Premier League Plans to Play Matches Overseas–My Thoughts


Few issues in soccer recently have sparked more debate than the Premier League’s announcement that they are considering playing competitive, meaningful matches overseas starting in the 2010-2011 season.

Here are the main aspects of the proposal:

1. An additional round of Premier League fixtures, extending the season to 39 games, from January 2011.

2. Four clubs to travel to one of five host cities, with two games taking place in each venue over a weekend (10 matches, 20 teams).

3. Cities would bid for the right to become a host, not for individual matches.

4. Points earned from the games would count towards the final Premier League table.

According to Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, “There is much more detail to follow which we will work on over the next 12 months.” The 12 months Scudamore is referring to goes through January 2009, when a final decision on the full proposal will be made.

Scudamore has also said, in part: “I think it’s an idea whose time has come. It’s an exciting prospect.”

Believe me, there are very, very few issues and topics on which I agree with Richard Scudamore. This one, however, I am in favor of wholeheartedly.

Many fans opposed to this, especially those in England, still yearn for and believe in the “romanticism” of the game and they’ll fight to do everything they can to preserve it. They believe that the notion of playing games abroad is a slap in their faces, the people who pay their hard-earned money to watch their beloved teams play.

I respect that, I do.

With that said, I think these fans are quite a bit misguided. The reality of the situation is this: The Premier League is the most popular sporting league in the world; the TV numbers don’t lie. It has become a global entity with a vast majority of its players (most importantly, its best players) hailing from foreign countries. Half of the 20 league clubs have foreign ownership, either through a family, an individual, or a group of individuals.

This isn’t my father’s generation of soccer, where mostly everything associated with the Premiership was British and more specifically, English. Fans and players don’t interact on a personal level anymore; you’re not going to find your favorite player drinking in a pub after a game and you can have a pint with him or whatever the case may be.

There is so much money in this game these days, and the potential for even more money is out there in the global market. The interest is there in Asia, the Middle East, and North America and the last time I checked, the population is greater in those regions than in England, a relatively small country. More population = more potential profit.

That’s what many fans don’t seem to understand, and I think they’re jaded in that regard. This game isn’t about the fans anymore, and it’s that simple. It’s a business, and the objective of a successful business is to make money. In order to make money, you have to go where the money is and if that hurts the domestic fans in the process, so be it; the chance of worldwide profit far outweights the negative reaction at home.

You know that the fans who don’t like this proposal will still come to the Premiership games in England. They need their soccer fix and I don’t blame them. Even if a small portion of those fans decide that playing overseas is the last straw and they won’t attend matches any more, there are many more fans who will gladly take their place in the stands.

The bottom line is money. If fans opposed to this global plan don’t agree with that, that’s obviously their prerogative. That will only hurt them in the long run though; it’s a lose-lose situation for those people. Trust me, the game will move on without them. Why not embrace the fact that the game is so popular and more and more people want to experience that firsthand?

You can’t blame owners and chairmen for wanting to make money. In our daily lives, isn’t our goal to make money and live a good life? That’s our goal isn’t it? That’s the whole point of the concept of work. It would be hypocritical to deny these businessmen that same objective simply because it offends you personally.

Think about it. No games are being taken away in England; fans there will still be able to attend 18 home matches a year and because of the relatively short geographical distances between cities, can probably go to a couple away matches as well. What’s the harm of playing one additional game a year overseas? Again, I harp on the fact that there is no “romanticism” in the game anymore. It’s not about sentiment and emotion, it’s about making money.

The sooner people come to grips with that, the better.

9 thoughts on “Premier League Plans to Play Matches Overseas–My Thoughts”

  1. As a yank, I’d love to see a real EPL contest live. MLS isn’t even comperable, and I don’t have the means to travel to the U.K./England just to catch a match.

    Hopefully the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) put in a large enough bid. I think it’d even be worth a weekend trip to Chicago (7-8 hours by car).

  2. You came nowhere close to addressing why this is a bad idea. I don’t think the major opposition to this idea stems from a threat to the “romanticized” game. It’s generally a bad scheduling idea that threatens the structure of the league. I would be just as opposed if they wanted to play 39 games in England. Also, sorry Kyle… there is no way the Twin Cities will bid on this. It’s New York, LA and Toronto. I’m a yank by the by.

  3. I don’t see how FIFA will agree to this when they discuss this at their next meeting. Sepp Blatter and most FIFA officials have been criticizing the Premiership for years on the amount of games. Adding an extra fixture would surely fatigue players even more, especially considering it would be abroad. Taking into account the climate, jet lag and general fatigue by that point in the season, it seems to me that this idea is just unfeasable.

  4. Here’s the problem:
    Everyone knows that clubs don’t really care about the fan’s anymore, just their money.

    Well I live in the USA and I’d love to see a match between any EPL sides, weather it’s Derby v. Spurs, or Arsenal v. Man utd.

    But the reality of the situation is that people that DON’T love the EPL for all it offers, will only want to see the top 4 play.

    I oppose the idea, and I oppose it for only ONE reason, and that’s the players will become too fatigued. Traveling across the world takes more energy than playing a 90min. game.
    Manchester United recently went to play in Dubai with it’s full squad. When they returned a few day’s later to London to play Spurs, they were dominated. I’m not a Utd fan so it was a pleasure to watch, but sad to see the players play so bad.

    The reality is that climates change and so do sleeping hours, it takes the body longer to adapt than it does the brain.

    If a team travels from London to Sydney to play in 110degree weather and then back to UK and plays at St. James’s park where it’s 5 degree weather, that’s a HUGE jump. Especially for teams that compete in 4 competitions at a time, and have 2 games a week.

    So NO, it’s a bad idea because it doesn’t take into consideration of how the players will feel and play afterwards. And if my team goes across the world and plays a crappy EPL team and has to come back and face Man. United or Arsenal(which haven’t been anywhere), it’s a guaranteed loss.

  5. This is one of the most disgraceful and disappointing things in the recent history of football. The English FA or FIFA need to step in and threaten to levy sanctions against the Premier League if this goes forward.

    I have never seen and heard of something so contrived and so money driven in professional sports and American sports which don’t hold my interest any more on the professional level are about as corporate and money driven as they get. I could go on and on about this but the readers have heard all my arguments before. This is totally unacceptable and I believe FIFA should threaten to shut down the Premier League and force all of its clubs back to the Coca Cola Football League if this goes forward. Holding competitive matches in nations that already have FIFA sanctioned first divisions is ILLEGAL. If FIFA does nothing the world body itself is useless and should be dissolved.

  6. As a Premier League fan in the states, I would love to see some of these teams play without having to go overseas, but I think the main issue with the proposal is the extra game. Does this mean that some teams would play each other three times a year instead of two? So one team gets a relegation bound team three times and another gets one of the big clubs three times a year. This would have huge a effect on the all the teams.

  7. Kent:

    As it stands now, yes, it means a team will have to play 1 team three times and everybody else twice. So somebody could end up with an extra match against Manchester United while, at the other end, somebody gets an extra match with somebody like Derby County.

    To me, this plan is doomed because of this aspect. When, not if, somebody gets knocked out of the title, European competition, or the league period because of such circumstances, you will never will hear the end of it.

    I’ll go if it happens. But this plan, quite frankly, stinks.

  8. Good points, everyone. Obviously there’s so much debate and back and forth about this issue that I couldn’t address everything I would’ve liked to.

    Dragonki, I completely understand your point about the player getting fatigued and that would have its effects for the next few games, thus diluting the product. From what I’ve read though, the plan is to give teams the week off before and after this round of games to help address that issue.

    As Jeff said, it could be tricky in figuring out who that third game would be against for each team. I would safely assume there would be no derby matches played abroad, and the plan calls for the top four teams to be protected from playing against each other.

    In my post, I never really talked about it why I’m in favor of this plan; I spent most of the time addressing why fans should learn to embrace this possibility. A chance to see a competitive match from the most entertaining league in the world in person is something that I, and a lot of others, couldn’t pass up. Why shouldn’t the Premier League take the great thing they have going and bring it to the world? It’s a win-win proposition: They make money, and the fans get to enjoy a closer glimpse into the Premiership.

    As I said, I’d love to go on and on but there’s not enough time to cover this story from every angle. I understand why people are opposed to it and that’s obviously fine.

    Good debate everyone.

  9. As an American EPL fan, I dream of going TO England to watch EPL games in their proper grounds, with the two teams’ fans – part of what makes the EPL unique. These new games wouldn’t be ‘genuine’ from that perspective.

    Some of the EPL teams came over here for friendlies and I think that’s fine – perhaps even have EPL vs. EPL teams in off-season friendlies, but not League matches. There’s such a thing as squeezing the Golden Goose too hard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *