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Premier League To Play Games Abroad, Maybe

In today's issue of Brand Extension Monthly, the Premier League decides once again to play games not on the British Isles.

Coming soon to a town near you?
Coming soon to a town near you?
Paul Gilham

Back in 2008, the small, fledgling, struggling, no-one-had-heard-of-it-yet Premier League decided that it needed to expand its global reach. It decided the best way to do that was to mess with its competitive structure and add a 39th game, played somewhere abroad.

Someone rightly pointed out to the league that this was, despite all the money being thrown its way to do it, a Very Bad Idea; a 39th game played in a neutral venue would remove and destroy everything that made people like the Premier League in the first place, like the stadium atmosphere and the balanced schedule.

Well, guess what? The Premier League has decided that a multi-billion dollar global TV audience isn't exposure enough, and that they reeeeeeeealllly like more money, so the "let's play a game elsewhere" concept is back. This time, though, it's not a 39th game; it'd be one of the regular 38 games, but played abroad, kinda like the NBA and NFL do now.

It could be argued that the Premier League doesn't need to play competitive games abroad; several go to the US, Asia, and other parts of the globe for friendlies already, and the US is currently able to watch more live Premier League games than England, otherwise known as "the place where the Premier League actually is". So it would seem there is little need to play a game outside of England - it's not like the league is starving for exposure at this point.

I mean, sure, it'd be fun to go to a game in New York or Chicago or Tokyo or Beijing to watch Stoke play Hull City, right? But is that really good for the teams that take part? MLB has had a season-opening series abroad for several years now - first in Japan, and most recently Australia - and the players generally don't like it.

It's a ton of travel, which even if you're flying first class charters takes a toll on your body and your recovery time; in a sport as reliant on physicality as soccer, where recovery time between matches is crucial, it seems like flying back from Asia on a Monday to play a game on a Saturday is not ideal.

There's also the problem of lost game day revenue; the TV money from this might make up for it, but I'd be surprised if a lot of clubs, Arsenal included, would be willing to forgo a match day's worth of revenue to do this.

There are probably ways around all these issues, and this probably wouldn't even be a thing for at least five years thanks to existing TV contracts, but still, if this is to be a reality, there's a lot of homework the league will need to do.