Soccer clubs in the English Premier League, the richest in the world, are considering playing a week of games abroad. The Associated Press was told that the league is conducting a feasibility study into the matter, with alternatives to regular-season globe-trotting that include extending the slate pre-season exhibition matches and expanding the existing Premier League Asia Trophy tournament.
This is inevitable. Professional soccer has expanded globally at an incredible rate, fuelled by ever-increasing overseas TV rights. According to Sporting Intelligence, overseas TV rights earned English soccer £40 million ($64 million) for the five-year period to 1997. Broadcast deals now run for three years, and the latest overseas-rights agreement, covering 2013-16, was auctioned for a whopping £2.2 billion:
English Premier League TV Rights Deals
The biggest chunk of cash comes from Asia, whose TV-rights revenues grew by 77 percent in the latest deal. Tiny Singapore paid £190 million alone. It’s natural, then, for the Premier League to try to capitalize on this interest abroad. The league is also inspired by American sports muscling in on its turf. The NFL is playing three regular-season games at London’s Wembley Stadium this year, and the NBA also holds games in England. The Premier League is more than capable of returning the favor—more than 360,000 fans, including a record 109,318-crowd in Michigan, saw Manchester United’s pre-season U.S. tour this summer. It’s no wonder that the club is now exploring playing midweek friendlies abroad.