America: Are you ready for Burnley FC?
As the Premier League goes on its annual jamboree of pre-season tours, taking on clubs from Hangzhou Greentown to the Seattle Sounders, Sam Wallace tackles the questions that we really want answered...
Saturday 18 July 2009
Who earns the most from their pre-season games?
Chelsea say that they have already sold out today's game with Seattle and another against Milan on 24 July in Baltimore.
They expect to have earned fees of around £2.5m before they return from America in 10 days' time. Manchester United can command even more than that; their mid-season friendly in Saudi Arabia 18 months ago demonstrated they will not set foot on a pitch without a fee of £1m at the very least.
What is John Terry's future?
Unfortunately for Chelsea, their fifth trip to America in the last six years has turned into a one-story tour. The only issue at the club now is how their captain Terry will resolve his future, having been tempted by Manchester City's £270,000-a-week offer. Generally speaking expat and foreign fans give touring clubs a rapturous welcome. The attitude towards Terry from those Chelsea fans in America will be fascinating.
Which of the smaller clubs are blazing a trail?
Fulham are already back from their mini-tour of Australia where they flew on 3 July and played three games against Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory. "We had three major reasons for going," said Fulham's chief executive Alistair Mackintosh. "We have a bit of a fanbase in Australia because of Mark Schwarzer [Fulham's Australia international goalkeeper]; it was fairly lucrative and also the tour was early enough to form an integral part of our fitness preparation for the season."
The attendances ranged from 10,000 to 20,000, all three of them "appreciative crowds", Mackintosh said. "It will have made a difference to our perception there," he said. "We all have a duty as Premier League clubs to try to get out to these audiences who buy our television rights."
Will Owen fit with Rooney?
Sir Alex Ferguson will not have bought Michael Owen on a free transfer without first consulting his No 10. Owen's and Rooney's partnership worked beautifully at Euro 2004, but as the younger man developed there was the very real sense that Owen was not the best foil for him. The likes of FC Seoul and Hangzhou Greentown might not be the sternest test, but United's games in Munich later on, the first against Boca Juniors, might give a clearer idea.
What is in it for the foreign clubs that English teams visit?
Having played in the defunct NASL League and then in America's second tier, Seattle Sounders say that their friendlies against Chelsea and Barcelona, who are also visiting the city this summer, are chances to establish themselves. The Sounders' executive Frank MacDonald said: "We think these are teams that have cache with our more discerning fans. It brings us exposure around the world and it means our players play against the very best."
At their Qwest Field stadium, Seattle average crowds of 30,000 but for the game against Chelsea today they have opened up an entire top tier of the stadium, usually empty and covered up to preserve the more intimate atmosphere, and all but 1,000 of 67,000 tickets were sold as of yesterday. Freddie Ljungberg is Seattle's famous overseas players and Kasey Keller is the captain, but the rest of them would scarcely be recognised outside their own front door.
Why is it that United seem to focus on south-east Asia above all?
United may have had to cancel their game in Jakarta, scheduled for Monday, because of the bomb attacks in the city on Thursday but it is indicative of their confidence in their popularity in the region that they are trying to schedule another game in its place. What other sporting institution or entertainer could pull out of a 100,000-capacity event 7,000 miles from home, then immediately organise another within a few days and still be confident of drawing a big crowd?
Can any Premier League team draw a crowd in America?
That question should be answered on Tuesday at PGE Park in Portland, Oregon, when the Premier League's unlikely new boys Burnley will take on the Portland Timbers. Just to clear up any confusion, the Portland team are billing their opponents as the "English Premier League's Burnley". Currently the Timbers play in the second tier of US football in the 19,500-capacity PGE Park that only has stands on two sides of the pitch. It could be worse: the minor league baseball team that play there are called the Portland Beavers.
What is the Premier League doing this summer?
The bi-annual Premier League Asia Trophy takes place this year in Beijing with Hull City, West Ham, Tottenham and Beijing Guoan participating. The English clubs earn £700,000 each for two games, which is big money for the likes of Hull and West Ham who could not usually generate much interest in pre-season tours.
The Premier League is also dispatching Simon Morgan, the head of community, and Warren Barton to Beijing who will run a skills initiative with the British Council for local people. The Premier League referees Andre Marriner and Martin Atkinson will coach Chinese referees and there will be a £300,000 investment in a "grassroots legacy".
What does it all mean for Richard Scudamore's 39th game plan?
The Premier League chief executive took a fearful kicking in the court of public opinion over his proposals in February last year to add a 39th game to the season and play it abroad. But the idea had sound roots: equal revenue for all Premier League clubs, large and small, from the popularity of the league across the world. This summer shows more than ever the disparity in pre-season earnings between big clubs like United and Liverpool and the likes of Birmingham (seven days in Austria) and Wigan (a friendly against Romania's FCU Timisoara).
The Italian Super Cup – the equivalent of the Community Shield – between Internazionale and Lazio will be staged at the Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium on 8 August. In recent years the Italians have not been great innovators in the business of football but there are many who will look at this example and wonder if that should be the next step for English football.
The global game: Who's heading where in pre-season
Austria, Hungary, Germany (21-29 July) Spain (8 Aug).
Key Game: Valencia, 8 Aug
Spain (25-29 July).
KG: Malaga (n), 25 July
Austria (21-26 July).
KG: Stuttgart, 21 July
Italy, Croatia (16-18 July), Scotland (8 Aug).
KG: Dundee United, 8 Aug
Germany, Netherlands (25-31 July), Scotland (4 Aug).
KG: Borussia Mo'galbach, 25 July
United States (21-25 July), Scotland (6-8 Aug).
KG: Kilmarnock, 6 Aug
United States (18-27 July)
KG: Internazionale (n), 22 July
Canada (26 July), United States (30 July).
KG: MLS All-Stars, 30 July
Australia (8-15 July)
China (29-31 July).
KG: Beijing Guoan, 29 July
Switzerland (15 July), Austria (19 July), Thailand (22 July), Singapore (26 July), Spain (2 Aug), Norway (5 Aug).
KG: Thailand, 22 July
South Africa (18-25 July).
KG: Orlando Pirates, 18 July
Malaysia (18 July), South Korea (24 July), China (26 July), Germany (29-30 July).
KG: Boca Juniors, (n) 29 July
Portugal (31 July-1 Aug).
KG: Benfica, 1 Aug
Austria (17-21 July).
KG: Hapoel Tel Aviv (n), 21 July
Portugal (19 July), Netherlands (24-26 July), Scotland (4, 8 Aug).
KG: Celtic, 1 Aug
China (29 July–2 Aug).
KG: South China, 2 Aug
China (29-31 July).
KG: Tottenham (n), 29 July
Austria (20-22 July).
KG: Hannover 96 (n), 20 July
Australia (10-15 July)
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