Should the FA Community Shield Be Played Overseas?

Chelsea v Manchester City
The FA Community Shield
8.30am, Sunday, August 12, 2012
Villa Park, Aston Villa FC
Live on FOX Soccer

It’s around this time of year that I start getting particularly giddy about the prospect of a brand spanking new Premier League season. With my Fantasy Premier League team settled, the fixture lists are out and magazines and tabloids are beginning to churn out their season previews, it all points towards the Premier League being very nearly upon us once again. Whilst golf, tennis and the Olympics have gone some way to filling the sporting void left after the drama of the May 13th Premier League finale , we soccer addicts are mere days away from receiving our much needed fix.

The initial part of this fix is administered in the annual curtain raiser to the season, the Community Shield. The game sets an encouraging precedent for the nine months ahead; that top flight English football is back in business.

This year’s game is contested between the Champions, Manchester City and FA Cup Winners (and European Champions) Chelsea. It presents an opportunity for the majority of us to cast an eye over two of the sides most likely to challenge for the Premier League title and the adjustments they have made in anticipation of the upcoming campaign. Chelsea, in particular, will have a fresh look to the side with new signings Eden Hazard and Marko Marin likely to play a part. City, on the other hand, have yet to make any major signings, but their squad still has a formidable look to it which should make them favorites on the day.

The match on Sunday will take place outside of London for the first time since the re-opening of Wembley stadium, with Villa Park playing host to the showpiece. For once, this seems like quite the logical move by the FA (even if the Olympic Games have forced their hand), as a trip to Birmingham will provide a comparable journey for each set of fans. It should also eradicate the empty seats that have been present in the respective ends of both Chelsea and Manchester City supporters when they have been involved in this game in recent years, with Villa Park having a more modest capacity of around 45,000.

It is usually a game both sides tend to take particularly seriously. I’d say somewhere between a pre-season friendly and a Premier League game. If you win, its a trophy that can provide impetus for the new campaign. Lose, and just consider it as another run out before things get serious.

Whilst the Community Shield has been temporarily relocated this year, across Europe a more permanent kind of relocation has occurred for the equivalent fixtures. The Italian Super Cup competition will be played in China for the third time. Such is the success of this proposal and previous game, the Italian FA have agreed a deal to stage the game in China for the next four years. La Liga officials have also followed suit, as the Spanish alternative will be played in the Far East as of 2013 after also signing a four year deal.

Inevitably, this has lead to many looking at the plausibility of the Community Shield being played overseas. The pseudo-competitive nature of the match means that it could a more appealing package than the failed “39th game” proposal, which wouldn’t prevent die-hard fans from missing any competitive action. Whilst the financial benefits of taking such a high profile game abroad are undoubted, it also gives the supporters from across the globe the chance to see a more competitive game than the usual run-of-the-mill preseason friendly.

This is something I feel we could hear a lot more about in coming years. Even though The FA ruled out the possibility of staging this year’s match abroad last year (when looking for an alternative venue to Wembley), they will no doubt cast an envious glance at the revenue generated from the Italian and Spanish games coupled with the additional branding the league would ascertain worldwide from staging such a high profile match overseas. From an monetary perspective, it would seem foolish to miss out on an opportunity that others are cashing in on.

But it could pose a problem for those directly involved with the participating teams. For the players themselves, a trip to the Far East and all the fatigue and jet-lag that comes with it would not be ideal a mere week before the serious stuff gets started. Plus, for devoted season ticket holders of the teams participating; is it fair for them to be denied the opportunity of seeing their side play for a trophy which is in itself part of the fabric of English football? Or perhaps the game should be played in the United States instead?

I have no doubt this will be looked at in coming years, but I fear we could see a similar style backlash to the “39th game” proposal if it was ever to be seriously put forward. With many English supporters becoming increasingly disillusioned with the game and the copious amounts of money involved, another attempt at taking a high profile game abroad motivated by financial gain might not go down a treat, especially at the expense of a match as steeped in tradition as the Community Shield.

Do you think the Community Shield could plausibly be played abroad? Should it keep true to tradition and stay at Wembley after this one year absence? Who are you excited to see play in Sunday’s game?

Follow me on Twitter: @13mattj13

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