The announcement that the Premier League plan to globalise the beautiful game has been met with mixed reaction. While officials are preparing for a broadcasting windfall, former England coach Graham Taylor angrily suggested that things could spiral out of control and Manchester United could one day even relocate to Dubai.
But for a country such as the UAE the prospect of playing host to one of the world’s biggest football clubs as they play a one-off competitive domestic match is the type of event firmly within the rulers’ visions.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore last week revealed tentative plans to introduce an extra round of games to be played midway through the 2010-2011 season in various venues around the world. Cities being touted to host the 39th game include Dubai, Singapore, Johannesburg and New York.
Without the endorsement of the Asian Football Confederation, the Middle East would be prohibited from hosting English clubs.
It is reported that each team is set to pick up £5m for the one-off international game, while TV broadcasters can expect far more. The sale of overseas broadcasting rights is the fastest-growing source of revenue for the Premier League and so a domestic league game in an international venue would be able to attract not only visitors from the GCC, Africa and the Subcontinent, but also a worldwide TV audience.
“For Dubai, the benefits would be two-fold,” said Malcolm Thorpe, Marketing Director of Sports Business at Dubai Sports City (DSC).
“Firstly, it would showcase Dubai and its capabilities incredibly well for future tourists, and secondly, Dubai would probably – looking at the other venues rumoured – bring the most people out of the UK.”
The UAE has already welcomed some of the world’s best football teams, such as AC Milan, Bayern Munich and a host of Premiership clubs. And Thorpe is convinced the 65,000-seat stadium under construction at DSC can be a prime location if the Emirates successfully launches a bid for one of the league’s global games.
“Dubai is already showing its capability of hosting major football games,” said Thorpe.
“An event like the Premier League would fit perfectly with the other major events that it hosts, such as golf, tennis, horse-racing… ”
The annual Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Tennis Open already attract the world’s best players, while last month’s Dubai Marathon welcomed some of the sport’s best distance runners. The result is these sporting showcases are bringing specific ‘sporting tourists’ to the region.
The Desert Classic welcomed a group of 80 Americans who travelled particularly for the golf, while the marathon attracted 40 tourists from the United States also. Meanwhile, the Dubai World Cup is the world’s richest horse race, offering a purse of $6m.
When Meydan, a dedicated race city within the emirate, opens in 2009 it will become the flagship event’s home, increasing the kitty to at least $10m and will include a 60,000 capacity grandstand.
But it is testament to a country that has recorded increased year-on-year tourism figures for the past five years that the UAE is not resting on its laurels.
The Emirates continues to fight for international events and will soon be able to boast two more worldwide recognised mega events.
The inaugural $10m Dubai World Championship, the world’s richest golf tournament, will be the end-of-season European Tour finale from November 2009 and is exclusively open to only the top 60 ranked players.
Meanwhile, in the capital, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will host its first Formula One race in 2009. The project at Yas Island, which includes residential property, the Gary Player Golf Course, the Ferrari Theme Park and several hotels and restaurants, is set to cost approximately $40bn.
The UAE’s progressive vision is a mindset in tandem with the ethic of the Premier League, which, despite outselling Italian football’s top tier, Serie A, by 47 per cent in 2005, is continuing to reveal new proposals in a bid to increase revenue.
“Anyone who gets complacent at the top will suffer and the Premier League should be applauded for looking ahead,” said DSC’s Thorpe.
“It’s already running away from the other leagues. The overseas games would consolidate its position as the best league in the world.”
The proposal however, has been met with fierce criticism from fans as well as football associations.
“That disregards the number of fans outside the UK,” he said.
“The League are introducing an extra game so they are not taking anything away from these fans. Instead they are catering to their international audience and tapping into some of the revenue the market already generates. Clearly there are people to be persuaded, but I am optimistic that these issues can be resolved,” he said.
Real Madrid remain top of football’s money league, but Manchester United are closing the gap and could reclaim the No1 spot by winning this season’s Champions League.
Real and United were the only two clubs to generate revenues in excess of 300m euros during last season, according to Deloitte and Touche.
The survey reflects the growing financial muscle that increased broadcasting rights has given English Premier League clubs.
Chelsea and Arsenal join United as one of the top five clubs in terms of revenues generated.
Football’s Rich List
Rank CLUB SALES(€Millions)
1 (1) Real Madrid 351.0
2 (4) Manchester United 315.2
3 (2) Barcelona 290.1
4 (6) Chelsea 283.0
5 (9) Arsenal 263.9
6 (5) AC Milan 227.2
7 (8) Bayern Munich 223.3
8 (10) Liverpool 198.9
9 (7) Inter Milan 195.0
10 (12) Roma 157.6
11 (15) Tottenham 153.1
12 (3) Juventus 145.2
13 (11) Lyon 140.6
14 (13) Newcastle 129.4
15 (16) Hamburg 120.4
16 (14) Schalke 114.3
17 (-) Celtic 111.8
18 (-) Valencia 107.6
19 (-) Marseille 99.0
20 (-) Werder Bremen 97.3
UAE can net greater profits