Overseas Premiership games a great idea – but with warnings attached

I have just read on the BBC website here that the English Premier League are considering introducing an additional 39th game to the season – with points and league placings at stake – and allowing it to be played overseas.

Cue much gnashing of gums and cries of discontent from the masses who fear change and believe that matches should still kick off at 3pm every Saturday on the dot, with two points for a win and numbers 1-11 on the back of the shirts.

But these would be the same people who laud the Premiership as the most exciting league on the planet, boasting the biggest teams and the most prestigious talent. The fact that this claim is built on obscene amounts of cash raked in from flogging broadcast rights around the globe will be lost on them.

Now has come the time to give something back to the countries in the Middle East, Asia and North America who have funded the exponential growth in the Premiership – and it needs to be more than the lip-service pre-season tours and tournaments embarked upon in previous years.

Playing an additional round of matches abroad seems like the ideal way to reward the millions of fans in these countries while ensuring homegrown fans don’t lose out.

Of course, it would be naive to suggest that the Premier League are doing this to thank the overseas fans for their support. They see this as yet another opportunity to promote their brand and milk them for all they are worth – and they will lap it up, of that there is no doubt.

The experiment worked well last year for the Miami Dolphins who played a “home” game against the New York Giants at Wembley in October – the first time an NFL game had taken place outside the Americas.

However, there are warnings to be heeded and mistakes to be avoided. It would be absolutely unforgiveable if, as is initially suggested, the overseas games were to take place at the tail-end of the season after all 38 domestic games had been completed.

Can you imagine if Man Utd and Arsenal were locked on points heading into the last game of season and their respective games took place thousands of miles from the UK?

Or if Wigan and Sunderland had to outscore each other on the final day to secure Premiership survival and instead of being roared on by their own fans they played it out in front of a strange crowd in a US college stadium?

This would rob the fans who had watched their team all season of sharing in the joy or despair that goes with following football. This distinct possibility surely rules out overseas games taking place at the end of the season.

Equally, the start of the season for every supporter is a time filled with optimism and hope for the season ahead as they believe, once again, that this will be their year. For 90 minutes at least. It would be wrong to take that away from the hundreds of thousands of season ticket holders every year.

Therefore, the sensible option would seem to be midway through the season – after 19 games. This would no doubt be a welcome change when attendances start to dip in the winter months of January and February and would seem like an entirely reasonable compromise.

There is no doubt that top level football is more global than it has ever been and clubs and fans should embrace it – because they certainly can’t stop it. I just hope that the globalisation doesn’t come at the expense of the homegrown fans. There’s no reason why it should.


One Response

  1. […] Connor at Fore! Four Two sees it as a good way to reward the overseas fans who have effectively funded the Premier […]

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