Premier League explores taking one regular-round match abroad

Manchester United played Real Madrid in front of a record US crowd of 109,318 in Michigan during pre-season
Manchester United played Real Madrid in front of a record US crowd of 109,318 in Michigan during pre-season

The Premier League is once again considering the idea of playing competitive matches abroad.

The concept of a '39th game' was aborted back in 2008 amid controversy and fierce criticism.

But clubs are now understood to be considering playing an existing, rather than extra, round of matches overseas, thus keeping the season at 38 games.

Talks are at an early stage but such a proposal could come to fruition by the end of the decade.

The value of the Premier League
The television deal for Premier League rights which runs from 2013-16 is worth almost £5.5bn
Over £2bn of this comes from the sale of overseas rights. Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia paid £650m between them
Last season 98% of all Premier League matches were available to TV viewers outside England
North Korea and Albania are the only countries not to have some form of rights agreement in place

The Premier League is also open to formalising and extending its pre-season Asia Trophy.

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce told BBC Sport that world football's governing body would prefer leagues to be played in the countries in which they are based.

He added: "It is something that needs some serious thinking and the views of Fifa and Uefa must be sought."

The news has been greeted with dismay by national fans' group, the Football Supporters Federation (FSF).

A spokesman said: "Once again the idea of potentially huge changes to the game has arisen without consultation with one of the groups that matters most - the fans.

"If the reaction to previous incarnations of 'Game 39' and the idea of matches overseas are anything to go by, we expect this proposal to be met with the strongest possible opposition from supporters."

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England's top clubs want to build on the popularity of the league abroad following huge attendances at pre-season friendlies in the US this summer - Manchester United's game against European champions Real Madrid in Michigan attracted a record crowd for America of 109,318.

The Premier League has also been influenced by United States basketball league the NBA and American football competition the NFL playing regular matches in London in recent seasons.

The first of three NFL games to be played at Wembley this season took place in front of a sell-out crowd on 28 September, and two more are scheduled for 26 October and 9 November.

The man who took David Beckham to the United States has questioned whether the Premier League's plans are pioneering or piratical.

Tim Leiweke was president and chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner of Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, and now holds the same position at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

He told the 'Leaders in Sport' conference at Chelsea: "Is that good or bad for MLS? Is that a pioneer vision or a pirate move?

"Therein lies the debate. North Americans are spoilt, they have the best basketball players in the world, the best hockey players, the best baseball players and the best NFL players.

"We do not have the best soccer players in the world."

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