LONDON (AFP) - Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation, is ready to do a u-turn and back the Premier League's controversial plan to play a 39th round of fixtures in cities across the world.
Bin Hammam was instrumental in the Premier League's decision to withdraw their scheme in February after launching a scathing attack on the idea.
Several venues in his Confederation, including Kuala Lumper, Abu Dhabi and Tokyo, were targeted as likely hosts of the additional Premier League game, so Bin Hamman's criticism inevitably threw a roadblock across the plan.
But Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is working on a fine-tuned version with club chairmen and has realised it is essential to get the support of Asian's leading football figure.
A meeting between Scudamore and Bin Hammam has been arranged in London this week to underline the Premier League's intention to leave a positive legacy in Asia.
That has put Bin Hammam in a more conciliatory mood and he is willing to change his mind - as long as he sees concrete evidence that the English game will lay foundations for the long-term development of Asian football rather than just use the fixtures as a means to rake in huge sums of television and gate revenue.
"We had no contact at all before the news came out, zero. Their approach has changed now," Bin Hammam told journalists in London on Thursday.
"I am going to see a presentation with Richard (Scudamore) about what the Premier League can do to help football in Asia and around the world. We should be partners and know what is the benefit for us.
"I want all the technical assistance they can provide. I know some people will think financial assistance can be part of a deal but I am not welcoming that.
"Any assistance has to go to providing coaching, workshops and offering their academies to the young people.
"We want them to convey their experiences to us. We want them to share with us their secret of success; to tell us what are the keys that can help our football. By showing us administration, technical level and supporting our coaches.
"Until now, no Asian referees can take part in European football, even in the third level. By bringing our officials into their environment, these are things which will benefit us.
"There can be financial assistance but we must teach the people how to fish and survive for life and don't just give them the fish."
Bin Hammam, 60, was stunned when he first heard the Premier League plan but as a lifelong Liverpool fan he has always had an affinity with English football, so he is determined to foster a strong relationship with Scudamore.
"The moment some leagues are going to be played outside their territories, it is shocking news," he said. "You just want to digest it. To see the English league played in China or wherever is strange.
"I am not saying I have changed my mind totally but they are exploring ideas.
"In the past there were no ideas but now they know people want something left behind and they are up to the mark. There are no issues between Asia, myself and the Premier League.
"Whatever plans the Premier League has for its future the AFC is ready to advise and support.
"I'm proud of our relationship with the Premier League. There is too much foreign football on our continent but I'm a big fan of the Premier League."
The popularity of the Premier League in Asia has grown quickly over the last decade as television networks in the region feed fans a vast diet of live coverage from the English top-flight.
Bin Hammam isn't worried about losing fans to the Premier League but he would prefer a poriton of the television to remain in Asia.
"Most foreign revenue for the Premier League is coming from Asia. People love to see the Premier League clubs," he said.
"It doesn't worry me because of the fans. It worries and makes me nervous because of the tv channels that are willing to pay these huge amounts to show the Premier League and not to broadcast their local leagues.
"That is a worry, not fans attaching themselves to the Premier League."
|Serie A Wrap: Di Natale condemns Milan to defeat, Catania held by Cagliari|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Vitesse leapfrog Twente, six on the spin for PSV|
|Primeira Liga: Braga 2 Nacional 1|
|Terry rules out England return|
|CAF Champions League Wrap: Raja Casablanca crash out on penalties, Nkana progress|
|Ligue 1 Wrap: Evian, Valenciennes boost survival chances, Ibrahimovic stars for PSG|
|Mourinho: Spurs didn´t scare us|
|CAF Confederation Cup Wrap: Bayelsa United, Zesco advance|
|Bundesliga Wrap: Augsburg win again, Schalke move level with Leverkusen|
|Sherwood slams sorry Spurs|
|Rapids legend Mastroeni hired as coach|
|La Liga: Celta Vigo 0 Atletico Madrid 2|
|Seedorf rues tired Milan performance|
|Di Natale hails ´important´ Udinese win|
|Susic angered by Dzeko criticism|
|Premier League: Chelsea 4 Tottenham 0|
|Hughton bemoans ´soft´ penalty decision|
|Blanc hails Ibrahimovic after Bastia win|
|Hughes laments ´harsh´ Walters red|
|Serie A: Udinese 1 Milan 0|
|Pulis calls for ruthlessness|
|Solskjaer delights in ´big result´|
|League Two Wrap: Accrington stun Chesterfield, Northampton hold Scunthorpe|
|Scottish Premiership Wrap: Motherwell, Hibs play out thriller, Kilmarnock overcome lowly Hearts|
|Guardiola not satisfied despite Bayern rout|
|Pochettino talks up Southampton World Cup credentials|
|Magath defends Mitroglou|
|Title race not over, claims defiant Martino|
|League One Wrap: Orient held at bottom club Notts County, Wolves go top|
|Championship Wrap: Derby´s promotion bid dented, Barnsley surprise Forest|
|Mel: Van Persie should have seen red|
|Van Persie substitution was planned, claims Moyes|
|Ligue 1: Bastia 0 Paris Saint-Germain 3|
|Premier League: Norwich City 1 Stoke City 1|
|Premier League: Crystal Palace 0 Southampton 1|
|Premier League: Cardiff City 3 Fulham 1|
|La Liga: Real Valladolid 1 Barcelona 0|
|Bundesliga: Wolfsburg 1 Bayern Munich 6|
|Wenger delighted with Ozil showing|
|Martinez questions ´soft´ Arsenal penalty|
|J.League Wrap: Sanfrecce fight back as top four win again|
|Premier League: West Brom 0 Manchester United 3|
|FA Cup: Arsenal 4 Everton 1|
|Garcia piles pressure on Napoli|
|Barca are not in decline, Xavi insists|
|Arbeloa out of Levante clash|
|Montolivo agent rules out Milan exit|
|A-League Wrap: Sydney FC seal first derby win, Jets end Heart run|
|Pellegrini backs Aguero and Negredo|
|Lucas benefiting from first-team run, says Blanc|
|Moyes: Players are behind me|
|Marchisio not motivated by revenge|
|Magath: Must-win game for Cardiff|
|Sherwood: I´m the right man for Tottenham|
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Double joy for Atletico Nacional|
|Davids: Del Piero should delay coaching plans|
|Copa Libertadores Preview: Atletico Mineiro, Velez Sarsfield near progression|
|Moyes set to experiment ahead of Vidic departure|
|Watford comeback a lesson for City, claims Pellegrini|
|Primeira Liga: Rio Ave 0 Academica 0|
|League Two: Bury 0 Rochdale 0|
|Ligue 1: Marseille 0 Nice 1|
|CAF Confederation Cup Wrap: Kigali win dramatic shootout, Sahel oust Brazzaville|
|La Liga Preview: Real Madrid v Levante|
|Serie A Preview: Inter v Torino|
|Bundesliga Preview: Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund|
|No room for sentiment for ´emotional´ Rosler|
|Serie A Preview: Juventus v Fiorentina|
|Valero ban reduced to three games|
|Simeone backs Costa´s Spain involvement|
|Serie A Preview: Roma renew Napoli rivalry, Fiorentina look for league double over Juventus|
|Balotelli set for Milan return|
|CAF Champs League: Kabuscorp 0 Zamalek 0 (0-1 agg)|
|Mourinho backs Pardew after FA charge|
|Mourinho hits out at international schedule|
|Hughes keen to extend Ireland deal|
|Costa handed one-match ban after appeal fails|
|Hughes criticises ´flawed´ FA review process|
|FA Cup Preview: Sheffield United v Charlton Athletic|
|Poor record at Chelsea alleviates pressure, says Sherwood|
|Seedorf unconcerned by league position|
|Meier pens new Frankfurt deal|
|FA Cup Preview: Manchester City v Wigan Athletic|
|Moyes condemns Cleverley petition|
|Klopp ´not satisfied´ with second place|
|De Boer calls for focus from Ajax|
|Pellegrini: I did not deserve touchline ban|
|Blanc confirms Cavani will miss Bastia trip|
|Style more important than points to Ranieri|
|FA Cup Preview: Hull City v Sunderland|
|McNaughton pens new Cardiff deal|
|Martino ready to splash the cash|
|Martino ready to splash the cash|
|A-League: Melbourne Victory 3 Central Coast Mariners 1|
|Pochettino wary of improved Palace|
|Lopez: Celta clash crucial for Atletico title challenge|
|Suarez keen to enjoy Liverpool season|
|Guardiola expecting tough Wolfsburg test|
|Benitez will not sacrifice philosophy|
|Silverware vital for City trust, claims Pellegrini|
|Keller urges Schalke to banish negative thoughts|
|Garde targets European football|
|Birmingham owner Yeung jailed for six years|
|Team spirit the key to Juve success for Tevez|
|Brady to miss remainder of season|
|Solskjaer urges positive Cardiff showing|
|Hyypia: Leverkusen can emerge from slump stronger|
|Wenger reveals shock at Wilshere injury|
|Roar dreaming of Totti signing|
|Martinez baffled by Cleverley criticism|
|Thauvin needs time to grow, insists Anigo|
|Casillas praises form of Lopez|
|Moyes keen to make Old Trafford a ´fortress´ again|
|Kehl not giving up on Bundesliga title|
|Duff´s Fulham future uncertain after season ended|
|Argentina Primera Division Wrap: San Lorenzo silence Rosario, Colon held|
|CSL Preview: Shanghai Greenland unearth new name for derby|
|MLS Preview: Sporting KC set for busy schedule, LA Galaxy host Real Salt Lake|