Pre-season globe-trotting is a tour of duty

Top flight has become a global brand via TV but a 17,000-mile summer tour sells kit, says Ian Herbert

Click to follow

We've sacrificed some of Arsenal's rational approach to the pre-season. We are in a race with the other clubs

Arsène Wenger recently said that Arsenal's pre-season tour of Malaysia, China and Germany was a "compromise" with commercialism. "We had a rational, methodical approach to our pre-season," he declared. "We have sacrificed some of that."

Robin van Persie has also played his part in damaging that immaculate methodology, though judging by the 17,000 miles of travel his players are about to embark upon, Wenger has come a long way from his former disinclination to put the Arsenal brand before pre-season preparations.

Arsenal first broke with tradition to travel far last year and this year's tour would have been even longer, had not a detour to the Abuja National Stadium in Nigeria's federal capital territory been cancelled because of the state of the pitch.

"We are in a race with the other clubs as well," Wenger acknowledged this month when he discussed how clubs' global incomes are the overriding pre-season consideration now.

Manchester United's extraordinary 22,000-mile tour, across three continents, bears out that point, with the club's owners only perhaps ruing the fact that they had already put their plans in place for South Africa, China, Norway, Sweden and Germany before the decision to float the club on the New York Stock Exchange. A repeat of last summer's tour to the United States would have been useful, but United will already be travelling further than any other Premier League side.

Every club in the top flight is chasing the same global recognition. Fulham joined the party late this week by announcing a trip to Germany: the 20 elite clubs' tours of duty will collectively rack up 180,000 air miles. For many clubs, the destination is linked to ownership: Liverpool arrive at Fenway Park, the Boston backyard of their owners, Fenway Sports Group, to face Roma on 25 July.

"There's no pressure! Not in a pre-season game!" the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, said, with a grin, yesterday – though Mark Hughes can tell him that his Manchester City side's defeat by an Abu Dhabi XI in the emirate a few seasons back didn't help him greatly. Hughes is back in that boat, on Malaysian turf with his Queen's Park Rangers squad, under the watchful eye of his proprietor, Tony Fernandes. The new Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert finds himself on owner Randy Lerner's American home turf.

The best-laid plans don't always work out. Sunderland's trip to South Korea – 12,000 air miles to play in the Peace Cup – seemed a fine way to build on the cult status of their striker Ji Dong-won – until he pulled out to play in Korea's Olympics squad.

City take their title deeds to Beijing and Kuala Lumpur – some 14,000 miles, with the enticing prospect of facing Arsenal and Van Persie in China on 27 July. City will hope to have signed the Dutchman by then.

Chelsea and Tottenham go Stateside: the European champions' four-stop US tour will entail them flying 12,700 miles. In all, six clubs are heading to Asia – including Everton, undaunted by recent problems with poor league starts, who go to Indonesia. Six in all go to America.

Remarkably, the six include US tours by Stoke and Swansea – surely unthinkable just a few years ago.

Comments