Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has welcomed the Premier League’s renewed consideration of controversial plans to take competitive matches between England’s top football teams overseas.
Leading clubs are once again exploring the possibility of international expansion, having been encouraged by the league’s ever-increasing global popularity and the successful transplanting to London of American basketball and gridiron fixtures.
Gazidis told Arsenal’s AGM yesterday that the north London outfit had not initiated the renewed debate – tentative talks were scrapped six years ago amid widespread opposition – but gave his blessing to further discussion of staging matches in major cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Cape Town.
“We were not one of the clubs to ask for these ideas to be explored, but we do think that it’s absolutely right that the Premier League should never rest on its laurels and should continually evaluate its position and vet ideas if it wants to continue to be the world’s best football league,” he said.
“Without new ideas there would be no European football, for example. That means that many ideas of all kinds will be explored and evaluated. Some of those ideas will be good and some will be bad. The Premier League is currently in the early stages taking a look at various concepts about international games, but it’s far too early to state our position because there is no proposal at this stage.”
English clubs have increasingly used pre-season to embark on money-spinning overseas tours to the United States and Asia, and playing competitive fixtures would allow them to grow their popularity further.
Evidence of the Premier League’s appeal abounds, particularly Stateside: in August, a US record 109,000 fans watched Manchester United play Real Madrid in Michigan, while its television coverage is more popular than baseball’s with American teenagers.
Premier League insiders insist it would be impossible to export competitive matches before 2016 under current broadcasting contracts.