OhKay! Premier League Goes Overseas

Andy Kay attacks the mercenary powers taking ‘our’ football overseas for the ’39th match’.

It was interesting to note that the first club chairman to back the idea of the Premier League’s overseas ’39th match’ plans was Birmingham’s David Gold. “This idea is very worthy of consideration and I find it amazingly exciting” he said. Don’t you find that a little strange bearing in mind that in all probability it’s a game that City, if indeed they are still in the top flight come the 2010 / 11 season, will probably lose? Is Mr Gold really excited about watching his side playing one of the Premier League big boys in LA, Bangkok or Dubai? Or is he getting all tingly thinking about how much cash his club might make from this grubby little venture……actually, grubby big venture.

For that is exactly what this is all about – bucks, yen, rand etc. It’s certainly not about finding out which team is the best over an extended 39 game season. Using the current league table, here’s a look into one possible future……

With the top teams being kept apart, Manchester United draw Spurs in a game to be played in Los Angeles. At the same time, Arsenal get Bolton Wanderers in Dubai. United and Spurs fight out a 1 – 1 draw. There are chances galore, fantastic open football and a full stadium to boot.

Everyone in the stands, including the Premier League officials go home happy. Meanwhile, Arsenal hammer Bolton 4 – nil in a one sided encounter in which there are chances galore, fantastic open football and a full stadium…..you get the picture. At the end of the season, Arsenal pip United to the title by a single point. Now ask yourself this question….are Arsenal worthy champions? Of course they aren’t. They’ve enjoyed an extra game against a struggling team while United have come up against a side with much more quality. Equally, if Bolton get relegated on goal difference I doubt they’ll be too chuffed either. And should Birmingham finish second from bottom, 2 points from safety stemming from a 3 – 1 defeat to Liverpool in Cape Town I’ll bet David Gold won’t be as excited as he claims to be now.

And that’s the problem. Richard Scudamore keeps on telling us that the Premier League is a global brand. He’s wrong. It’s not. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool as individual clubs may be with Everton, Spurs and a few others a couple of rungs down the global ladder. But Fulham, Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, Bolton and Reading. Just where, Mr Scudamore, do they stand in your global reasoning?

However they rig the games on this magical mystery tour, there are going to be some mid table match up’s and possibly a couple of relegation 6 pointers. I’m not sure I’d be overly interested to watch Sunderland v Fulham, let alone spending a month’s wages doing so if I was a Chinese factory worker in Shanghai – another of the potential venues being touted around.

This idea of course is not new. NBA, NHL and NFL games have already taken place in foreign climbs and baseball isn’t too far behind planning matches in Beijing for later this year. The big difference though is that these leagues are ‘closed shops’. There’s no promotion or relegation. So if two teams have to play abroad in one season, it’ll be two other teams who’ll have to do so the next. Plus, they are games that have to be played anyway being part, as they are, of the regular season.

What the Premier League is proposing is totally different.

The plan is yet to be endorsed and it’ll be interesting to see what the European and World governing bodies have to say about it. But you can be sure of this. If it means more money on the table, club owners, chairman and chief execs will pursue it with a passion.

Get your passports up to date….you’re going to need to.

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