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 agree Berahino deal with West Brom|
|BREAKING NEWS: AC Milan complete Deulofeu loan signing|
|Gerrard returns to Liverpool as academy coach|
|Ivory Coast 2 DR Congo 2: Serey Die rescues point but holders still in trouble|
|Di Maria committed to PSG amid reported CSL interest|
|Sanchez a role model - Xhaka|
|Tuchel trusts Schurrle to fill Aubameyang void|
|Ghana v Mali: Rahman injury poses a problem for Grant|
|Depay not holding Manchester United grudge|
|I love watching them - Guardiola a huge fan of Pochettino and Tottenham|
|Klopp: I could kick Mane in the... lower back|
|Conte: Ake is ready to help Chelsea´s title bid|
|Allardyce provides Evra, Van Aanholt and Jenknson updates|
|Guardiola looks beyond beleaguered Bravo for City woes|
|Begovic could leave Chelsea - Conte|
|PSG still on the hunt for striker, says Emery|
|Mourinho: Valencia the best right-back in football|
|Mourinho on Young to China talk: He hasn´t told me anything!|
|Costa wants to stay at Chelsea, reveals Conte|
|´I played worse sometimes´ - Zidane defends Ronaldo from critics|
|Injured Iniesta to miss Eibar clash|
|Mourinho open to Depay return|
|Lyon confirm Depay arrival|
|Germany to bid for Euro 2024|
|Sydney FC 2 Adelaide United 0: Two goals in three minutes extend lead|
|Depay could face Marseille as Lyon boss Genesio hails winger´s ´big motivation´|
|Hull loan Elabdellaoui from Olympiacos|
|AC Milan make final offer for Deulofeu|
|Hughes ´wouldn´t encourage´ Bojan bids|
|Worker dies at World Cup stadium in Qatar|
|West Brom sign Livermore|
|Lyon president Aulas: Depay deal imminent|
|Aubameyang: I could leave Dortmund, but I´d never join Bayern|
|´Equating Messi with anyone else is like comparing a policeman with Batman´ - Sampaoli|
|It will take years to build football culture, Wenger warns CSL|
|´Worried´ Rakitic wants Barca renewal|
|Inter not signing Messi - Moratti|
|Luis Enrique hails Barca defence after ending Anoeta curse|
|´He is made of different stuff´ - Spalletti hails Nainggolan after wondergoal|
|Tottenham´s Janssen turned down Galatasaray move, agent claims|
|Did Carroll´s wondergoal give the West Ham striker whiplash?|
|Iniesta suffers calf injury|
|Swansea situation not ´hopeless´, says Clement|
|Real Sociedad 0 Barcelona 1: Neymar ends Anoeta curse|
|´Immeasurable bulls**t´ - Ligue 1 coach destroys Van Basten´s offside plan|
|Simeone praises Atletico´s precision in Copa Del Rey win|
|Fonte situation difficult for Southampton - Puel|
|´Some of the best football in the UK´ - Watford´s Mazzarri hails Bournemouth|
|Senegal 2 Zimbabwe 0: Cisse´s men charge into quarter-finals|
|Rivaldo backs Luis Enrique to deliver more Barca success|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Eibar 0: Routine win earns quarter-final lead|
|Jesus will make Premier League history - Rivaldo|
|Adebayor: Arsenal are just Ozil and Sanchez|
|Algeria 1 Tunisia 2: Favourites on brink of elimination|
|Bayern keen to seal Coman deal as Rummenigge cools Gnabry interest|
|Pochettino has done his homework on Jesus as Spurs look to march on|
|Scrap offside? Premier League managers give Van Basten´s plans a cool reception|
|Coman ready for Bayern comeback, confirms Ancelotti|
|Pochettino upbeat despite six weeks out for Vertonghen, Lamela still a mystery|
|Cerezo defiant over Griezmann amid talk of Manchester United agreement|
|Robinho named in Brazil squad for Chapecoense fundraiser|
|Davies and Lookman aren´t the big men of Everton, warns Koeman|
|Ivory Coast v DR Congo: Dussyer demands champions show true strength|
|Replacing Robben and Ribery not easy - Hitzfeld|
|Yeray back in Athletic training after successful cancer surgery|
|Karanka targeting more Boro deals after Bamford swoop|
|Cavani: I am the ultimate finisher|
|Morocco v Togo: El Ahmadi hungry for success|
|Ancelotti denies Verratti approach|
|A-League Review: Cahill double sees Melbourne City sink Mariners|
|Manchester United very happy with Shaw, insists agent|
|Mertesacker extends Arsenal deal|
|Boost for Arsenal as key quartet returns to training|
|Will Jesus save Manchester City´s title bid? Guardiola´s new striker in Opta numbers|
|Tevez mobbed after touching down in Shanghai|
|Payet exit not inevitable - Bilic|
|Wenger: Arsenal don´t need Payet|
|Jesus wants Manchester City titles|
|Orsolini arrives for Juventus medical|
|Rivaldo backs Coutinho to join Neymar at Barcelona|
|No danger of Messi leaving Barcelona, says father|
|Augusto: I convinced Oscar to come to China|
|Madrid-bound Maradona visits Napoli training|
|Sevilla in no rush over Sampaoli talks despite Barcelona links|
|Cafu: Resurgent Brazil can challenge world´s best|
|Klopp thrilled with Coutinho|
|Manchester United replace Real Madrid as world´s richest club|
|Madrid squad annoyed by defeats - Zidane wants more energy after latest loss|
|Casemiro rues more misery for Madrid against Celta|
|´Job done, let´s go home´ - Klopp happy to avoid extra time with narrow Plymouth win|
|FA Cup Review: Southampton leave it late to beat Norwich|
|Real Madrid 1 Celta Vigo 2: Aspas and Jonny extend Madrid winless run|
|Plymouth Argyle 0 Liverpool 1: Rare Lucas goal sees Klopp´s men through|
|Manchester City in La La Land as Schalke toil underground|
|Cameroon 2 Guinea-Bissau 1: Ngadeu-Ngadjui completes comeback to send Broos´ men top|
|Monaco confirm signing of Ajax teenager Antonucci|
|Manchester United´s interest in Griezmann is unsurprising - Simeone|
|Bamford ends spell in Chelsea wilderness with Boro return|
|Louis the great - Luis Enrique explains his and Barca´s debt to Van Gaal|
|Gabon 1 Burkina Faso 1: Spot-on Aubameyang makes his point|
|PSG send Ikone on loan to Montpellier|
|Senegal v Zimbabwe: Cisse wants to live up to favourites tag|
|Ghana´s Rahman leaves AFCON with knee injury|
|Algeria v Tunisia: Mahrez demands improvement in crucial Group B clash|
|Dortmund forward Dembele hits out at Bundesliga refereeing|
|Robben hopes Alonso stays at Bayern amid retirement rumours|
|Asian champions Jeonbuk banned from 2017 Champions League|
|Rakitic still an important player for Barcelona - Luis Enrique|
|Jesus will develop quicker at City - Emerson|
|Always take the weather with you - Spanish snow blights CSKA´s training camp|
|Messi never gave Coach interview, claims father|
|Gotze questions critics but admits to falling short of expecations|
|´Conte can have our title´ - Ranieri wants Chelsea to win the Premier League|
|Tottenham reject Premier League, Bundesliga offers for Wimmer|
|Liverpool sell Ilori to Reading|
|Potential victims in football abuse probe surpasses 500|
|Bonaventura signs new AC Milan contract|
|Messi: Ronaldo has achieved great things|
|Koscielny: Wenger has built men at Arsenal|
|Messi vows to stay at Barcelona ´for as long as they want me´|
|Cafu adamant Neymar will become world´s best|
|I´m just taking a sabbatical - Van Gaal denies he´s retired|
|Not even Gerrard won Premier League - Buttner says he´s not a United flop|
|Samper ignored Wenger as Barca midfielder rejected Arsenal|
|Pleased Pioli wants more from Inter|
|Evergrande boss Scolari dismisses Turan links|
|Klopp seeks legal advice over Matip|
|Marseille complete Sanson move|