Against It: Why Premier League matches should not be played abroad

The English Premier League continued its quest for world domination lately with the announcement of plans to play a 39th round of matches away from home, with the US, Asia and Australia being mooted as possible locations for games to be played as the richest league in the world looks to fatten its bank account.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of fans don’t seem to approve. And who can blame them? The league clearly aren’t thinking of the fans at home in these proposals. Instead they want to cash in on the Americans, Chinese and Japanese fans, most of whom have never been to a Premier League match and certainly haven’t been following the game and the teams as long as their British counterparts.

Just whose interests does this idea best serve? Certainly not the countries mooted. Thus far both the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) have appeared nonchalant over the proposals, with the AFC making the very good point that these proposals would have a damaging effect on their own countries’ leagues and clubs. Which match would you rather attend? Xiamen Lanshi vs. Qingdao Zhongneng or Manchester United vs. Chelsea? It’s a no-brainer really.

The USSF have gone on record as saying that they will be guided by FIFA on this matter, and with UEFA president Michel Platini already describing the proposals as ‘comical’, it doesn’t bode well for the Premier League. The MLS has been criticised both in the US and Europe as being of a very low standard. Despite the arrivals of Claudio Reyna, Denilson, Juan Pablo Angel and, of course, David Beckham the standard of the teams and players is still low. This is highlighted by the fact that the MLS Cup champions Houston Dynamo recently ‘strengthened’ their side by the signing of Gretna’s 33 year old ‘keeper Tony Caig, a player with a football CV including the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carlisle United. Hardly a worldbeater. No offence to Tony intended.

Are we really supposed to believe that it would be good for the MLS should the Premier League be playing matches in the soccer cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York? Indeed many were sceptical when it was claimed that David Beckham’s arrival at the Los Angeles Galaxy would be good for the American game. But certainly his playing in the MLS is of a far greater benefit than rival matches being staged if as planned, at the end of the English season (i.e. June), right around when the MLS will be in full swing, that is, midseason.

As a plan, it clearly has its flaws. The simple fact of the matter is that this plan would only serve to fill clubs’ coffers with millions of Dollars, Yen and Yuan. To steal thousands upon thousands of spectators desperate for the world-class players that the Premier League can provide.

Quite clearly the Premier League has lost its way. It is forgetting its most valuable commodity, its English fans. Those who have followed their team for 50 years, come rain or shine, and passed the love of the game down to their children and their childrens’ children. If the Premier League loses these people, they lose everything. And that’s what they should be bearing in mind with these proposals.

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