New support for 'game 39'

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The Premier League's controversial "international round" concept was backed yesterday by leading officials from the Spanish and German leagues.

Earlier this year the Premier League proposed an extra round of fixtures, with games to be played in five cities around the world from the 2010-11 season on. After widespread opposition and rejection by the Football Association, the scheme seemed to have been shelved.

However, plans for a 39th round were given rousing support by representatives of some of Europe's major leagues, who continue to cast envious eyes at the Premier League's enormous global reach and income.

Speaking at the Soccerex London Forum, held at Wembley, Francisco Roca Perez, the chief executive of the Spanish league, said: "I thought it was a great idea, it seemed quite natural. I was really surprised by the reaction, and many of the criticisms were misunderstandings of what the objectives are. I think this first step has reached a mass opposition but eventually it will become normal as this league and these teams are so well-liked all over the world."

Tom Bender, director of marketing for the Bundesliga, also backed the plan but said it had been badly presented. "I think it was a very good example of how a good idea can be ruined in three seconds," he said. "It was not sold very well. I think it's a great idea, commercially fantastic, but the repercussion was tremendous and [the Premier League] did not fight back. Some things make sense in marketing but you have to be careful how you tell people about them."

Bender said German clubs had been reluctant to get involved in overseas expansion plans.

"All our clubs say they want to get into the overseas market but when we approach the individual clubs they say, 'No thanks'," he said. "We have had to change our approach, make money available, and some teams came forward and they have played friendlies in places like Poland and China as representatives of the Bundesliga."

The fourth edition of the Soccerex Forum, a series of seminars and "networking opportunities", attracted representatives of more than 100 clubs from 25 nations, together with delegates from all aspects of the football industry.

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