As promised, I have some more to say about Scudmore’s ill conceived plan to have Premiership matches in foreign markets. As of today there are two new, important pieces to the puzzle; that almost no country wants to host the matches and that Rupert Murdoch is seen by some to be pulling Scudmore’s strings on this issue. Combined with all of the previous criticisms of the plan (that it’s not fair to have a 39th game, that it’s bad for the local fans, and so on) this led me to wonder why not a third way? I mean there has to be a way to keep the number of matches down to 38 (which is every team playing each other home and away) but also increase the number of opportunities for foreign viewers to see the home product while not simultaneously asking the local supporters to pay thousands of pounds to see the matches in Brazil or wherever they would be played.
And then I hit upon it. My idea is very simple: twice a year (one home and one away) you pick two matches that are somewhat hard for foreign supporters to get to — let’s say the North London derby for the home match and an away match to Pompey. You make a certain number of travel packages available to Arsenal members in certain target cities around the world. These packages are available via random draw with the winners getting to go to the matches.
That’s it. It’s that simple. The club partners with British Air (Quantas, etc), with local London hotels, whomever they want to make this process simple and cost effective for foreigners to travel to London and see their team where the team was meant to play. If you want to add an “away away” scheme, then you get the foreigners to London where they take the same transport and/or accommodations as the other Arsenal supporters.
I don’t see too many problems with this ticket scheme, in fact it’s already sort of done. There’s a company right now where you can book weekend trips to London with hotel rooms, match tickets and the like. You just need to make that idea more targeted to foreigners.
And imagine that for a second… I’ve been to three mid-level matches and had a great time each time. And now I’m sitting here and imagining going to a North London derby. I don’t know, but I think that’s the kind of transformative experience that makes people life-time fans. Make it family friendly event and you’ll have foreign children dedicated to your club. There’s just so many ways to go with this and so many opportunities for a lifetime of revenue that my mind is literally racing at the ideas here.
And I think the great thing about it is that it doesn’t hurt the local fans, it doesn’t punish the teams by forcing them to play a 39th game, and it doesn’t make the local fans endure Arsenal football in American football stadiums. And let’s face it, watching football in America is a tedious event at best. If you’ve seen a soccer match in an American football stadium then you know what I’m talking about: the stadiums are built for an entirely different type of event. There are huge sidelines in American football stadiums owning to the fact that American football teams routinely have 100 people either suited up to play or there to help those suited up to play. Then there are end-zones on each end of the pitch and the worst part is that there are precious few real grass stadiums left.
So, watching Arsenal in America, you will be further away from the action than they are at Stadio Olympico, the ball bounces funny, the players are tired, and the seats are designed for a different type of event. Sure, beer at the match is only £3.50, hotel rooms are nice, and there’s a lot of cool stuff to do over here, but the main event, the raison detravel, would suck.
So, Scudmore, yes, let’s get more foreigners excited about the Premier League. But let’s do it in a way that doesn’t degrade the product and allows those foreigners the chance of a lifetime to see their favorite club at their home ground. Because in the end, isn’t it the home ground that’s the reason for the team? Isn’t the home ground the sacred place? Why on earth would you want to profane that?