Premier League boss envious of U.S. sports’ foreign fixtures
SINGAPORE – Despite running the sporting behemoth that is the English Premier League, Richard Scudamore still casts his eyes enviously at the foreign expansion success of the NFL and NBA.
The two U.S. sports leagues have successfully hosted regular season games in the United Kingdom, and it has been a long-held wish of Scudamore’s that Premier League matches also be played around the world.
The executive chairman has overseen staggering growth of wealth in the English league — combined revenues amongst the 20 clubs during the 2013-14 season soared to 3.26 billion pounds ($5.09 billion) — on the back of bumper television contracts.
But his idea of an overseas “39th game” was met with opposition from fans, who routinely fill stadiums and helped local television deals swell to a record 5.14 billion pounds earlier this year.
“I do envy the other sports that can, whether it be the NBA or NFL who come to England and get praised by the same media who completely criticise the Premier League for even thinking about it,” Scudamore told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
“I have never denied I think it’s a good idea that we could play some games abroad, but ultimately I do respect the fact that the fans don’t think it’s a good idea and until such times as sufficient numbers of them do think it’s a good idea it can’t happen.
“You can’t run a perfect democracy, the fans can’t entirely vote for everything … but certainly I think there is such widespread difficultly on this particular issue.”
Scudamore is in Singapore attending the Premier League’s Asian Trophy, which concludes on Saturday with Arsenal facing Everton in the final after the two beat a Singapore Select XI and Stoke City on Wednesday at the citystate’s National Stadium.
The biennial tournament, which has been held in Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Thailand, is in its seventh edition and is set to achieve record attendances of over 77,000 in Singapore.
Scudamore said the event could never meet the demands of Asian fans, who contributed billions of pounds to the league’s coffers in the international television market.
“It can never satisfy the appetite of the fan enough and at the end of the day, until you see a proper real game played for points, how can it satisfy the appetite as the appetite is so huge?” he said.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez said he was in favour of the idea of overseas matches played for points.
His side’s penalty shootout win over Stoke followed a goalless draw, with some rusty pre-season play failing to excite and drawing some grumbles from local fans.
“The Premier League is breaking new barriers and achieving incredible things, so you would never want to say never,” Martinez said earlier this week.
“As a football lover you would want to export our league everywhere in the world and get that closeness with the fans around the world.”
Scudamore said the obvious avenue for growth would be to stage more Premier League pre-season tournaments, but held back on the location of the 2017 edition.
“Certainly the idea of doing more around the region,” he said. “Although it would be a stretch on our resources I’m sure we could manage it. More in Asia and plus more in the Americas I think is the more likely prospect.” – Reuters