The inevitable has happened. After the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants successfully (ruined Wembley’s pitch, some would say…) brought the NFL over here, the Premier League have announced that they are considering an ‘international round’ of fixtures. Although why mention ‘consider’ is anyone’s guess. To announce they’re considering it seems like a euphemism. All twenty Premier League clubs have agreed to the proposal.
The Premier League season would be extended to 39 games, could involve extra travelling for already exhausted players, and adds an extra air of gravitas to a league that is now going truly global.
The Premier League are walking a fine tight-rope. Many fans complain that ticket prices are still too high, yet clubs have provisionally agreed to take the game away from them, rather than trying to take it closer to fans. As Mihir Bose, the BBC sports editor so rightfully put it, “it’s chance for the Premier League to showcase its product around the world.”
Don’t forget, though, that the Premier League have actually flirted with this idea for a very long time. The Premier League Asia Cup must now be officially viewed as a yearly experiment to gauge the popularity of the English game abroad. It’s obvious the Premier League were happy with the results.
This move shows the power of the new batch of Premier League owners. American investors like the Glazers, Hicks and Gillette, want to see a return on their investment as soon as possible. By taking their franchises (a term that I think we’ll need to get used to as time progresses…) global, it makes it more likely that this will happen sooner.
But what this also shows is how powerful other nations have become to the future of English top-flight football. By taking the game abroad, the Premier League assures its survival for time to come. It can bank on continued TV deals at mesmurising costs, and will definitely ensure that it gets the best players in the world from Asia, the Middle East and North America — the three big continents where Premier League football is most popular.
I’m sure we’ll have much more to say on the matter in due course.
Imagine if relegation fights or championship battles were eventually decided in a city thousands of miles away, though? It doesn’t bear thinking about.