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."
|Suarez glad to be back despite Clasico defeat|
|Primeira Liga Review: Porto thrash Arouca, Pacos continue unbeaten run|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax avoid slip-up, Vitesse denied by late equaliser|
|Real heart pleases Ancelotti|
|Ligue 1 Review: Sagnol hurting after PSG loss as Nantes extend unbeaten run|
|Luis Enrique acknowledges Real´s Clasico supremacy|
|Ramos delight as Real romp past Barca|
|Red card motivated PSG - Blanc|
|Leicester below par - Pearson|
|Bundesliga Review: Dortmund woes continue, Stuttgart edge thriller|
|Pique puzzled by penalty call|
|Indian Super League Preview: Lopez ban presents test for Atletico|
|Monk pleased to end winless run|
|Klopp vows to fight through rotten run|
|League Two Review: Murray beaten in Hartlepool bow, Luton go top|
|Swansea City 2 Leicester City 0: Bony brace seals important win|
|Warnock fumes at Dawson ´assault´|
|Hughes unhappy with first-half display|
|League One Review: Garner inspires Preston, Peterborough slip up|
|Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 1: Suarez denied in pulsating Clasico|
|Irvine thrilled with Anichebe impact|
|Bruce happy for Jakupovic|
|Milanic departs Leeds|
|Koeman pleased with ´difficult´ win|
|Rodgers content with Balotelli performance|
|Championship Review: Magic eight for Bournemouth, Wolves on the climb|
|Poyet left to rue more mistakes|
|PSG 3 Bordeaux 0: Lucas double helps champions close on Marseille|
|Wenger salutes ´focused´ Arsenal|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Hamilton beaten at Dundee, Inverness close gap|
|Indian Super League Review: Chennaiyin drubbed by Dynamos|
|Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2: Sanchez double the difference|
|West Brom 2 Crystal Palace 2: Berahino´s last-gasp penalty saves hosts|
|Liverpool 0 Hull City 0: Rodgers´ men frustrated in goalless draw|
|Southampton 1 Stoke City 0: Mane puts Saints second|
|Allardyce hopeful on Sakho injury|
|Borussia Dortmund 0 Hannover 1: Kiyotake increases pressure on Klopp|
|We did not deserve to lose - Pellegrini|
|Bremen dismiss Dutt after poor start|
|West Ham 2 Manchester City 1: Amalfitano and Sakho give hosts deserved win|
|QPR v Aston Villa: Redknapp wants Loftus Road to roar|
|Inzaghi warns against Milan complacency|
|Benitez shrugs off criticism|
|Pires, Lopez punished after spat|
|Mazzarri shrugs off sack rumours|
|Dyche not underestimating Everton|
|Melbourne Victory 5 Melbourne City 2: Berisha treble inspires derby win|
|Allegri hits back at Juve critics|
|Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Al Hilal 0: Juric earns slender lead|
|Redknapp denies Taarabt´s training accusations|
|United are in a fantastic position - Mourinho|
|Allardyce hails ´loyal´ West Ham owners|
|Scrap AFCON to stop Ebola - Song|
|Dutt: Werder deserved to lose|
|Wenger laments lack of confidence|
|Pardew urges Newcastle to ´challenge´ Champions League hopefuls|
|Chicago Fire 2 Houston Dynamo 1: Hosts give Pause fitting farewell|
|Falcao better at United - Filipe Luis|
|Blanc: I told you so|
|Crystal Palace to be sold - reports|
|Van Gaal backs ´unlucky´ Van Persie|
|Vitoria Setubal 0 Vitoria Guimaraes 1: Afonso´s goal enough|
|Delph sidelined for 2014|
|Carrick: I want to give Van Gaal selection headache|
|Aberdeen 1 Motherwell 0: Hayes strike enough to sink lowly visitors|
|Fulham 3 Charlton Athletic 0: Parker and Rodallega move Fulham out of drop zone|
|Celta Vigo 3 Levante 0: Alcaraz defeated in first game in charge|
|Toulouse 0 Lens 2: Visitors escape drop zone|
|Werder Bremen 0 Cologne 1: Ujah adds to bottom club´s woes|
|ADO Den Haag 2 Dordrecht 0: Kramer on target again|
|Possession key for Luis Enrique|
|FA charge Gillingham with ´race victimisation´|
|Poyet issues Sunderland rallying cry|
|Ancelotti ready to spring Clasico surprise|
|Suarez receiving help for biting ´impulse´|
|Tottenham v Newcastle United: Confident visitors look for White Hart Lane repeat|
|Manchester United v Chelsea: Van Gaal expecting Costa to play|
|Guardiola: Upcoming run crucial|
|UEFA investigate Daugavpils over match-fixing after arrests|
|Pires ´hit in face´ by opposition coach - Zico|
|Di Maria declared fit for Chelsea test|
|Burnley v Everton: Dyche relying on mental toughness|
|Milan v Fiorentina: Poli awaits crucial test|
|Serbia to appeal UEFA decision|
|Cesena v Inter: Milan club out to end tumultuous week|
|Bayern mauling changes nothing, says Garcia|
|Getafe v Atletico Madrid: Griezmann hopes to kick on|
|Cisse a doubt for Tottenham clash|
|Ferdinand plans to retire at end of season|
|Martinez pleased with stronger defensive displays|
|League One Preview: Crewe out to exit bottom four|
|Aguero not yet at his best, warns Pellegrini|
|AS Vita v ES Setif: Ibenge´s men seek to end 41-year wait|
|Juventus v Palermo: Buffon expecting response|
|League Two Preview: Life under Murray begins for Hartlepool|
|Villa have Cleverley option - Lambert|
|Costa has a ´little chance´ for United clash, says Mourinho|
|Brisbane Roar 0 Sydney 2: Janko scores wonder goal|
|Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich: Benatia calls for focus|
|Busquets available for El Clasico|
|Jones calls on United to attack|
|Coutinho vows to improve|
|Suarez not a factor - Ancelotti|
|Bruce wary of Balotelli backlash|
|Pogba extends Juve deal|
|Serbia awarded Albania walkover but deducted three points|
|Walcott to make comeback against Burnley|
|Robben lauds ´perfect´ life at Bayern|
|Vieira: Chelsea can better Arsenal´s ´Invincibles´ mark|
|No fracture for Bender - Klopp|
|Pepe a doubt for El Clasico|
|Allardyce: Carroll two or three weeks from return|
|Defoe unsure of future|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Saprissa overhaul Kansas City|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Review: Comeback win sends Oriente Petrolero second|
|Deportivo Capiata 0 Boca Juniors 1 (agg 1-1, 4-3 on penalties): Argentines reach quarters|
|Herediano 5 Perez Zeledon 1: Hosts cruise to victory|
|Liga MX Preview: Queretaro desperate to keep play-off hopes alive|
|First-half profligacy could have cost us - Favre|
|Lille will beat Everton next time - Enyeama|
|Montella pleased with Fiorentina response|
|Benitez blames lack of ´desire´|
|Dunga plays down captaincy controversy|