Wednesday 13 February ~

Being a high-powered executive fronting an exciting and innovative global brand, it’s possible that Richard Scudamore will not have time to read all the papers himself of a morning. Instead, like the Prime Minister, he may have someone who prepares a digest of the day’s news, tactfully omitting things he may find upsetting to read. If this is the case, he won’t have much to occupy him during his morning trip to the executive washroom today, barring horoscopes and the latest instalment in Paul McCartney’s interminable divorce. This is because worldwide opposition to the plans to stage PL games in other countries is mounting by the hour.

In the UK, the Daily Express has even diverted some resources from its virulent campaign against immigrants to start up a sports page “crusade” called “Kick Out The 39th Step” . Meanwhile, national fans’ group the FSF is talking about a boycotting sponsors associated with the PL and staging demonstrations at matches, while there are already seven Facebook groups working under banner of No To Game 39.

On Monday, the US Soccer Federation stated their opposition; now their Asian counterparts (AFC) have followed suit. And the AFC are, understandably, using terms like colonialism.

Some have also questioned exactly how many people in China are interested in the PL anyway. Unlike with other major European leagues and other sports such as the NBA, Chinese viewers don’t get to see English matches on free to air channels. As the Independent reports, viewing figures for games shown by the broadcaster Win TV, who have the PL rights until 2010, are so small they can’t be registered, though it is believed that some games draw as few as 10,000 people – less than tune in to Setanta’s Conference coverage. John Yan, a TV industry commentator in China, offers a concise assessment of Win TV’s prospects: “They are in deep shit.”

Scudamore may find some crumb of comfort in reading Martin Samuel’s column in the Times which, while arguing against the Game 39 plan, also suggests that the wave of overseas opposition to it amounts to little more than a negotiating ploy to bring down the price. But he won’t appreciate a David Conn article in the Guardian which quotes Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe saying that the Premier League is “poorly governed” and that too much power rests with its one full-time director, Scuadamore, “who is said to be always looking for the next challenge and battle to occupy him”.

If the man who likes a challenge should be using the odd idle moment at the office to buff up his CV, he’d be well advised to leave out any reference to Game 39.


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