Posted: 2/10/2008


    The 39 STEPS was a famous Alfred Hitchcock espionage thriller movie  by John Buchan a few decades back, but Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the English Premier League would like a money spinner thriller of a weekend, starting in January 2011, with each of the 20 EPL teams playing a 39th match, two matches per weekend, in 5 foreign cities, to bring in more billions of dollars for the GREED IS GOOD LEAGUE.

    Since its inception in 1992 the league has grown bigger, bolder and more lucrative, world wide.  According to Arsene Wenger 90 per cent of Gunners TV viewers are from overseas.Television revenues have multiplied from 625 million 3 years ago to 4 billion by next season.  The scheme is not without merits of course, but has more questions than answers.  The Football Associations of Japan and Australia have already stated that they are against the idea of bringing these weekends to Sydney, Melbourne, Yokohama or Osaka, in order to protect therir own fragile domestic leagues. The JFA does not allow two foreign teams to play on Japanese soil at anytime. Meanwhile FIFA will discuss the proposal at their Executive meeting on March 15th.  UEFA President and French legend Michel Platini is totally against the idea. 'England has foreign coaches, foreign owners, foreign players and now they want to play their domestic league overseas. It's a joke!!.'  He was of the opinion that the F.A. in England and FIFA would not allow it to happen.

   British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a massive Raith Rovers fan and enthusiastic former soccer and rubgy player, who lost the sight in his right eye playing the latter sport at 16 years old,was recently in China and India. In a BBC interview yesterday he tells how he noticed the tremendous interest in the EPL in those two countries, but feels that if it comes to pass, any profits should be plowed into English football at lower levels, and bringing ticket prices down. Good luck, Tony!

   The teams would be seeded so that Chelsea would not play Arsenal or Manchester United but lower teams in the league. Obviously places such as Boston, Moscow or New York would be out due to weather, and the host cities would compete financially for the honour.  Four teams going to Shanghai would be at a disadvantage to the four teams going to sunny Sevilla or even Orlando. If money talks, imagine playing in Saudi Arabia where women would not be allowed to be part of the visiting fans, or to Kuala Lumpur where a recent arrival at KL Airport was jailed for 4 years for having less than a grain of salt-size banned drug stuck to the heel of his shoe. Johannesburg's Soccer City would be a promising venue, but current SA PSL prices of around $4-5 a ticket would be increased 10 fold and keep locals out.

    The progressive Rugby Football League in England had Leeds Rhinos vs Sydney Rabbitos, a couple of weekends ago in Jacksonville, FL, sponsored partially by actor Russell Crowe, and they have played a league match in Perpignon, France between two English clubs to boost the brand. Each season they have all 12 teams playing 6 league matches over 2 days in a Magic Weekend at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. In 3 years they will have franchises -14 clubs who cannot be relegated for 3 seasons, and the league already has salary caps as has been proposed for the EPL.

    Of course NFL Miami Dolphins and New York Giants played a league game at Wembley Stadium a few months ago and will do so at the same venue later this year featuring San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, and the NHL has also played at the 02 Arena in London.  In 1999 a Belgian club, Exelsior Mouscron tried to play a home UEFA CUP match in France at FC Metz and was denied the chance, by the European Commission thinking they might then want to play all their Belgian Jupiter League matches over the border.

    After the Memorial service at Old Trafford on Wednesday I went straight to The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham to see WALES thrash NORWAY 3-0 in a friendly. The Welsh U21 team under coach Brian Flynn is also top of their group in UEFA Qualifiers and will play a big match in late May at the same venue, hosting the unbeaten England U 21's coached by Stuart Pearce.

    Meanwhile the 12th man to hold the position of the England team Manager, Fabio Capello, started off with a  non too convincing 2-1 victory over Switzerland at a full Wembley Stadium. ALSO New rules. NO WAGS(wives and giirlfriends) or agents at the hotel. NO flip flops in the public areas, EVERYONE eats meals together and stays until dismissed, NO Cell phones in public areas or on buses, NO leisure warm ups while travelling-blazers and slacks please. Instead of the last coach  Steve McLaren calling players Stevie G, TJ, Robbo, he calls them by their surnames, Gerrard, Terry, Robinson.... The latter didn't get called anything, and was replaced on the 3 man goalkeeper roster.  The Italian will probably leave the 5 star resort hotel for future home matches, which he feels is too big and too luxurious.

Sir Walter Winterbottom, Sir Alf Ramsey, Don Revie, Ron Grenwood, Sir Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor, Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven Goran Erickson, Steve McLaren are the previous 11 national team managers.(Joe Mercer was an interim manager for 7 matches between Ramsey and Revie) The ONLY manager to lose his first match in charge was Alf Ramsey, 0-3 in Paris vs France 1n 1963, but he went on to win the World Cup in 1966.