Cast your mind back to the summer of 2007. Arsenal have just completed their first season at the Emirates. A legendary frenchman has left the club (no, not Jeremie Aliadiere to Middlesbrough, the other guy with 228 goals). Their pre-season schedule involved a friendly away to lowly Barnet, two games in Austria combined with a training camp, two games at home in the Emirates Cup before finishing with a similarly-styled Amsterdam tournament. All based on the continent and no lengthy trips across multiple time zones.
Last night Arsenal landed in Sydney, Australia. This is the first leg of their pre-season tour in which they will accumulate 21,933 miles in travel, more than any other Premier League side.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 10, 2017
Although not by much, Manchester United will clock up 18,592 miles and Wayne Rooney’s Everton return could be in the 60,000-capacity Tanzania National Main Stadium, where the Merseyside club kick-off their pre-season. The game has been organised as part of Everton’s new partnership with gaming giant SportPesa. And here is the crux of the issue, what do clubs stand to gain from their global pre-season tours; exposure, additional sponsorship or just an exhausted and severely jet-lagged squad?
Everton will not be the only club to have had their pre-season tour influenced by a sponsor, this is commonplace in the football world. Sponsors regularly request clubs visit certain corners of the globe to ensure maximum exposure of their brand. It appears that the big clubs are convinced the added exposure club will be of huge commercial benefit in the long term.
— Yokohama Chelsea FC (@YokohamaCFC) June 30, 2017
This, of course, is in addition to the extravagant sums the Premier League clubs earn as part of the television deal. In the 2016/17 season, clubs received a minimum of £85 million, excluding prize money which ranges from £2 million to £40 million.
There is also the television facilities fee clubs receive for televised matches which ranges from £10 million to £22 million. So is it worth risking this difference in prize through a tiring pre-season tour? The answer is probably yes given the guaranteed £85 million and considering that once the season has started, the clubs have time to allow their players a more relaxed schedule prior to the three-games-a-week intensity that begins a few weeks into the season.
In addition, it is worth considering the amounts clubs receive for player in pre-season tournaments. For their 2016 International Champions Cup appearances, Manchester United were guaranteed £12 million for two matches in China, whilst Liverpool were guaranteed £9 million for three matches in the USA.
This season Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona will all play International Champions Cup fixtures. This includes the first Manchester derby to take place outside of Manchester, when it will be red versus blue in Houston on the 20th July. The club’s will be hoping they can replicate Real Madrid vs Manchester United’s record attendance of 110,000 in Michigan.
There is a shift in club’s focus to North America due to the sponsorship values available, whilst many are combining this with their continued attempts to exploit the Asian market.
This said, despite having attendances of 110,000 for a fixture, pre-season really is just that, a pre-show. It is only a month now until the real excitement begins and the Premier League kicks off on Friday 11th August.