The Premier League overseas broadcasting contracts present Premier League clubs with an opportunity to market themselves like never before. The global audience for last season was more than three billion.
Premier League football is now shown in a total of 188 of the world’s 193 countries recognised by the United Nations.
This affords topflight clubs an ongoing commercial opportunity, but some clubs may need to be smarter than others about the countries they target.
Liverpool and Manchester United have a huge international following and the so-called lesser lights in the Premier League would be better to focus on other territories to promote themselves. Of course, if a club has a player from a particular country that will in itself raise the profile of that club and the interest in it from that particular country.
In my time at Charlton in the Premier League, we promoted the club in a number of countries and built our relationships with clubs across the globe both directly and through designated individuals and supporter groups.
In the early 2000s the club established links in Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain (the club had a soccer school there), and Sweden. Shirts from all of the clubs involved used to add a spectacular splash of colour to the walls of the boardroom corridor in the West Stand at The Valley.
Collaboration agreements were signed with Inter Milan and Valencia and I had the pleasure of meeting Marcello Lippi and Quique Sanchez Flores and the presidents of both clubs and it was brilliant to play in a pre-season friendly at Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium in front of a 42,000 crowd. We even hosted the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at The Valley. He was meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair at Chequers after the match.
It used to be a brilliant sight on a home match day in the North West Quadrant at The Valley seeing all the different coloured country branded scarves and flags from our overseas supporters. Hermann Hreidarsson (Iceland), Claus Jensen (Denmark), Jonatan Johansson (Finland), Martin Pringle (Sweden), Dennis Rommedahl (Denmark) and Mathias Svensson (Sweden) would always give up their time to speak to the travelling fans from Scandanavia and elsewhere.
I read last week that Charlton is looking to build an international supporter structure once again as well as an enhanced domestic structure and to appoint a fan to drive both. There are a number of brilliant fans with great experience of growing the fanbase in the past who can help the club drive their domestic ambitions, but the international element is more complex. I have been in discussion on this with a Premier League club in recent months and it is not without its challenges. The key is a strategic bottom-up approach to build a supporter structure based around the overseas players at the club and then progress to like-minded overseas clubs looking to exchange ideas and concepts. Trust me, English clubs have much to offer overseas clubs. From a financial angle, a key objective must be to monetise commercial inventory on the back of that structure with brands in the relevant countries.
It is a big wide world out there and English football has never been more popular globally and therein lies the opportunity.
Peter Varney – Chairman Integral Sports Management
Photograph: Phil Westlake/News Images/Shutterstock