The Premier League around the world
With some of the world’s top stars going head to head each week in sport’s most exciting club competition, all eyes across the globe are now on the Barclays Premier League.
It used to be a national obsession. Not anymore. The Barclays Premier League is now the world’s league. It has become a global addiction, inspiring passion and emotion from Los Angeles and Lagos to Mumbai and Melbourne. The statistics tell their own story. The Barclays Premier League is now screened in 211 overseas territories around the world.
It has become a league of nations on the pitch, too. When Manchester United beat Arsenal at Old Trafford in April 2008, there were players from 15 different countries and four different continents on the field. From there just being 11 non-British or Irish footballers in the Premier league in 1992, in any given season these days, there are on average players from around 65 foreign nations plying their trade in the Premier League.
Over the years overseas players have helped shape and develop the English game. Overseas coaches have also been eager to work in England; managers from France, Spain, Italy, Holland and Portugal have established themselves in the technical area.
Few parts of the world are more fanatical about the Barclays Premier League than the Far East. In response to this fanaticism, the Barclays Asia Trophy was launched in 2003, a biennial summer tournament that has brought some of its biggest clubs including Liverpool, Newcastle United and Chelsea to Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. It is the only Barclays Premier League-affiliated tournament to take place outside the UK.
For many fans, though, it’s not just about watching on TV. Every weekend, thousands of supporters from across the world descend on grounds like Anfield and Old Trafford to see a live match. The Premier League has also ensured that British forces stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world can watch their team wherever they are, on BFBS, the British Forces Broadcasting Service.
The dramatic increase in the Barclays Premier League worldwide audience has largely been due to its decision to screen one game every Saturday on free television across much of Africa. It means 390 million households in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast can now follow their local heroes in the top flight.
But perhaps most surprising has been the rise in interest from India, a traditionally cricket-obsessed nation, with matches screened in bars in Mumbai, Bangalore and other big cities. The Premier League is now aiming to channel that passion into education, through the Premier Skills initiative.
Overall, the Barclays Premier League has made itself more accessible to a global audience at the same time as international interest has grown significantly.