Plenty of European teams go outside the continent for their preseason summer friendlies. Now it looks like Italy’s Serie A could be the first pro soccer league to have regular season league games in other countries.
Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis revealed the plan on a local radio show in Italy. He revealed that “New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Jakarta and Beijing” are proposed venues for the first weekend of the season. On the proposal, De Laurentiis said, “We’re verifying the feasibility of the project, which aims to help Italian football recover from a rough period.”
De Laurentiis is referring to a “rough period” in Serie A that include racism, Parma going bankrupt and possibly folding and various match fixing claims. Like with the preseason friendlies, this sounds like a cash grab and an opportunity to gain fans in other parts of the world. I don’t have anything against that but they may be trying to do too much.
While I understand what Serie A is doing, I don’t think this is going to work. The only league who could pull this off successfully is the English Premier League because they already have that worldwide appeal. Serie A doesn’t have that. Get past the big name teams and interest really drops. Even getting the big name teams isn’t a guarantee for attendance success. Last year in the International Champions Cup, Philadelphia hosted the Inter vs. Roma game and only had 12,169 attend. I’m pretty sure if New York City gets the Empoli vs. Atalanta game, there will be far fewer people coming to see that game.
Italy should do something similar to what France does now at first and go from there. France has their Champions Trophy game in other countries. The Champions Trophy is to France what the Community Shield is to England. The League winner faces the Continental tournament winner before the new season. At least with this, you’re guaranteed to have one big name team to compete and while it’s still a friendly, you can gauge interest in other countries and focus on one game instead of going all out and having 10 games in 10 separate cities and putting potential matchups in places where casual and even diehard soccer fans will be uninterested in seeing. Serie A may be following the money and want to do this but if one of these games can only draw the kind of numbers Philadelphia had last year, it could wind up being embarrasing for Serie A.