Global Domination and Game 39

17Oct08

This article will investigate the Premier League’s proposal for game 39, along with other alternatives, in their quest for further global domination… or is it exploitation? The product is the Premier League and the target audience used to be restricted to England. The mighty Premiership has grown with the funding, support and exposure from Sky and it now seems every living being on this planet is within it’s grasp.

Proposals for Game 39 are based on an extra ‘international’ round of matches to be staged in cities around the world, taking the league to the global audience that it craves. It was suggested that a round of fixtures staged in Sydney, Beijing, Miami and Tokyo could raise over one hundred million pounds a year. That provided one hundred million reasons for Premiership clubs to show their support of the idea. Tempted by the opportunity to raise up to 5 million pounds per club for one game, and to advertise their brands in developing markets, many clubs have supported the proposal put to them by Richard Scudamore, the league’s chief executive.

The Premier League had apparently considered many proposals to take games abroad, such as staging one big match, say Chelsea against Arsenal, in New York. They seem to have concluded that every club deserved to be involved. Sports are increasingly competing for a global audience and the Premier League is in a great position to make an impact. Football is established in most countries and increasingly popular in expanding markets such as India and China, as well as North America.

The proposal drew instant and familiar accusations of greed from many English fans, particularly season-ticket holders, as well as reservations from the Government. The Football Association also opposed the plans stating that there already seemed to be a problem with fixture congestion and there is the issue that a 39th game could change the symmetry of the competition or would introduce a perceived unfairness. With England due to bid for the 2018 World Cup the FA seemed worried about the possibility of souring international relations.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter labeled the proposals an abuse of association football and warned it could cost England any chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup. The Fifa president advised national associations to reject any approach from the Premier League to host matches, a move attempting to kill off the proposal as games cannot take place abroad without the support of local associations.

For the Premier League, the search is on for a new way of exploiting their worldwide popularity. Having been told by Scudamore that exhibition matches won’t attract the sort of money or profile that will make a major international strategy worthwhile, it is difficult to see what format will work. Two possible options apparently being considered include a mini-tournament being played during a winter break, and a summer friendly competition named the Premier League Cup to replace the current Community Shield.

The Premier League Cup idea could seed the top five teams among five groups of four teams. The other teams featured would be a mixture of Premier League clubs and expanded groups could even include teams from the Football League. Places could be gained through a revised version of the League Cup tournament. Cities throughout the world could bid to host one of the five group stages.

Replacing the Community Shield and revising the League Cup could be an easy transition. The Community Shield seems to have become an additional preseason friendly each year. While it could be an easy to implement the League Cup to the Football League Cup, excluding Premiership clubs. A Premier League Cup concept could be an better package for the league to sell and for the fans to accept, especially compared with the more radical 39th Game idea.

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