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Scudamore: EPL games abroad not likely
03:11 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"39th game" idea is off the table due to fan dislike

Chelsea's inability to defend title good for EPL business model

CNN  — 

Has the English Premier League finally admitted defeat in its quest for the infamous “39th game?”

The league’s chief executive Richard Scudamore appeared to signal as much to CNN when he admitted that fan opposition to the idea might prove insurmountable.

Back in 2008 the league and Scudamore came under sustained criticism for the mooted idea of playing an extra round of fixtures abroad – dubbed the “39th game.”

“The commercial imperative perhaps isn’t there like it was seven or eight years ago,” Scudamore told CNN’s Kate Riley in a rare interview.

“I don’t think it’s as likely as it was then only because I think the fan reaction to it has been so negative in the UK.

“The core part of our show is that attending fan. Until you can get them comfortable with the idea I don’t think it’s really going to happen.”

It’s something of a U-turn by Scudamore considering he told the BBC in August 2014: “”It will happen at some point. Whether it is on my watch, who knows?”

Supporters have criticized the plan to take the game abroad on the grounds it threatened the EPL’s integrity by not playing an equal number of games home and away, but Scudamore was still happy to defend the idea.

“It was more of a hedge against our commercial future and of course since that’s happened our commercial success has gone on growing and growing and growing both in the UK and internationally,” he added.

Arguably Scudamore’s concession that the idea isn’t “really going to happen,” could be seen as a victory for Premier League fans who are currently campaigning against ticket prices at a time where the English top-flight’s business is booming.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, television rights have risen from $1.8 billion for the 2001-2004 season to $4.5 billion for the 2013-16 seasons.

The new television deal, which kicks in next year and goes through to 2019 is worth a massive $7.8 billion.

The new TV deal is just one of the reasons clubs are desperate to stay in the league – but while there’s set to be drama at the bottom, even those used to being at the top are getting a rough ride.

But Chelsea’s apparent inability to defend their English Premier League title can only be good for the top-flight’s business model, according to its chief executive.

In Chelsea’s worst ever start to a league season in more than 30 years, the defending EPL champions have lost seven out of 12 league matches, sit three points above the relegation zone and trail leaders Manchester City by 15 points.

“With no disrespect to Chelsea we like the idea that the champions aren’t the champions next year and there is a new name on the trophy every year because it shows the competitive dynamic of the league.”

While Chelsea have struggled, unheralded Leicester City and West Ham have prospered, with both clubs punching above their weight in the top six.

“You know with Leicester doing so well, with West Ham doing so well, Crystal Palace doing so well, Southampton doing pretty well again, plus you know what we might call the ‘big six’ having mixed fortunes – that’s good for the league from a competitive point of view and from an interest point of view,” added Scudamore.

The silver lining for Chelsea is that Scudamore predicts the club’s malaise will be short lived.

“I don’t think their problems are entirely deep rooted,” added the 56 year-old EPL boss, who was speaking to CNN at the recent New York Soccer convention BlazerCon in New York.

“I think they’ll probably come back and finish the season a lot stronger because they are a very big club with hugely talented players and a very talented manager.”

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