FanDuel - WFBC

February 07, 2008

EPL Makes Pitch for International Audience: Beginning in 2011, England's Premier League may play matches in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Miami and Shanghai during the season. One football supporters' group was none too pleased. "Are we going to see local derbies played in a foreign country thousands of miles away?" asked Football Supporters' Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke. "Are supporters supposed to accept missing the biggest games of their season because it's being played on the other side of the planet?" Foreign TV viewership of the league has skyrocketed during this decade. Though it's likely a vast overstatement, the article repeats a claim that one billion people watched Arsenal's match with Manchester United last November.

posted by rcade to soccer at 10:12 AM - 14 comments

The BBC article had a bit more detail: The league would add a 39th game to the season and the top five clubs would be seeded so as to not face each other. Five cities per year, two games at each. Doesn't seem likely to disrupt derbies or piss off the fans, but who knows. If Liverpool were to be playing in an American or Canadian city I'd probably try and get to to it.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:17 AM on February 07

I attended an exhibition rugby match in Jacksonville recently between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Leeds Rhinos. People circled the globe to see these teams play in Florida. I'm biased, but I think the excitement for regular season EPL matches in the U.S. would surprise people, especially if held in places that already attract a lot of Brits like Orlando.

posted by rcade at 10:23 AM on February 07

The final nail in the coffin of "the people's game". Top five clubs seeded? Fabulous, unless you have to play Man Utd or Arsenal three times in a season when your relegation rival gets to play three games against one of the lesser teams.

posted by squealy at 12:22 PM on February 07

Here's the Beeb article I think bill was referring to. It provides excellent background for this recent decision by describing the history of the EPL, its revenues, the increasing globalization of its ownership and fan support, as well as comparisons with the globalization of other sports.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:14 PM on February 07

btw, I'm with Sean Ingle of the Guardian: It's "an audacious and depressing voyage to the ends of the earth."

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:26 PM on February 07

An additional game (with points at stake) makes a mockery of the whole home and away format. Have exhibition games by all means, the stadiums will still sell out and the merchandise will still move out the door at the same rate. Just don't fuck with the league table. FA Cup semi finals are played at a neutral venue. If the FA wants to move them, it might be more acceptable (but not to many local fans, obviously). You could even start with the League Cup first. Not sure if 'expat Brits' are the target audience here. I can't see many Man City fans turning up to watch United. Unless it's to boo. I attended an exhibition rugby match in Jacksonville recently between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Leeds Rhinos Dude, you were at that game? The Rabbitohs are the only thing that keeps me watching rugby league. They've banned cheerleaders, have an outreach program with the local indigenous community, and have gay-friendly promotions. And trying to play their games on their traditional home ground in Redfern, rather than where the NRL tells them to.

posted by owlhouse at 03:15 PM on February 07

Dude, you were at that game? Yep. It was fun. They oversold a small 10,000-seat college stadium by at least 2,000 people, and we got to stand on the end zone sidelines close enough for a kick to sail over our heads. I don't know anything about the sport, but a lot of Australians and Brits came over to see their teams, as did crazed rugby fans from across the U.S. If an EPL game comes here I'm definitely trying to get in.

posted by rcade at 08:28 PM on February 07

The football supporter's federation don't seem very taken with the idea. Can't say that I blame them.

posted by Fence at 03:16 AM on February 08

TBH, I really don't have a problem with this. It would be hypocritical otherwise, given how I tried to get tickets for the NFL Wembley game last year. The only potential downside is in unbalancing the schedule, but I see that as pretty minor compared to the potential upsides. rcade: Were any of the locals really aware of the difference between rugby union and rugby league? My understanding is that union has a small niche but league is totally unknown.

posted by salmacis at 05:01 AM on February 08

I guess we'll find out who the EPL don't like by which country gets Middlesbrough against Sunderland.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:29 AM on February 08

Oh, 'koff, Mr Bismarck. If Manure wants to play a league fixture in Beijing, and the opposition doesn't mind travelling, let them give up a home game. Shorter trip for many of the faithful, I'd imagine. The only potential downside is in unbalancing the schedule, but I see that as pretty minor It's not minor in the slightest. Unbalancing the league by just one match is enough to nullify the principle of 'every team plays every other team, home and away'; or to paraphrase Scudamore, to accept that an unbalanced league can still be a legitimate one as long as the teams agree to it. That opens the door to a playoff system, and the carving out of the league into 'championship contenders' and 'the rest'. Yes, it's a slippery-slope argument, but it's one that's very easy to see in the mid-term, given the people taking charge of the big clubs. And the rest of the league will have no defence if they sign up. It's bullshit, and it will be resisted by the fans.

posted by etagloh at 12:24 PM on February 08

etagloh said: If Manure wants to play a league fixture in Beijing, and the opposition doesn't mind travelling, let them give up a home game. Shorter trip for many of the faithful, I'd imagine. Matt Scott at the Guardian claims that, ironically, poor EPL uptake in China (against other pro leagues such as the NBA) is driving the global move.

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:04 PM on February 08

@salmacis: ***TBH, I really don't have a problem with this. It would be hypocritical otherwise, given how I tried to get tickets for the NFL Wembley game last year. The only potential downside is in unbalancing the schedule, but I see that as pretty minor compared to the potential upsides.*** It's not minor, it's HUGE. It breaks 120+ years of tradition of balanced schedules, in order to copy the monstrosity of completely arbitrary league scheduling that plagues North American sports leagues. If they do this it will indeed be the "slippery slope" or the "thin edge of the knife". Do you want your club to be the one fighting relegation and forced to play a THIRD game against ManU or Liverpool or Arsenal or Chelsea, etc., while another relegation zone club gets an easy 3rd game against another relegation zone club? This part of the proposal is the most outlandish, though, and was probably put out there in order to make the rest of the proposal (ie, playing regular season EPL games overseas) seem less extreme by contrast. It's probably a trial balloon, the 39th game idea being a throwaway idea. Fans will be relieved when the EPL backs down on that idea, and will be "relieved" that instead they "only" lose one home game a year to overseas games but get to keep balanced schedules. IMO the 39th game idea is a PR tactic and not a serious proposal - but God help us if it is a serious proposal. ***rcade: Were any of the locals really aware of the difference between rugby union and rugby league? My understanding is that union has a small niche but league is totally unknown.*** Rugby union is the form of the game that most Americans know and play; yes it is a very small niche sport. Rugby league does have a small following in the USA though, check out American National Rugby League: http://www.amnrl.com/ Most Americans are barely aware that rugby exists, so the union/league distinction is completely lost on them. I've met rugby union fans/players in the USA who were completely unaware of the existence of league as well. Either code is almost completely lacking in any kind of media coverage in the USA. You can catch both union and league on Setanta, but that is only available on the satellite provider DirecTV, and you have to pay extra for it. The average American sports fan has never watched either code of rugby. But rugby union is the overwhelmingly dominant code in the USA amongst actual rugby players and fans.

posted by dave2007 at 08:10 PM on February 08

@worldcup2002: ***Matt Scott at the Guardian claims that, ironically, poor EPL uptake in China (against other pro leagues such as the NBA) is driving the global move.*** What does the EPL expect when they sell the TV rights to their games to a Chinese TV network that most Chinese are unable to watch?

posted by dave2007 at 08:13 PM on February 08

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