When David Gill was asked whether Manchester United planned to go to India for a preseason tour in the future, he told us what we already knew:
That the market in India was huge, that they’d had offers to come play there, that Manchester United needed to conquer that final frontier before any other football club did and that there was a very good chance that a Premier League club would go play in India in the next few years.
East Asia, North America, the Middle East and Africa have already been conquered. South America doesn’t have the same sort of financial stake as North America and the Middle East, nor the available support for European teams like East Asia, nor the socio-political significance of Africa. A combination of distance and lack of numbers rules out Australia.
The next big target for the English Premier League is India: a billion-plus population, a growing economy and a country that is flush with the economical success of the IPL. Where sports are concerned, India knows as well as those in England or the US about the value of a TV audience, and their strength in numbers allows them to present a very attractive proposition to any club or league thinking of playing a friendly or two in the region.
So far teams have stayed away because there isn’t as much money in going to India as there is in going to, say, Hong Kong. This is likely to change in the future; once the balance of power shifts in India’s favor you’ll see a Premier League team visiting the region every summer (and if the people in charge of football are as business-savvy as those for cricket, you’ll see several clubs from Europe playing a preseason tournament in India every season).
As potential destinations for pre-season
profiteering preparations increase, we might even see clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool send out two teams each preseason (maybe not at the same time) and make the most of their squad depth and the opportunities to create closer ties with international communities.
When do you think the first English Premier League club will play a friendly in India? Let us know in the comments.