Flashback -7th February, 2008: When the Premier League decided to hold 39 games in a season

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Fancy a Premier League season with one extra Gameweek, just to promote perhaps the most competitive league in the world? Then, you have come to the read the right kind of story.

In October 2005, in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in what was the first American football National Football League regular season game to be played outside of USA and the attendance of 103,467 was a record.

The fans readily accepted the concept of an ‘International Series’ and in May 2007, the NFL started discussing about the possibility of all the teams playing an extra 17th regular season game on foreign soil, with each host city around the world being given 4 matches.

The Wembley Stadium hosted NFL’s international game for the first time later in that year itself, as around 81,000 spectators were present to watch Miami Dolphins play against the New York Giants. The event was such a grand success that the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell commented, “There’s a great deal of interest in holding a Super Bowl in London, so we’ll be looking at that.”

Just about four months later, inspired by the NFL, the Premier League came up with their own international plans about hosting a 39th game in the season. All 20 Premier League clubs met on this very same day 8 years before and agreed to explore the idea of playing one extra match in a season in venues around the world. Richard Scudamore, the then Premier League chief executive, came out from the meeting saying,

“It’s an extra game, it’s not taking anybody’s game away, and it includes all the 20 clubs, which is very important. All 20 clubs will benefit and there is a huge element of solidarity in it.”

Despite Scudamore’s sayings, the reaction from the rest of world towards this idea was hostile. Michel Platini, the UEFA president said, “It will never be received by the FIFA, by the fans or the national association. It’s a nonsense idea, it’s not good for football. In England, you already have no English coach, no English players and maybe now you will have no clubs playing in England. It’s a joke.”

FA chairman Lord Triesman too dismissed this idea of a 39th game. He said, “We haven’t got what I would call a sustainable plan in front of us.’ FIFA president Sepp Blatter too was completely against the idea and bluntly said,‘This idea to play a 39th round outside the country does not work.”

Facing such a storm of negative reaction, the idea was dropped by the Premier League committee for that time. However, the idea was not forgotten and in August 2014 Scudamore said, “The clubs wanted it then and they all would still probably want it now. It will happen at some point. Whether it is on my watch, who knows?”

With the Spanish league already having organized their second “World Challenge” tour ahead of the 2014-15 season for Almeria, Atletico Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna, Malaga and Valencia with Barcelona and Real Madrid cutting out their own deals, the concept of an International Series isn’t far away from English football too. One possible option for the FA is to move the Community Shield, the traditional curtain raiser which has not been able to attract the attention of the fans of late, abroad when the current agreement with Wembley ends in 2018, following the Italian model which has hosted the Italian Super Cup in China and Qatar in the last few years.

While clubs like United and Liverpool having secured lucrative deals for pre-season games in the past, it would be a boost to the clubs with smaller global fan bases who could benefit from the Premier League by helping to organize fixtures.

 

Source:  Match of the Day by Steve Wilson

 

Source:  Match of the Day by Steve Wilson

Photo by joncandy

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