Premier League 2.0: Turning The 39th Game Concept Into A Winner

premier-league-logo.jpgEngland 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Please share your thoughts about these ideas by clicking the comments link below.

20 thoughts on “Premier League 2.0: Turning The 39th Game Concept Into A Winner”

  1. Thanks Gaffer for keeping the idea alive. Simply best to play a 39th game and try to make it a vacation for the teams. A bad weather time in England but good weather in the States. Tampa in February is very nice.

    A league cup game in the US is also an idea. Who needs some Prem teams facing each other for maybe the 4th time each year, ie: Prem, FA Cup, and league cup. Move the game to a US location and maybe get a better crowd.

  2. Great ideas. The preseason games played by the English sides in the US are always huge draws. And having had a buddy live in China for a year, folks are getting up at whatever time it is to watch the EPL live.

    I also like the ‘playoff’ concept for the fourth Champions League slot. The Dutch Eredivisie has had an interesting playoff between it’s top eight teams for Champions League and UEFA Cups slots. I think it’s been scaled back starting this season, but it does exactly what you said: keeps fan interest alive late into the season and gives middle of the table teams a reason to play hard when otherwise the season would be long over.

  3. Mixed thoughts on this one, Gaffer.

    Play the Community Shield abroad? Sure.

    The play-off the for Champions League spot would certainly make the run-in a bit more exciting. But places 5, 6, and 7 are typically UEFA Cup spots anyway, so that excitement already exists (but possibly to a lesser degree).

    Taking those play-offs on the road? No thanks. The celebration of winning that tournament should take place in front of their own fans, not thousands of miles away from them.

    My thought on the Game39 proposal (which I’ll repost at shortly) is that it didn’t go far enough. The small number of games would mean that only a tiny percentage of the overseas fans would benefit (less than 1% by my calculation).

    What overseas fans really want is “all access” to all games – see ANY game live whenever they want to, in whatever format they want to (full game, 30 min highlight, 10 min highlights, 2 min highlights).

    If you want to hook the overseas fan, that’s the way to do it – not some gesture that is effectively meaningless to most fans.

  4. Heck, hopefully Gaffer doesn’t mind if I just repost my whole article below. It got deleted when I moved servers a few months ago. If you like this sort of thing, check out and subscribe at

    Part 1:

    The Premier League’s Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, has obviously been investing a lot of time and effort into the “Game 39? proposal. That investment seems to have been counter-productive, receiving rejection after rejection and piling negavite publicity onto the already-tarnished money-men of football.One of the follies of the proposal, in my mind, is that it wasn’t ambitious enough. It didn’t go far enough to meet the goals of the operation.If the Premier League’s goal was to cater more to the overseas supporter, how successful could Game 39 have been? It’s estimated that the overseas audience for a live Premier League match is 75 million. In the best case, the Game 39 roadshow could hope to get in front of less than 1% of those fans. It would be just another game on the telly for the other 99%.

    Clearly this would still have been a profitable venture for the Premier League, but I hope Scudamore is canny enough to realise that if you’re only catering to 1% of your customer base, then you’re leaving money on the table.

    The best way to reach out to these overseas fans – and by ‘reach out’, I mean extract as much money as possible – would be to give them what they want, when they want it. And as one of these overseas fans, I present myself as ambassador and here are my list of demands:

    1) I want the choice to watch any game that’s being played. Live. On my TV or my computer. If the TV channel can’t handle that, let them show all 10 games back-to-back – in tape-delay mode if you have to.

    2) I want the choice to watch extended highlights of any game. Give me the choice of a 30 minute or 60 minute version. Again, could be on my computer or on my TV.

    3) Let me watch the goals / incidents on-demand whenever I want to.

    4) Whenever there is more than a couple of games being played, give me a program that jumps from game to game, showing all the goals and highlights pretty much as they happen. A bit like that Jeff Stelling program on Sky – but let me watch the games rather than having me watch people who are watching the games.

  5. Part 2:

    I currently pay, I think, around $10 a month for my Fox Soccer Channel. I don’t have Setanta, because my cable company doesn’t carry it. I think I’d pay around $30 for that kind of access. Multiply that by, let’s say, 10% of the those 75 million people, and you get a windfall of $150 million before you even think about sponsorship or advertising – and all without baggage of the Game 39 proposal.

    Scudamore’s plan was to cater to 1% of the overseas audience for $40-80 million a year. This caters to all of them (potentially), and would bring in $150 million or more with only a 10% take-up. Sometimes that fella just doesn’t think big enough.

  6. Very innovative suggestions. They will surely take the Premier League out of UK.

    But then playing two-legged playoffs after a 38 game long season wont go down well with quite a few managers and players !

  7. The Community Shield idea could a good one if it was accepted as a viable alternative to the Game 39 idea – but I suspect it wouldn’t be purely because of the historical friction between the FA and the PL.

    Scudamore will press on, no doubt, but he has yet to offer a proposal on how Game 39 would work. 20 teams playing each other twice a year, home and away, has a perfect symmetry. What are the practicalities of a 39th game?

    If the PL is already the global league of choice with more viewers abroad than at home, what is the point of Game 39? Also, what do the managers think of having to play a game abroad during an already exhausting season?

    This smacks of the World Club Cup affair, when ManU was excused of playing in the FA Cup so they could fly thousands of miles to be embarrassed in Brazil.

  8. The problem with the playoff games: it works for lower leagues, as they only have their own league games going on in April/May, barring a once-a-decade cup run by 1 or 2 teams. But those teams in the Premiership that would have to play playoffs are very likely to be involved in that current year’s Champions League, UEFA Cup, or FA Cup games. Adding more games to the end of the season to the teams that are ALREADY playing more games than any other team is asinine.

    I do agree with the comment about allowing people to be able to see every game possible. I do pay the extra $15/month for Setanta on DirecTV (really, the only reason I have DTV instead of FIOS) and last year I was able to see, between FSC, Setanta and ESPN2, every game that Arsenal played except 2. But what about fans of Newcastle, ‘Boro or West Ham? They’re lucky to get 50%, and maybe not even that many. While the demand isn’t there as much as it is for the NFL Sunday Ticket, if they can put together that MLS package for cable or DTV, why not EPL as well?

  9. I’m not too supportive of moving matches overseas, but the Community Shield would be fine. As for a play-off for the final Champion’s League spot, that might be good, but I wouldn’t do two leg affairs, just semi final, and then the final. Especially if they are at a neutral international site. It could be good, imagine all three matches at the same site in New York or Toronto or somewhere. But I think it would be best in England, at the home of the higher seed. FIFA should develop the fan as a person who watches the highest level on the Telly, and then goes to support their local team, in the US that is the MLS.

  10. re: playoffs for 4/5/6/7 … i think in some sense the format you propose would remove interest from some of the end-of-season games involving these clubs.

    There would likely be three clubs with separation at the top, maybe the #4 with an outside chance at making into the automatic spots… then a couple teams who know they are ‘in the playoffs’ regardless of what their results are, and maybe one battle for 7/8.

    One remedy is to bite the bullet and give home field advantage to the sides finishing 4 and 5 in a one-off game, then have the ‘final’ in a neutral-site. With this, teams are at least striving a bit for position, etc.

    I am, on the whole, a fan of tradition, though, and I don’t think the current system is broken, exactly. Its the finances behind the game that create such separation between the big clubs and the second tier, that need to be addressed.

  11. Strongly against all of this. I am English but live i the US but dont see a need for this. GRanted there are a lot of fans in the US and other places of the Prem but its the English Premier League. Its in England – all these fans knew that when they started watching it.
    Community Shield i can lose as I dont really care for it but any other game of significance stays put in England.
    If America wants to see these players – then America needs to develop its own league and get people involved, get people watching MLS on TV – same for other countries who desire a 39th game.
    ITs a deeply unpopular concept in England and its just clubs trying to cash in on fans money overseas. I am on an overseas blog so I am sure this isnt going to be a popular view.

  12. Simon is right and based on my conversations with fans at Wembley and in London when I was there with the US team, the PL itself is becoming less and less popular in England thanks to money grabbing schemes like this. People were telling me how much they like lower league football and were curious about MLS.

    Many in England have already checked out on the PL. High ticket prices, too many foreign players, too many marketing scams, no competitiveness= angry, bitter fans.

  13. I love your playoff idea to generate some great end-of-season excitement, but it is ludicrous to suggest that any team play its playoff games outside its home country. What about the fans that go to the stadium every week to live and die by their team? They get screwed for the best games of the season. Can you imagine if they staged the Super Bowl or the World Series* in Europe?

    Community Shield to start (though the first step was really MLS All-Star game and friendlies), then move to early regular-season games overseas like NFL and MLB have done. That is the more logical solution.

    * just the same, can we really still call it the “World” Series? Is the NBA champion really the “World Champion”?

  14. I absolutely agree with Phil. Half the battle in building dedicated fans is giving them complete access to watching your team.

    Living in Boston, I try to catch as many Arsenal matches as I possibly can. A lot of the time, their matches are broadcast on Fox Soccer live. But for Champions League/Cup matches, I’m on my own. My cable provider doesn’t have Setanta, and “Arsenal TV Online” only is guaranteed to have a handful of games. If the match is on Sky Sports 1 or 2, I’m out of luck.

    Considering the fact that there are services out there like and, I don’t see why the Premier League can’t make all games available over the internet (both on-demand and live) to anyone worldwide.

  15. MLS Live TV is a superior product. Really outstanding. MLS for all its faults has since its inception been ahead of the curve with its website, and interactive audio and video. Even in 1998 the MLS website was awesome!

  16. I think the Premier League has to look at the Bundesliga for how to make things much for interesting for fans. I think the introduction of terraces for one could do the trick. Also, the reduction of season ticket prices. The rates for some of the teams, especially those based in England are just ridiculous. And they also have to learn to use the Internet to their advantage. Look at SeriaA Tv that posts highlights of all Serie A games on YouTube.
    And yup, MLS Live TV is pretty damn good!

  17. I think this is a brilliant idea of playing games in all city’s, I think personally they should get U.S.A, Japan, Australia and so on. I also support this idea, 100% of playing games abroad and the 39th game as well. I read that U.S.A are interested in playing in the Premier League as well. We know David Beckham is playing for LA Galaxy and he was saying in the past that he wants to get Soccer big in the U.S.A like Football is big in the U.K. and europe. I know in U.S.A they don’t call it Football, they call it Soccer. Let’s make it the 39th game happen. World Premier League is a brilliant to say. Here’s a dream game, why not LA Galaxy V.S. Man Utd at Old Trafford, that is a dream come true. Bring the 39th, game, please, please, please. We want the 39th game.

  18. Why not just introduce slavery again? and make it mandatory to watch the EPL in return to be fed.

    That way they can take all the money and not have to worry about the development of other leagues ever attracting their own fans…because no one will be allowed to play or watch local teams!

    Im a genius I tell ya!

  19. For the top guys you have 38 league games, FA CUP, League Cup, European cup (whichever) thats a lot of football to add to possible play offs. That could be well over 60 games ? in a 37ish week period. Add to this possible rematches for ties I think this is very congested adding extra matches are great for the Fans but not the players/teams.
    Now the way I see it any game outside the country/region the game is being played should be shown live or on demand on line or on tv. If the game is sold out then anyone that wants to see it should be able to see it.
    Now what they should do is in the off season have a friendly tournament in the USA where there is a nice big purse award for the winners to make them put on the top players. Play the games at the same time of day as they normally play and just continue into normal season bringing more viewers.


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