The Premier League officials working on the controversial "international round" proposal for January 2011 are considering making one of the five host cities a loss-leading goodwill location such as South Africa or India. The city in question would not earn the Premier League anything like the returns of the other four but would instead be regarded as a gesture to show the League's commitment to all its fans.
The plans for the proposed 39th game which has drawn such criticism in the past eight days are still far from completion but already the team putting together the final proposals - due in January next year - are considering options that would make the initiative more palatable to fans and Fifa. With one of the key criticisms being the emphasis on profit, adding a city that would not return a huge profit would be seen as a worthwhile public relations exercise.
South Africa and India are two of the world's most rapidly growing economies but the Premier League believe that the majority of bids - providing the local football associations can be appeased - will come from Gulf states, the Far East, Australia and North America. The Premier League could earn as much from those games to still be sure of a decent return, despite picking a fifth host city likely to offer far fewer financial incentives.
Already there are rough criteria at the Premier League for what they want from the host cities, much of it involving the infrastructure and experience to host major sporting events.
While they would not see playing a game in the developing world as feasible, there is an appetite to make an effort if they can show that there is a desire for Premier League football there. The League realises that staging the majority of the 10 international round games in oil-rich Gulf states would not do a great deal for their claims to be taking the game to the world.
The Premier League have assigned Richard Masters, director of sales and marketing, Phil Lines, director of media operations, and Peta Bastani, events organiser, to the plans for the 2011-2012 season and they have until next January to come up with a workable solution. In the meantime, the Premier League hope that the outcry over the proposals will die down to allow them to lobby behind the scenes. Despite his plans to visit Fifa general secretary Jerme Valcke, Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, has not yet set off to Zurich to deal with the mounting opposition to the plans.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) said yesterday that they do not have an official position on the Premier League's proposals but were nothing like as hostile to the idea as some association heads have been. The English Premier League has close links with its counterpart, the Absa Premier Soccer League; Sir Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, advised on their record breaking 110m television deal last summer. …