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."
|Stoke snap up Haugaard|
|Subotic commits to Dortmund|
|Warner pleads innocence after US indictment|
|Napoli to refuse questions on Benitez´s future|
|USDoJ names indicted FIFA officials|
|Wenger coy over Vidal and Benzema moves|
|Suarez back in training ahead of Copa final|
|Pique: I´ll retire at Barca|
|Gerrard ´blown away´ by Liverpool send-off|
|FIFA ´very happy´ with Zurich arrests|
|Liverpool defender Toure targeting trophies|
|Ramsey eyeing title assault|
|Welbeck out of FA Cup final and England matches|
|FIFA the ´injured party´ as Swiss prosecutors open criminal proceedings|
|Prince Ali saddened by FIFA arrests|
|Pellegrini to make City defence a priority|
|Labbadia giving Lasogga, Olic, Jiracek time|
|Ramsey confident on Wembley chances|
|Swiss authorities confirm FIFA arrests|
|El Shaarawy open to Premier League move - agent|
|Reports: FIFA officials set to be arrested|
|Tigres UANL 2 Emelec 0 (2-1 agg): Mexicans through to Libertadores semis|
|Valencia ruled out of Copa America|
|Coleman: Bale being ignored by Real team-mates|
|Ruddy eyes England recall|
|Benteke will strike fear into Arsenal - Westwood|
|Howe named LMA Manager of the Year|
|Casillas reiterates desire to stay in Madrid|
|Dnipro players pay for fans´ tickets, transport|
|Galliani: I want Ancelotti back at Milan|
|Premier League: Manchester City season review - Frustrations as latest title defence falters|
|Injured Benfica star Salvio not for sale|
|AFC Champions League Review: Al Sadd suffer last-16 exit|
|Emery targeting historic victory|
|Toure and Wisdom pen new Liverpool deals|
|Stadium facilities drive Van Gaal potty|
|Blatter brushes off Figo´s ´dictatorship´ claims|
|Mavuba to end career at Lille after extending contract|
|Ipswich´s Bishop charged over betting breaches|
|Markevych admits to Dnipro nerves|
|Relegated Almeria to be deducted three points|
|Reims retain Guegan on one-year deal|
|Di Matteo departure could hinder Schalke swoop for Khedira|
|Bale planning Real Madrid stay|
|Del Bosque not prepared to risk Costa|
|West Ham earn Europa League berth|
|Pellegrini sure City will win title back|
|Low calls Herrmann into Germany squad|
|Gerrard will win trophies with Galaxy - Carragher|
|Frankfurt agree to let Schaaf leave|
|Hernandez hit with violent conduct charge|
|Bale set for 50th Wales cap against Belgium|
|Baines hoping for pre-season return|
|Bournemouth sign Boruc|
|Sevilla duo Rico and Vidal handed Spain calls|
|Premier League: Chelsea season review - Mourinho´s men canter to title|
|Speroni hints at possible Palace exit|
|Kane states Tottenham commitment|
|Boruc, Hooiveld leave Southampton|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain desperate to make FA Cup final|
|Roar turn to Aloisi|
|Di Matteo resigns as Schalke coach|
|Hughes hints at Moses return|
|Wenger hits out at scheduling|
|Terry backs Chelsea to dominate|
|Jets part ways with coach Stubbins|
|Kewell would love to manage Liverpool|
|Janmaat: Newcastle players failed Carver|
|Adelaide step up interest in Toni|
|Chelsea´s Drogba interested in MLS move|
|Otamendi wants to leave Valencia - agent|
|Benitez almost certain for Real job|
|Schneiderlin will leave for Champions League club|
|Kane planning to come back bigger and better|
|Moyes staying at Sociedad|
|Neil revels in Norwich promotion|
|Drogba interested in MLS move|
|Russian Premier League Review: Torpedo keep survival hopes alive|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Galatasaray crowned champions as Fener have four sent off|
|Ghana 1 Madagascar 2: Simouri nets late winner|
|Galatasaray reclaim title as Fener implode|
|Ancelotti bears no grudge after Real sacking|
|Porto complete Bueno capture|
|Lazio 1 Roma 2: Yanga-Mbiwa settles Rome derby|
|Real sack Ancelotti|
|Route to the UEFA Europa League final: Sevilla|
|Derby sack McClaren|
|Eredivisie play-offs Review: Eagles relegated, NAC Breda earn reprieve|
|Inzaghi eager for Van Ginkel stay|
|Route to the UEFA Europa League final: Dnipro|
|Dani Alves plays down Champions League favourites tag|
|Middlesbrough 0 Norwich City 2: Jerome and Redmond send Neil´s men up|
|Renard takes over at Lille|
|Cancelo completes permanent Valencia move|
|Dnipro v Sevilla: Emery embracing chance at history|
|Kuchuk leaves Kuban Krasnodar|
|Desailly hails Terry and urges calm over Zouma|
|Guardiola has built on Heynckes´ Bayern legacy - Muller|
|Falcao thanks United fans|
|Zorniger takes Stuttgart role|
|Dani Alves to clarify Barca future after Champions League final|
|Pazzini in the dark over Milan future|
|Barzagli a doubt for Champions League final|
|Clough sacked by Sheffield United|
|Pardew eyeing ´quality´ signings|
|Carver encouraged by Ashley´s Newcastle promises|
|Gutierrez revels in Newcastle ´fairytale´|
|Relegation will haunt Hull - Chester|
|El Shaarawy eyes Italy call-up|
|Crouch delighted by headed goals record|
|Ancelotti all but confirms Real exit|
|Platini: FIFA will lack credibility if Blatter remains president|
|Bilbao duo pen new deals|
|Rooney: United can win title next season|
|Argentine football rocked by second death|
|Leicester must aim higher next season - Pearson|
|Monk negotiating new Swansea contract|
|Ox can play in cup final, says Wenger|
|Century of MLS goals ´surreal´ for Wondolowski|
|Copa Libertadores Preview: River not giving up hope|
|Cahill returns for Australia´s World Cup qualifier in Kyrgyzstan|
|MLS Review: Wondolowski joins 100-goal club|
|Toni on track for Hellas Verona´s maiden golden boot|
|Amid Ancelotti speculation, Galliani confirms Madrid trip|
|Berlusconi targets Ancelotti, Inzaghi remains committed to Milan|