KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: German football will not be tempted into toying with the idea of the infamous “39th game” whose spectre has been raised again as the latest money-making wheeze for the Premier League.
An idea, originally put forward by chief executive Richard Scudamore in 2008, has been revived for discussion as more and more sports organisations take regular competition matches beyond their own borders.
But Christian Seifert, chief executive of the DFL, said today in London that such an idea ran counter to the Bundesliga’s relationship with German fans.
The Premier League’s overseas TV rights are worth more than £2bn while all major Premier League undertake lucrative pre-season tours. Manchester United and Real Madrid attracted 100,000-plus for a match in Michigan this summer while United and Liverpool drew 50,000-plus in Miami.
The NFL is staging three American football matches at Wembley while the NBA has staged basketball in London and Manchester and Italy’s 2014 Supercup between Juventus and Napoli will be staged in Qatar in December after previous forays to Tripoli, New Jersey and Beijing.
Seifert, addressing the Leaders Business Summit*, was not tempted even to consider the possibility.
He said: “With our 18 clubs it would be hard to have what would be for us a 35th game. Anyway, we have a completely different approach to our concept for German football. It would be against our understanding of how the fans should be involved.
“Maybe for financial reasons it would appear to be a good idea but think of the supporters who go to 34 games in all conditions, no matter the wind or the rain. Then their club comes to a game which decides whether it will be relegated or not – and they cannot be there because it’s in Thailand.
“That would not be an approach for the Bundesliga.”
Similarly unimpressed were brothers Tod and Tim Leiweke, two of the most powerful sports entrepreneurs in the United States. They have reservations enough about Premier League clubs’ summer incursions across the Atlantic.
Tod, president of Tampa Bay Sports, said: “One of the challenges I’ve always thrown out there to the powers that be in football (soccer) is ‘Will you be a pirate or will you be a pioneer?’
“Are you going to use North America just as an opportunity to make some additional dollars or are you going to commit to taking the sport to the next level and help to grow Major League Soccer?”
Tim, who brought David Beckham to LA Galaxy and is now president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, echoed that inquiring uncertainty. He said: “For many years clubs came to America, and were little more than pirates, they played a nice game and filled their bags with cash and flew out. Fans might have seen the stars play, might not have seen the stars play, but all that’s changed.”
“The MLS has improved a lot in the last 10 years.”
* Leaders Business Summit at Chelsea FC, Stamford Bridge, London
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