England can no longer lay claim to the Premier League. Instead it’s now the world’s game. In fact, the Premier League should contemplate changing its name to the World Premier League, which would more accurately describe its global appeal.
Before you report me to the loony bin, consider the fact that there are far more followers of the Premier League overseas than in England. Plus fans overseas have more football fever that most Englishmen. Imagine if Brits had to wake up at 4:45am on a Saturday to watch a Premier League match? Sounds ridiculous, but that’s what thousands of residents on the west coast of the United States do every weekend during the season. All around the world there are foreign soccer fans watching these matches live without complaining about the time zone difference.
While “the 39th game” concept was ridiculed, it’s intent was revolutionary. Bringing the world’s most popular sports league to the masses by playing a weekend of matches around the world. The idea was dismissed by the media and fans, but when the 20 chairmen of Premier League clubs reconvene later this year, global expansion will most certainly be on the agenda.
After much thought, here are my recommendations of how the Premier League should introduce their matches to the world:
- Strategize with the Football Association on how to take the Community Shield match away from Wembley and instead play it overseas. Each August, the Community Shield game could be played in a different city around the world. To convince the Football Association that they should allow the game to be played overseas, the Premier League would need to offer the FA a princely sum, which the FA would take to help pay its massive debts.
- Turn the fourth Champions League spot into a playoff race. Instead of the fourth-placed team in the Premier League entering the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, the teams that finished fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh would play each other in a playoff competition whereby the winner would qualify to enter the Champions League.Taking last season as an example, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers would have played each other in this tournament. The format would be similar to the successful Championship League playoffs. In the semi-finals, Liverpool would have played Blackburn (fourth versus seventh) while Everton would have played Aston Villa (fifth versus sixth place).
Following the same format as the Championship League playoffs, the semi-final matches would be played over two legs, “home” and “away.” The winners of those matches would then compete in the one leg final. In my plan, all of these playoff matches and the playoff final would be played overseas. Because there’s so much on the line for the teams, the games would be played at a very competitive level thus ensuring massive interest as well as generating large sums of additional TV revenue.
By increasing the competition for the coveted and lucrative fourth qualifying spot for the Champions League, this creates a whole new level of excitement near the end of the season. Not only would the fourth through seventh place teams have something to play for, but it would also force the teams in eighth place and lower to fight as hard as they could to climb into the seventh place spot or higher. As is often the case, many teams peter out during the end of the season with little or nothing to play for especially if they know that the Champions League and UEFA Cup places are already sown up. This solves that apathy and creates new excitement.
Putting the above plan into motion, this would mean that there would be a total of five Premier League matches played overseas in addition to the Community Shield match. This commitment to the international market would definitely elevate the league’s visibility overseas and would allow foreign fans to witness first-hand competitive matches.
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