London, Feb 8: England's Premier League is all set to for going global.
The league's 20 clubs agreed unanimously Thursday to examine proposals to expand the regular season and play 10 games overseas starting in 2010-11. The matches would be played at five venues around the world over a single weekend in January 2011. Each city would host one game on Saturday and one on Sunday.
The international round would be in addition to the traditional 38 home and away matches each of the clubs currently play.
"We can't escape the fact that globalization of sport is with us," Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said. "This is a response to that globalization. ... By design we have become a global phenomenon. We cannot go on manifesting that phenomenon as a broadcast proposition only."
No potential host cities or countries have been discussed, Scudamore said. However, he said the league would avoid venues with potential bad weather conditions. That would appear to rule out the U.S. East Coast and Midwest.
Despite protests from coaches that their players already have too many matches, the switch to a 39-game season would start in 2010-11 when a new television broadcast agreement is scheduled to take effect.
The Premier League initiative follows the success of American leagues in staging football, basketball, hockey and baseball games outside of the United States.
The NFL held its first regular season game outside North America in London last October when the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins 13-10, the same month the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves played a preseason NBA game there. Major League Baseball is opening its season in Tokyo for the third time.
"We have been wrestling with how we might do something internationally for quite some time," Scudamore said. "We've been inundated over the last five years with a whole host of proposals. It reached a crescendo when the NFL came to Wembley."
Still to be worked out would be how the team matchups would be decided.
"All clubs have an equal chance of being treated unfairly," Scudamore said. "It's better than taking somebody's home game."
No league games would be played in the week before or after the round of overseas matches.
All 10 games would be broadcast live in Britain. They would be sold as a separate package under European Union law and would be put for bids.
Scudamore said club chairman would hold a two-day meeting in June to further discuss the proposals. A final decision is expected next January.
"We have not voted today to do it," Scudamore said. "We have not voted today to say, This is how it will be done.' We have voted to further examine a proposal."
Most Premier League clubs already embark on annual preseason overseas tours to promote themselves and boost revenue. Italy has played its preseason SuperCup at Washington and East Rutherford, N.J.
Four EPL clubs are controlled by U.S. owners: Manchester United (Malcolm Glazer), Liverpool (Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.), Aston Villa (Randy Lerner) and Derby (Andy Appleby). Five others are controlled by foreigners: Chelsea (Russia), Portsmouth (Russia), Manchester City (Thailand), Fulham (Egypt) and West Ham (Iceland).
"I'm very positive about the proposal and very excited," Appleby told The Associated Press. "It will provide more exposure for English football and in order to grow the whole league, per se, you have to do these initiatives.Things were thought out really well, because we didn't want to create anything less for the loyal fans at home and we still have the same amount of home games."
CONCACAF, the sport's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, has a rule preventing foreign league matches from being played in its region but appeared amenable.
"There is a demand for people to see them, and it's understandable," CONCACAF secretary general Chuck Blazer said. "It will require further discussion. I think we'll find a level of cooperation but it has to be done the right way."
Fox Soccer Channel executive vice president David Sternberg, whose network holds EPL rights through the 2009-10 season, said games in the United States would raise the league's profile.
"I think it would be a great promotional platform for our network, with our marquee property being accessible live and in person for our audience for the first time in games that mean something," he said. "They've come up with a pretty ingenious outline for how to create an additional round of meaningful official matches without taking away anything from their home marketplace."