Leading article: All around the world

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The Independent Online

It is the sort of suggestion seemingly designed to send those football fans who feel that the sport has sold its soul right over the edge. The English Premier League is mulling a plan to extend the season for each club to 39 games, so that 10 extra matches can be played abroad.

Under the proposal, cities in Asia, the Middle East and North America would bid to host the matches, which would count towards the final standings of the league.

Premier League officials do not attempt to argue that their motivation is anything other than cash. The objective would be to increase the league's already formidable exposure abroad and boost the television and sponsorship earnings of England's top 20 clubs still further.

We have some sympathy for those who argue that this would further weaken the link between the clubs and the communities from which they arose. But it is hard to see how this sort of thing can be resisted. Like it or not, top-class football in England is a global sport. It attracts players from all over the world and it has an international appeal.

Since many owners of Premier League teams regard their holdings not as fond indulgences but as money-making ventures, it is inevitable that they will try to extract as much value from their "franchises" as possible.

But the league should still be wary. The proposal sounds as if it could contain considerable scope for skewing the fairness of the competition and the rhythm of the fixture list. Tradition might not have much of a hold over the Premiership any longer, but the prospect of an expensive lawsuit from an aggrieved team probably still will.