Game 39: Premier League Clubs Consider Playing Matches Overseas

Do you support this move or are you against it? Make your voice heard in our poll at the end of this article.

The English Premier League clubs are considering a proposal to play some matches at overseas venues starting from the 2011/2012 season.

The idea is to extend the regular season to 39 games, with the extra 10 games being played at 5 select venues around the world (US, Middle East and Far East Asia are the obvious 3 destinations, but will we see clubs going to Africa, South East Asia, South America and Australia as well?). The proposal suggests picking actual fixtures by draw, although the star clubs may not always be paired with each other to avoid drab fixtures like Derby County v Bolton Wanderers being played in Buenos Aires to an empty stadium (I couldn’t resist…).

Why, you ask? Chris from EPL Talk puts it succinctly:

The reason why the Premier League is considering this revolutionary idea is because the international TV rights deal could soon be worth more than the domestic TV deal in the United Kingdom. If this does happen, which looks very probable, then the Premier League will value the international rights deal as being able to produce more revenue for its clubs.

It’s for the MONEY! And the direct (and indirect) support (financial) of millions…and millions of Premier League fans around the world (all of whom support Manchester United, or Chelsea, or Arsenal, depending on who was champion when they started watching – another reason why Liverpool is struggling to attract worldwide support for their takeover bid – if it was Manchester United (lots of fans) or Arsenal (very active online community) they would have put up the money by now…).

Mihir Bose – BBC Sport:

“The market in the United Kingdom is becoming saturated and it is the overseas market which is now the big target area.

A number of top-flight clubs already play matches around the world as they seek to capitalise on the huge global interest in the English game.”

Some simple questions that have difficult answers:

Will the points from these games count?

I sure hope so…

Aren’t the home fans (and away fans, for clubs that are actually supported) being shortchanged?

That problem seems to have been neatly sidestepped by adding an extra game in the season instead of shifting a regular fixture. And considering the support of the Premier League, you can expect matches to be mostly sold-out for the top 5-6 clubs, and the rest, well, the Premier League are excellent marketers and I’m sure they will be able to fill all the seats for 80-90 percent, if not all, games.

Will my club ever come play in my country?

Indian fans would be most likely to ask this question and the answer is yes, there is a very good chance that a top Premier League club will play in India in the next decade. Pakistan – well, I seriously doubt it.

Australian fans – yes again, I think a Premiership club will go there as well. Not so sure about South America, although South Africa will be a popular destination too.

One more match in an already congested fixture list?

Yes, one more game, and frankly, one that will help build the profile of these clubs and the league as a whole abroad, and as such would be far more important than a domestic cup game (shoot me if you will).

Fixture congestion is a different issue and reducing one game or adding one game is not going to make much of a difference. What WILL change things is if we rearranged the structure of the league to introduce a winter break, and that’s a different debate.

When will they decide?

A formal decision will not be taken until the annual Premier League meeting in June. Considering the financial benefits, I doubt that any club will disagree, although the technicalities of managing

No local fans = no atmosphere = soulless games! Is this really football?

If it’s for points, then yes, it really is football, no matter where you play it. If it’s not for points, then the games become meaningless friendlies and lose their commercial value. The atmosphere at the recent United friendly in Riyadh was quite good, even if there weren’t any ‘traditional’ United support there.

So how much money is really involved?

From the above-linked BBC article:

The Premier League’s income from the sale of overseas TV rights has already increased from £178m in 2001 to £625m for the current deal that runs until 2010.Broadcaster NowTV paid around £100m for the rights to Hong Kong alone.

Premier League games are broadcast to over 600m homes in 202 countries worldwide, while an estimated 1bn people watched the Premier League game between Manchester United and Arsenal in November 2007.

There’s money there alright, just not in the Wigan v Birmingham fixtures…

But won’t this turn supporters against the clubs?

EPL Talk makes some excellent arguments for this point, all of which you can read here. I strongly disagree though – the emotional ties that bond a club to its local support will still remain, and only sentimental fools would consider this as betrayal if their clubs go and play an EXTRA fixture in the season at an overseas venue. Thing is, football is full of sentimental fools and devoid of reason. Oh well…

The co-chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, Malcom Clarke, had this to say:

“I’m fairly confident in predicting that the overwhelming majority of football supporters will be totally opposed to this proposal.

This is yet another case of the Premier League threatening the tradition of our game simply to follow money.

The idea that teams can play a league game in a place where their supporters won’t be able to go and watch them will be totally opposed by the vast majority of supporters.

What I want to do is put a challenge to the Premier League to abandon this completely if the majority of supporters turn out to be against it.”

Sure, let’s put it to the supporters – hang on, are we going to include those supporters who would die for their clubs around the world, or is it a case of only England-based supporters qualifying as true supporters?

Lawrie Sanchez:

“Other national associations won’t be happy about the Premier League coming into their game, taking sponsors, taking advertising, taking revenue from their game.”

Wouldn’t it increase football’s exposure in those regions?

Any more questions – list them below and I’ll add answers here in the article.

Should Premier League Clubs Play An Extra Fixture Overseas Every Season?

Make your voice heard in the poll below:

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