Impasse over 39th step

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The Independent Online

Premier League clubs have postponed a final decision on the controversial international round.

The 20 clubs were presented with a range of options ranging from the infamous '39th step' to a Premier League-branded pre-season friendly tournament in various foreign cities.

But no decision was taken and the 20 club chairmen agreed to ask Premier League officials to explore the options.

Three of the 20 clubs, including Liverpool and Manchester United, are fiercely opposed to every side playing a 39th league match overseas but nothing was ruled out nor ruled in.

Other options to be considered now included the branded pre-season tournament that would not draw the same sort of criticism from FIFA and UEFA that the plan for the 39th match did.

They would however still offer foreign fans the chance to watch live matches involving the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal take on their Premier League opponents.

The league already have positive experiences from the Barclays Asia Trophy where a crowd of 40,000 in Hong Kong last July watched Portsmouth beat Liverpool on penalties.

It is believed the latest proposal would be to extend these branded friendly competitions to other hotspots of Premier League interest, such as the Middle East, South Africa and the USA.

The Premier League clubs did ratify a new rule to outlaw third-party ownership of players to avoid future controversies such as the Carlos Tevez saga.

In future clubs will have to buy out all third-party owners so they own the players completely.

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