Chelsea Supporters Trust Statement on Overseas Premier League Games
The Chelsea Supporters Trust board notes with deep concern the re-emergence in the media of the ‘overseas Premier League game’ idea. We see this concept as fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons and oppose its introduction to top flight football in England.
The 39th game idea (an extra Premier League game to be played overseas) which was first mooted and widely condemned in 2008 and then subsequently shelved by the Premier League has, inevitably, re-emerged under a new guise, whereby it is apparently proposed that one of the 38 games each Premier League team plays would be played overseas.
Playing a fixture overseas would inevitably impact on the integrity of the Premier League. Playing football in a different climate and time zone could potentially impact on a team's performance. ‘Home’ advantage would also disappear, giving those clubs playing a nominal ‘away’ game an advantage across the season, as such games would essentially be played on neutral grounds.
Supporters' season tickets would be devalued as they would decrease in number to eighteen and for some teams the ‘missing’ game would be one of their most attractive fixtures. Inevitably, die-hard supporters would travel to such games, thereby adding significantly to the several thousand pounds a season they already spend following the their teams.
This development would also have a negative impact on match going supporters in the UK who, let us not forget, are the lifeblood of the game. While they may no longer be seen as essential to clubs' income, they play a fundamental part in making the Premier League the spectacle that it is. Without full grounds producing fantastic atmospheres week in week out, the Premier League "brand" would be severely weakened.
Furthermore, there would inevitably be an impact on players with yet more mid-season and in most cases, long distance travel. It is also possible to envision a scenario where half-fit stars are encouraged to play in such games to ensure sponsors and local supporters are kept happy. There must also be concerns that this is the thin end of the wedge and that, over time, more domestic league games could be played abroad. Simply because American Football (a single country sport at the professional level) plays international games at Wembley does not mean football, already a global game, needs to flaunt itself in the same manner.
Pre or post-season friendlies and small tournaments are the logical place for overseas matches. It is easy to understand the desire of overseas Chelsea supporters (and sponsors) to see the team play, but this cannot be allowed to interfere with the integrity of the Premier League, with title races and relegation fights often being settled by a single goal or result. There is a difference between friendly matches against strong opposition and competitive games played as part of one of the top leagues in world football that Premier League clubs would do well to understand.
It is ironic that the flotation of this unwelcomed idea has arisen during the ‘Leaders In Sport’ conference currently taking place at Stamford Bridge. If football had leaders who actually understood the game’s history and the need for competitive integrity they would take the opportunity to kill this idea once and for all. It is probably naive to expect Chelsea or other clubs to make a statement at this stage on something that is clearly being discussed behind closed doors. It is to be hoped however, that if this unwanted and ill thought out concept is formally discussed at a Premier League meeting, representatives from Chelsea and other clubs will think about this competitive integrity, heritage and the impact on match going supporters, rather than another chance to earn even more money than they already do. It is clear from the media and social media networks that a large number of supporters are vehemently opposed to the idea.
Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, and his acolytes seem to see money as an end in itself. The current television broadcasting deals mean that the English game at the top level is already awash with money. The fact that so much TV money goes directly to players and their agents is a matter for regret and remedial action by clubs, not shoulder-shrugging.
The board of the Chelsea Supporters Trust has little or no faith in the FA, UEFA or FIFA in protecting the game’s best interests, but would hope that on this occasion, they would step in and ensure that playing domestic league games overseas is not allowed to happen. We will be working with national supporter organisations and fellow Premier League supporters trusts to build coherent and effective opposition to this proposal.