Premier League goes global: overseas game plan revived

Controversial idea of matches abroad is back on the agenda after NFL and pre-season successes

 Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United
(Image credit: Chris Trotman/Getty)

The idea of playing Premier League matches overseas is back on the agenda, six years after plans for a '39th game' to be played abroad were shelved after huge controversy.

Why is the idea being suggested now?

According to the Daily Telegraph and Associated Press, the "clubs have now asked the league to conduct a feasibility study into global expansion options".

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With pre-season tours by Premier League clubs now a regular part of the calendar the idea seems less radical than it once did. And overseas demand is high. "The international interest in preseason games was highlighted by Manchester United's friendly against Real Madrid in Michigan in August," says the Telegraph. "Organised by a third party company, it attracted a crowd of more than 109,000."

A crowd of more than 50,000 watched United take on Liverpool in Miami (above) and according to the league games are now broadcast in 175 countries.

What do the clubs think?

"Any chance to boost revenue from abroad would be met with support from the clubs," says the Daily Mail.

And Premier League chief Peter Scudamore believes it is inevitable that the Premier League will one day go global. Speaking in August he said: "The clubs wanted it then [2008] and they all would still probably want it now. It will happen at some point. Whether it is on my watch, who knows?"

Do other sports do it?

Yes. Another push towards the idea of playing games overseas is the success of American sport exports. The NFL has staged regular season games in London since 2007 and there will be three matches at Wembley this autumn, the first of which took place last month.

"Given the widespread acceptance of playing regular-season NFL and NBA games in London, there is a growing belief that a version of the [Premier League] idea could be dusted down before the end of the decade," says The Guardian.

How will it work?

The idea of an extra round of fixtures has been ruled out. "The original '39th game' concept... is no longer on the menu," claims The Times. "But other options have been discussed, including the possibility that one or two of the existing 38 rounds of matches could be staged, in their entirety, in different cities around the world."

They could take place early in the season. "A round of matches played abroad in late November or early December would be ideal for US audiences," notes the Mail. "It would also bring the Premier League in line with the NFL staging games at Wembley."

What are the problems?

The idea is still unlikely to be popular with fans, who will be forced to travel abroad to watch their team, and the sides scheduled to play at home would suffer most. "There would still be complications around the fact that half of the clubs in the league would play one home fixture fewer per season," explains the Guardian.

When will it happen?

The Times suggests there could be provision for overseas games in the next TV deal, which begins in 2016, but the Guardian disagrees and says it will not be for at least five years as "the tender for the next three-year TV contract [is] based on the current format".

But the Telegraph says: "Although playing a regular season game abroad would appear unlikely in the immediate future, the league is looking into organising lucrative pre-season friendlies and expanding the existing Premier League Asia trophy tournament to other continents."

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