for teams with a longer round-trip.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore initially said there would not be more than one international round per season, stating "I stress that on my watch, there will be no 40th game. The value [of a 39th game] is in its uniqueness, in that festival weekend, so there's no point in diluting it." Subsequently he suggested the initial plan would last six to ten years and might be altered.]

Possible venues suggested for international-round matches are Australia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Gulf States, and North America. All are wealthy regions where interest in English football is strong relative to the level of the domestic game. Venues would have warm, predictable weather, unlike England in January.


Foreshadowing the plan were the friendly match played by the England team against Argentina in Geneva in Switzerland in 2005, and the NFL American football game played at Wembley Stadium in London in 2007. Rod Eddington pitched the idea of an international round to the Premier League in autumn 2007.] ] He is chairman of Victorian Major Events Company and a friend of Rupert Murdoch, owner of Sky Sports and other networks with broadcasting rights to the Premier League. He suggested his home city of Melbourne as an inaugural host city. A presentation to the Premier League's audit-and-remuneration committee was made two weeks before the public announcement. [] An initial business plan predicts extra earnings from the international round of between £40 million and £80 million per year.

The Premier League has put in place a working party to negotiate with the various concerned parties. It initially stated that, to proceed with the plan, it needed the support only of the Football Association (FA) and the football governing bodies of the countries of the host cities. It attempted to secure the support of the FA for the proposal by promising to rearrange club fixtures for better convenience to players called up to the England team.cite news
title=Premier League must not alienate ordinary fans |first=Henry |last=Winter |date=2008-02-08 |accessdate=2008-02-17 |work=The Daily Telegraph
] Scudamore planned to meet FIFA officials before its executive committee meeting in Zurich on March 14 2008. On 27 February, after several weeks of mostly negative reaction, Scudamore agreed with Jérôme Valcke, general secretary of FIFA, that the meeting would be postponed indefinitely.] The Premier League presented this as an opportunity to rethink its proposals, and said that it would not proceed without FIFA approval.

In May 2008, Scudamore told BBC Radio 5 Live that the proposal was "not over" but that the League would "come up with something that ticks more boxes" by January 2009. []


In England

Richard Scudamore has defended the plan as consolidating the Premier League's global reputation, saying "if we didn't do it, another sport will come and do it to us." Scudamore has said that the chairmen of all 20 Premier League clubs support the proposal, and disputed claims by the "Daily Mail" that Randy Lerner of Aston Villa and Dave Whelan of Wigan Athletic were opposed. [] David Gold of Birmingham City endorsed the plan in part because the larger clubs have in any case already been exploiting foreign markets, with tours pre-season and even mid-season; Game 39 would distribute its revenue among all the clubs. On February 15, Liverpool F.C. chief executive Rick Parry stated the proposal had "never been on Liverpool's club agenda" and acknowledged the concern of the club's fans and manager. [] The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) condemned the proposal as being motivated by money, and dubbed it Gam£ 39.cite news
title=Premier League money-driven, say angry fans
first=Jeremy |last=Wilson |date=2008-02-08 |accessdate=2008-02-17 |work=The Daily Telegraph
] It launched a petition, with the support of the "Daily Mail", to oppose the "outrageous desecration of the national game". In March 2008, the campaign was ended as the FSF declared the proposal "effectively dead".] Many die-hard fans who pride themselves on travelling to all their teams' away matches will be unable to travel abroad for "Game 39". On the other hand, exotic foreign venues may be more appealing destinations for fans than a mundane English city. Managers of Premier League clubs reported to be opposed to or sceptical of the plans include Steve Bruce, Roy Hodgson, Gareth Southgate, and Rafael Benitez. Alex Ferguson criticised the club owners for lack of consultation with managers. Arsene Wenger, Roy Keane, Kevin Keegan, and Avram Grant have supported the proposal.

Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, cautioned that football should "not forget its roots". Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association expressed concern about increased pressure on players. The FA on 15 February expressed "serious reservations" that the proposal might damage England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.] [] An FA board meeting on 21 February said the plan was "unsustainable in its current format". [] Sports journalist Martin Johnston has suggested that, since the clubs already have so many foreign players, owners, and fans, playing games abroad is an incremental rather than a revolutionary change. [] 'Game 39' has also been defended as a move to head off plans for a World League involving only elite clubs such as those formerly in the G-14 group. There was also a huge media backlash (mainly from tabloids) or the plans saying it would be selling the game


The proposal was condemned by Sepp Blatter, secretary-general of FIFA, who said it brought the game into disrepute and would adversely affect England's bid for the 2018 World Cup.] He also said "Football cannot be like the Harlem globetrotters or a circus." [cite news |url= |title=Wenger hits out at Blatter over 'Game 39'(page 2) |date=2008-02-15 |accessdate=2008-02-17 |work=The Daily Telegraph ] Michel Platini of UEFA called it a "nonsense idea".] Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam said he would "vote strongly against" the proposal. Strong reservations were expressed by the Korean FA, and the Japan FA opposed the plan.] Middle-eastern FAs were reportedly more positive. The Hong Kong FA has said it is "very interested" in hosting games. [] Football Federation Australia said it would oppose it if it impacted its own A-League. Major League Soccer (MLS) deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said MLS would welcome the plan if it had FIFA approval. [ ] Sunil Gulati, the president of the US Soccer Federation, said the USSF will be guided by FIFA about approving any matches. [cite news |url= |title=America deals blow to Scudamore's global plan |first=Nick |last=Harris
date=12 February 2008 |accessdate=2008-02-17 |work=The Independent


ee also

* NFL International Series

External links


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