Premier League Clubs have today unanimously agreed to further examine a proposal that creates a new round of 10 competitive fixtures to be played across the world over one weekend in January beginning season 2010/11.
This ‘international round’ would be in addition to the traditional 38 home and away matches each of the 20 Premier League Clubs currently play.
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, said: "We are proud the Barclays Premier League is viewed as the strongest domestic football competition in the world by fans at home and abroad, and we are committed to maintaining this position.
"The ‘international round’ is an exciting and innovative proposal that needs careful consideration before being introduced. However, this concept recognises the truly global appeal of the Barclays Premier League whilst understanding that the traditions of the English game have always underpinned our success.
"We believe that an ‘international round’ of matches will enhance the strength of the Barclays Premier League as a competition; create extra interest in all 20 Premier League Clubs at home and abroad; and allow increased investment in talent development and acquisition, facilities as well as our football development and community programmes.
"The globalisation of sport is both an opportunity and a challenge; one that needs addressing in a responsible way. We are a better competition for being a cosmopolitan league and have benefited from our increased international reach. Nonetheless, it is critical we retain our English character by improving our efforts to produce home grown talent, deepening our commitment to community engagement and continuing our investment in the grass roots."
A City spokesperson said: "This is an excellent idea and merits further consideration. Manchester City has a huge international following and we have recently announced a global alliance with six partner clubs from around the world which reflects the growing international interest in our Club and Premier League football."
Not surprising given our own expansion plans throughout the world this season, and that we are one of the sides with foreign ownership. It is not an unexpected announcement and something I posted about back in October, and whilst it is inevtiable a move such as this will eventually take place and progress and money undoubtedly talk, the scale of it and how it will be integrated into the season is a big surprise to me, and has already met a mixed response from the clubs and vociferous opposition from the football community, and even led to Gordon Brown weighing in on the issue.
The BBC have a great look at the explosion the Premier League has undergone, and whilst there is inevitability about the whole thing given the foreign influx of owners looking for a return on their sizeable investments, not only have the fans been sidestepped over this, they have been complety disregarded in the search for the dollar, yen and whatever other currency is likely to bid to stage games.
My own belief was that the odd game would be staged abroad (like the NFL and NHL did) - for instance Liverpool against Aston Villa in America or ourselves and another side in the Far East, with the great difficulty there being moving a home Premiership game from a side and how this would be impact on the fans and the revenue generated from that game.
But perhaps I discounted the greed or bare faced front of the Premier League, by not envisaging they would simply create another round of fixtures - sidestepping the fact a team would lose a home game and revenue, by caving into greed and throwing in more games to fleece people with.
I just cannot see how logically, you can take a format where each teams play one another home and away, and create a random round of games, with the top few sides conveniently being kept apart but running the real risk of two relegation threatened sides facing entirely different games - say one facing Arsenal and one facing Reading, with one facing a trip to Dubai and one although the way to Australia.It is by no means an original initiative - and the Premier League would have cast furtive glances at the success the NFL (and to a lesser extent the NHL) had this season when Wembley hosted a regular season match-up between New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, and the reason the Premier League is now looking at this possibility is for the same reasons, put simply, money.
Much like the NFL in America, the Premier League in England has now reached saturation point. It has been a phenomenal success in terms of increased revenue from TV deals as illustrated below:
Attendances are now at an all-time high and there is simply not much left in the market to tap into in terms of new audience, which is why the clubs and league at looking further afield to try and milk the Premier League cash cow even more, and it could well be that the increased revenue from overseas markets has resulted in these TV networks demanding that games be placed in their markets to generate interest, and in turn increase their revenues.
Whilst at this stage it is only something that will be 'further examined', and against the backlash it has caused throughout the media already, I would be amazed given the riches (and still untapped markets) available to the Premier League and clubs if this move is not ratified sooner rather than later, but by doing so it will be done flying in the face of opinion of the overwhelming majority of fans throughout the country.