Liverpool chairman hopes for Premier League games in NY as FIFA reviews rules

AP , Friday 7 Jun 2024

The chairman of Liverpool is “determined one day” to see the storied English soccer team to play a Premier League game in New York — an idea that met immediate resistance from fans on Friday.

Liverpool
FILE - Fans greet Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, Sunday, May 19, 2024. Photo: AP

 

The topic of top European leagues staging games abroad has been revived after FIFA recently opened a review of its rules blocking so-called “out-of-territory” games. The Premier League proposed in 2008 to stage an extra round of games each season outside England, but it met with strong opposition from supporter groups as well as FIFA.

If FIFA changes its policy, it could open the door to European leagues staging games in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — both key and lucrative future tournament hosts for the world governing body — as well as other countries where top clubs frequently play offseason exhibitions.

“I’m determined one day to have a Premier League game be played in New York City,” Liverpool chairman Tom Werner told the Financial Times in an interview published Friday.

Werner laid out an even more ambitious “crazy” plan for multiple Premier League games to be played on a rolling schedule around the world on the same day.

“I even have the sort of crazy idea,” Werner said, “that there would be a day where we play one game in Tokyo, one game a few hours later in Los Angeles, one game a few hours later in Rio, one game a few hours later in Riyadh and make it sort of a day where football, where the Premier League, is celebrated.”

Opposition was quick to come from one of Liverpool's leading supporter groups, Spirit of Shankly, which wrote on social media: “Anyone determined to play competitive LFC Premier League matches abroad should remember that we as fans are determined they don’t.”

Playing league games abroad has been a red line for European soccer even if countries like Spain, Italy and France have taken their domestic Super Cup games to Saudi Arabia, China and Israel. Super Cups are largely ceremonial events played between the previous season’s national league and cup title winners.

Liverpool’s principal owner, American financier John Henry, seemed to be wary of fans' reactions.

The FT reported that Henry, also the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, stressed that Werner’s hopes for a game in New York was “not something that I advocate or am particularly interested in.”

Henry had to apologize to Liverpool fans in 2021 for signing the club up for the hugely divisive Super League that 12 storied teams tried to launch as a breakaway from European soccer’s traditional competitive structure.

A furious backlash by fans and threats of legislation by the British government forced the six English clubs to withdraw and the Super League plan collapsed within 48 hours. Real Madrid and Barcelona are still working on plans to revive the project.

“Out-of-territory” games risks creating another rift between English fans and their clubs’ owners, who are increasingly billionaires from the U.S. and Middle East nation states.

Organizing games abroad is “not part of our current plans, it really isn’t,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in April, after FIFA fueled speculation by agreeing to withdraw from a court case in New York on the issue.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave no timeline last month for when its review will be completed.

The criteria for FIFA's working group to consider included helping domestic fans travel thousands of miles (kilometers) for games, and protecting local teams who could be overshadowed by clubs with global brands coming to play near them.

“Let’s figure out a way to offer them very cheap travel, accommodations so that if Liverpool is playing Nottingham Forest, we will support fans coming to New York and make this an attractive thing for the fans as well,” Werner told the FT.

The reaction on social media last month by former England and Barcelona great Gary Lineker to the idea of playing games abroad was clear: “No. No. No.”

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