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Benitez criticizes plan for overseas matches

Benitez followed the presidents of FIFA and UEFA in voicing strong opposition to the "international round."
By HT Correspondent | AP, Liverpool
UPDATED ON FEB 15, 2008 09:10 PM IST

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and chief executive Rick Parry have both expressed concern over Premier League proposals to add an extra overseas game to the English season.

Benitez followed the presidents of FIFA and UEFA, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger in voicing strong opposition to the "international round." Parry said Friday that the plan was not the club's biggest concern.

"We should consider any new proposal on its merits, but this has never been on Liverpool's club agenda," Parry said Friday. "Our goal remains to build a bigger stadium in Liverpool to enable more of our supporters to watch us play there."

The round of matches would be in addition to the traditional 38 home-and-away games each of the clubs currently plays, and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has claimed that it would help make the competition more popular.

The pair's comments run contrary to Scudamore's claim this week that the 20 Premier League clubs still wanted to look into the proposal to see if it was viable.

"I don't have an issue with the idea being taken forward for further discussion, but it's vital that the Premier League listen to key people both here and abroad," Parry said. "And the reaction so far has been a negative one in many ways."

Benitez has followed many contemporaries, foreign federations and fans groups in criticizing the idea, dubbed "The 39th Step" by British newspapers.

"If you can change the league to improve it then that's OK, but in this case it's just about money," Benitez said. "You can organize a tournament between the top four in Hong Kong if you wanted money."

Benitez also criticized the mooted seeding system, which would stop the top five clubs from playing each other, saying that it was unfair.

"He and I have discussed the Premier League's proposal for a 39th game and we both have concerns such a move could damage the integrity of the competition," said Parry, who added that the idea of an extra match conflicted with suggestions that the tournament should have a winter break to reduce demands on players.

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