Premier League – Premier League goes on tour

EurosportThu, 07 Feb 17:24:00 2008

The Premier League will consider staging matches abroad from the 2010/11 season.

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All 20 top-flight clubs have agreed to explore a proposal to increase the season by one game, with the extra fixture being held at locations around the globe on a weekend in January.

Six cities – believed to be Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Melbourne and Miami – are in contention to host the matches, with four top flight teams heading to each one of the five chosen cities.

The addition of a 39th fixture would mean certain teams play each other three times in a season, and it is thought the matches will be decided by a draw, with top teams kept apart.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said a verdict on whether to follow through with the plan is still a year away, with the decision on host cities unlikely to be taken until 2010.

Scudamore said on the Premier League’s official website: “We are proud the 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.

“The globalisation of sport is both an opportunity and a challenge; one that needs addressing in a responsible way.

“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.”

The move is sure to bring howls of protests from purists and die-hard fans who are now facing the prospect of having to travel to the other side of the world to follow their team.

But the proposal is likely to be met with approval by clubs looking to develop the Premier League’s profile overseas.

Pre-season tours to far-flung destinations are an annual ritual for many high-profile teams but competitive matches have never been played outside England and Wales.

The NFL staged its first regular season game in London last October when the Miami Dolphins played at ‘home’ to the New York Giants at Wembley.

The Giants, 13-10 winners on that occasion, went on to win the Superbowl, beating the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in Arizona on Sunday.

Such was the London experiment’s success, another game will be staged at Wembley in 2008 between the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints.

Major League Baseball and the NHL have also staged competitive fixtures overseas.

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