FIFA Reveals Plans for Premier League Games to Be Played Overseas

It’s Manchester City against Arsenal… in Shanghai. That might sound like a money-grab of a pre-season friendly, but it could become a reality in the Premier League if FIFA has their way. Football’s governing body wants more domestic games to be played internationally – bringing the top-level of the beautiful game to countries that are typically shorn of the chance to watch elite players and teams. And it could mean that Premier League games are played in cities as diverse as New York, Delhi and Riyadh….unless EPL chiefs can come up with a legal mechanism to block such a far-fetched ploy.

Working On It

FIFA buildingFIFA has confirmed that they have set up a ‘working group’ to conduct feasibility studies as to whether domestic football games can be played internationally. One of the complications is in getting the supporters of the two clubs to get to any such fixture, which is why the idea of a ‘39th game’ – hosted on neutral territory outside of the traditional schedule of 38 games per team, of which 19 are played at home and the other 19 away.

It’s something of a U-turn on the part of the authority, who had previously ruled that games in domestic competitions should be played in the home country as an act of integrity. “Official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association,” read one of their policies.

But they were taken to court by Relevant Sports, a promotions company who in 2018 had struck a deal for a La Liga game between Barcelona and Girona to be played in Miami – a move that FIFA blocked at the time. However, a lengthy case has seen FIFA drop the policy from their rulebook – potentially opening the door to domestic league games being played overseas.

Unsurprisingly, La Liga are very much on board with the new developments – they want some of their games to be played overseas as soon as the 2025/26 season. That would enable them to create an additional revenue stream, by tapping into hitherto untouched markets. The Spanish FA has already taken its Super Cup game to Saudi Arabia because, erm, money, with the Italian FA also following suit.

La Liga chief, Javier Tebas, said:

I think it could be in the 2025-26 season, but La Liga will play official matches abroad. An official match in the U.S. will strengthen our position in the North American market, which is the second market for La Liga after Spain.

Tebas has also hinted that other competitions have shown an interest in playing in America, commenting that ‘other very competitive leagues’ have also looked into hosting games internationally.

Will the Premier League Follow Suit?

NFL at Wembley Stadium
NFL at Wembley Stadium (Thomas /

The business model has already been implemented in other sports like the NFL, whose International Series has seen at least one game per season played outside of the United States since 2007 – by 2024, this had expanded to three matches, with Wembley Stadium and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on hosting duty.

Football has so far resisted the urge to follow suit, although the Premier League did once have plans for an international series of its own. However, their plans for a ‘39th Game’ were – ironically – scuppered by FIFA’s previous ruling. Fans had spoken of their distaste for the move, while a number of clubs were concerned about the possibility of long-distance travel within an already hectic season’s schedule.

The United States, Asia and parts of Africa have long been touted as key battlegrounds for Premier League clubs, which explains why so many jet off on pre-season tours there – Relevant Sports were the figureheads behind the International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament held on foreign soil and in which EPL clubs participated, with the Summer Series since following in its wake. But as far as Premier League games being played overseas is concerned, there could be one huge stumbling block – even if the EPL themselves want it to happen.

Regulator Says No

Business man says noEnglish football is set to have its own independent regulator soon enough. That authority’s mission will be to make decisions that are best for the English game – irrespective of the commercial desires of the Premier League, the EFL or its constituent clubs. You won’t be surprised to hear that a regulator might be of the opinion that holding Premier League games thousands of miles away from England might somehow be counter to the wishes of the beautiful game’s supporters.

It seems likely that the independent regulator will veto any plans to take EPL games overseas. Any club wishing to play a home game anywhere other than their own designated stadium would have to seek approval from the Independent Football Regulator (IFR), who would be expected to block any such move.

The Football Governance Bill provides the legal framework for any such rejection, with Clause 48 (1) reading:

A regulated club must notify the regulator where the club considers that there is a reasonable prospect of the club entering into arrangements whereby a relevant team operated by it would play its home matches at a ground other than the club’s home ground.

English football fans were aghast at the idea of the European Super League, which would also see games played overseas and the loss of control in what would have been a privately-owned commercial enterprise. So opposition to playing on international soil comes as no shock – even though a decent percentage of EPL clubs are now owned by stakeholders from the United States and elsewhere. According to reports, American broadcaster, NBC Sports, is also very keen to acquire the rights to any Premier League games held on U.S. soil. But, for now at least, it looks as if they are going to be disappointed.