London to host major American sports league by 2011

London could be home to a team in at least one of the major American sports leagues within two years, according to Tim Leiweke, who runs entertainment company AEG.

Leiweke told UK Sunday newspaper, The Observer, “In the next two years, one of the leagues is going to put a team on different soil and it is going to be revolutionary… It’s going to happen. It’s not just about sport being global, it’s about leagues being global.”

Leiweke describes London as “the greatest city on the face of the earth”, and believes the only league outside the US that is ready for such a seismic shift is the Premier League, but that the Americans are more likely to “cross one of the pond”’ to Europe or Asia first. He said: “Baseball, [American] football, basketball, hockey… one of those leagues will do it and it’s going to change our lives forever.”

The prospect has met with mixed response, however, Sean Jefferson, of the global media network Mindshare, told the paper: “The risk of treating sport as entertainment is whether changing a sport such as Twenty20 cricket, for example, is sustainable, or whether the people you bring in will just move on to the next big thing. If you treat fans like consumers, they will act like them: turn up to a game one week, but go to the cinema the next. Fans love sport in a way that is rare in other forms of entertainment. People don’t go down the pub and stand on chairs to cheer Coronation Street”.

AEG own more than 100 multi-purpose venues across the world, including the O2 arena. They are one of a growing number of companies – including Disney, the only entertainment company bigger than AEG – attempting to bring together the marketing of sport and entertainment.

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