The Premier League should play games abroad.
The Premier League recently announced plans to introduce a 39th round of matches played abroad. Would this be beneficial to the game as a whole, or a disastrous move?
Other countries get to see the games
English football has international appeal but at present the only way overseas fans can watch games is on television. This proposal would take the game to the countries where it is loved. It rewards fans in Asia and elsewhere for their devotion and it helps solidify their support for a club in a way a two-dimensional vision of a match cannot.
A fantastic example is football in Australia. With Australia still domestically getting used to Football, EPL matches here would strengthen the games popularity. Wouldn't it be great for Aussies to see Tim Cahill and Lucas Neil play each other in the 39th round? Just think of the sponsorship and the appeal for the other countries.
It is fantastic that the game has such international appeal but if it is ruined here the game will be unwatchable everywhere else. The league should focus on the home fans first, if it meets their needs and the game will continue to have the passion and support which has made it so attractive overseas.
It generates more income for clubs
It is estimated clubs will be able to earn upwards of £5m for each one of these games. This is a huge amount of money in itself, let alone the shirts, scarves and other merchandise that will be bought as a result.
Football already has too much money sloshing around, witness the behaviour of young players who think they’re gods because of the money they are paid. And most of the money will end up in the hands of the same big clubs, thus widening the divide, not bridging it.
It spreads the game
Football faces a global challenge from other sports and the Premier League faces challenges from other European leagues and even those in Brazil and beyond. Leagues are going to do this, they will play games in other countries and by so doing will take fans away from the English game. This is a do or die move, English fans may not like it but they’re going to have to put up with it.
There is no other sport with anything like the broad support of football. Baseball, basketball, ice hockey and American football are not played much outside America. Rugby and cricket have limited world appeal. Nothing else is even in the frame.
Let the Spanish or Italian leagues go to foreign countries. They will alienate their fans just as the Premier League will do – and when that happens fans in those countries will stop going to games and the league there will become dead and uninteresting.
It is manifestly unfair
At present each club plays each other twice a season. This proposal means that clubs will be randomly selected to play each other one more time. The first five teams will be seeded, but imagine if the team at the top plays the team at the bottom and the team second plays the team sixth. How can that be fair? How can it also be fair to send some clubs to Asia and some to Europe. The knock-on effects could be felt for weeks to come. This not only affects the top of the table, but the fight for Champions League places, the fight for UEFA places and the fight for relegation.
One extra game in the middle of the season will not determine the results at the end of the season. Besides, football is inherently unfair anyway. A wrongly given penalty decision, an offside that wasn’t called, a professional foul that was missed. All these can, and do, affect the outcome of games. This proposal just adds one more element of luck and will give football fans plenty to talk and complain about.
It fleeces fans
Fans are the lifeblood of the game, without them football would be unwatchable. They provide the atmosphere and the colour. They provide the noise and the excitement. Watch a game held behind closed doors and see how boring it is. Now imagine the Premier League continues with this proposal and the sheer disillusionment with the game which will result. Fans will flock away from football, grounds will empty and the interest in the league will wane – both here and abroad.
Clubs know they can get away with all kinds of behaviour which would be unacceptable elsewhere because fans love their club. One more game in the middle of the season will not change that. Fans will still go to games, they’ll still care about winning and they’ll still make a noise to ensure that happens.
And if they don’t go there will be all the more room to fit in the legion of foreign fans who’ll be attracted to the game and want to come to its home to watch a game live.
This will benefit the big clubs only
Who is going to be interested watching Fulham v Derby? That wont bring in hordes of new fans but rather will demonstrate just how much foreign fans care only for Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool or Chelsea. These clubs will get richer as a result. The others will get poorer – as will all football fans.
Fans love teams with players from their countries. The Japanese loved Fulham for a time because of Innamoto, the same is true for Chinese, South Korean or other players. If those clubs play in those countries they’ll get a huge following – and a whole host of new fans.
What do you think?