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What’s “gimmicky” about television access to Premier League locker rooms?

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Dressing room access for sports television broadcasters in the United States is so common it’s an afterthought.

But in the Premier League, such access has never been allowed and, according to Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, it is “highly unlikely” that it ever will be.

When asked if locker room access for television cameras would ever be granted, Scudamore said: “It’s highly unlikely. We’ve had a media access working group working on this topic for the last 18 months.

“I think there should be better access for media for managers and players and I think it’s one of the regrets that we can’t provide more access. But the slightly gimmicky idea of locker-room access – I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good idea.”

In a world where broadcasters pay hundreds of millions of dollars – and in the case of United Kingdom broadcaster BT Sport, over $1.1 billion – for the rights to televise live matches, the concept of insider access isn’t “gimmicky” at all. It’s about getting maximum value for your money and providing audiences, who pay good money to see the matches, with the best viewing experience possible.

The fact that most clubs are in favor of opening their doors renders Scudamore’s comments even more prehistoric. BT’s executive producer, Grant Best, explained: “There are a number of areas where we’re talking to clubs to try to get access. We are inquiring [about dressing rooms]. We need their help. They’re all being really open right now.”

Scudamore addressed the point that dressing room access in the US is common: “I understand but I actually do understand that there’s a mystique that goes on behind the dressing-room door and that maybe ought to just stay between the manager and the players, is my view.

“It’s almost the last bastion of secrecy in football. I just think there is something about the dressing room that is sacrosanct because that is where the manager goes and does his work with his players. There must be things that go on in there that are between them.”

Such comments misconstrue the concept of dressing room access. Broadcasters all not calling for 24 hour Big Brother cameras and audio throughout the dressing room. But video of a pre-match psych speech or post-match manager talk would add substantial intrigue to the league’s coverage.

Perhaps even more interesting is Scudamore’s take on American owners of Premier League clubs and how he believes they are not interested in pushing for such access:

“I think most of the American owners are buying into the Premier League because they like the Premier League for what it is. I don’t hear any American owner that says, we should wholesale take what the US does and bring it into English football. The opposite – they’re saying, isn’t it fantastic, English football, global interest – they’re buying into it for the things that we’ve got that they haven’t.”

The idea that shrewd businessmen like Ellis Short (Sunderland), Randy Lerner (Aston Villa), Stan Kroenke (Arsenal), John Henry (Liverpool), Malcolm Glazer (Manchester United) and Shahid Khan (Fulham) aren’t interested in maximizing their club’s exposure – both stateside and on a global scale – is simply preposterous.

But fear not, baby steps have been taken.

This year Premier League clubs have agreed to operate “mixed zones” for rights-holding broadcasters after each match and to make at least one player available for two hours every week.

After January camp, USMNT looks to rosters for World Cup, Olympic qualifying

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
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The United States men’s national team finished its experimental January camp with a 2-0 record, and now trains its eyes on World Cup and Olympic qualifying.

The last part is critical not just because of the ramifications of a potential second-successive Olympic absence for the men’s U-23 side.

[ USMNT: Tops Iceland 3-2 | Knocks off Canada, too ]

The Yanks have to deftly divide their player pool because March 25 and 29 are not only the dates for the next round of World Cup qualifying matches — a home-and-home series with Guatemala — but also the dates for the U-23s’ pair of matches with Colombia.

That’s why Jordan Morris isn’t likely headed to Guatemala City, and the same is true for impressive January camper Jerome Kiesewetter and new Chelsea defender Matt Miazga.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

Bobby Wood, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also eligible for the U-23s, but there’s the rub. All three are in good form for country, and only Yedlin isn’t playing well for his club (That’s because Sam Allardyce isn’t using him much at all. His substitute appearance against Liverpool was his first action since Jan. 9).

New England midfielder Lee Nguyen impressed Jurgen Klinsmann during January camp, and it’s hard to ignore the impact of Steve Birnbaum’s goal and assist.

Assuming health, here’s our best guess at who’s making the squad for Guatemala on March 25 and 29. It’s worth noting that six MLS clubs play on March 26 (NYC, New England, Vancouver, Houston, DC and Dallas):

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson

Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Jonathan Spector, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Lee Nguyen, Darlington Nagbe

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Aron Johannsson

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

JPW at Stamford Bridge
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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.