Premier League clubs Manchester United and Arsenal likely to play in India
What’s the story?
The Indian government is keen on hosting matches between top Premier League clubs during their off-season in India in a bid to utilise the facilities developed for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas met Tim Vine, English Premier League’s (EPL) International Relations Manager, during his visit to the United Kingdom in July and discussed the possibility of bringing top English clubs to India.
According to a report in the Indian Express, Srinivas revealed that “a number of states have shown a keen interest in hosting Premier League matches”. He said, “It’s very much on the cards. The ministry will not be involved in conducting the matches, but we will encourage it.”
Vine also said that discussions have taken place regarding the Premier League's plans on “football development and fan engagement events”. “Our discussion last month focused more on PL activity in India — and how we are involved in bringing the clubs to India,” he said.
A source close to the Sports Ministry also confirmed to Sportskeeda the developments, saying: "Big Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal have been in touch, but if that doesn't happen for some reason, lower rung Premier League clubs are almost confirmed to come down to India."
In case you didn’t know…
Over the last few years, it has become common practice among the top English clubs to go abroad for the pre-season matches. The fixtures, which are scheduled in June-July just before the start of the new season, are planned almost a year in advance.
This year, the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea toured Beijing while Manchester United geared up for the upcoming season in the United States of America. Liverpool were in Hong Kong for their pre-season while Everton travelled to Tanzania.
The heart of the matter
Among the several factors that decide a club’s pre-season destination, the most important one is the commercial interest. Premier League perceives India, which has a television viewership estimated at 150 million per season, as one of its biggest markets.
Although many clubs have set up academies here, they have so far refrained from visiting the country for pre-season because of the poor football infrastructure.
Srinivas has claimed that infrastructure is no longer an issue since the Under-17 World Cup has seen the improvement in facilities across six Indian cities.
The Premier League season begins on 12th August 2017 and is scheduled to conclude on 13th May 2018.
The infrastructure has indeed improved massively and in the near future, there is a good chance of the top clubs spending their preseason in India.
If any club does agree to visit the country, it will be an exciting proposition for the football fans in the country.