Rupert Murdoch’s global broadcasting company is exploring an ambitious plan to create a summer soccer competition featuring Europe’s top clubs, including English Premier League sides, with matches to be played in cities from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
Leading clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea would be invited to participate, should the tournament come to fruition, competing with the biggest clubs from Europe’s other top leagues — the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
The idea would see a 16-team competition run for 10 years with a potential start date of 2015 in the close season when clubs traditionally play exhibition matches.
Matches would be aired on Sky and by Murdoch’s other broadcasters worldwide. The mogul’s 21st Century Fox company — being separated from publishing business News Corporation later this month — also owns broadcasters in Italy, Germany, Asia and the US.
One source described the plan as akin to the “Formula One-ization of football,” with cities from Europe, Asia and the Americas bidding to host tournament matches.
Approaches have been made to a number of cities by executives from Murdoch subsidiary Fox International to explore partnerships to host the exhibition-style tournament matches. However, the proposal is at its early stages.
“One of the major issues is if it gets to the stage of trying to pull the empire together and paying what they think is a fair share,” a second source said.
With more than half of the clubs in the Premier League in the hands of overseas owners, and five of those now owned by Americans, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, the desire to go global has increased.
Manchester United, third behind Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid in terms of overall revenues, have shown the way in commercializing their overseas fan base, vastly increasing their income by tapping into international sponsorship markets. As such, plans for overseas tours in the close season have also become increasingly ambitious.
Chelsea, for example, headed to the US to play Manchester City as soon as their marathon season finished and are to head to Thailand, Malaysia, India and back to the US before the 2013-2014 season. Manchester United are to go to Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong. It is in that context that Fox International executives have drawn up their plan, but they will have to convince club owners it represents a better bet than forging their own path.
The Guinness International Cup, featuring eight clubs including AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus and LA Galaxy, would appear to be a dry run for the more ambitious scheme.
Early rounds are to take place in Europe, with the finals in Miami in August.
News Corp and BSkyB declined to comment.