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Page last updated at 05:55 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 06:55 UK

The global game


How being a successful British export is helping the Premier League to ride the global recession

The 2009/10 Premier League season kicks off this weekend - and the organisers are already describing it as an overwhelming success.

For the first time annual revenue is expected to exceed £1bn, with much of this success fuelled from abroad.

Matches will be beamed into 575m homes in 211 territories around the world and a total of 90,000 hours of action will be broadcast.

In-depth interview - Richard Scudamore

The current overseas deal runs from 2007 to 2010 and is worth £625m, equating to about a third of the total television revenue the Premier League receives.

But chief executive Richard Scudamore admits overseas revenue could soon exceed the amount received at home, a belief which is backed up by the one deal to have already been wrapped up.

The Abu Dhabi Sports Channel is believed to have paid a whopping £194m for the rights to broadcast the Premier League in North Africa and the Middle East, which is almost three times the £73m that Showtime Arabia paid last time round.

Negotiations with the Premier League's other 97 broadcast partners are ongoing and are expected to be tied up in the next three to four months.

Steve McMahon, the former Liverpool star who is now commercial director of the Singapore-based Profitable Group, is not surprised that the overseas deals are proving so lucrative.

The Far East is a crucial market and several teams have been on summer tours there

"The television viewing figures when Liverpool or Manchester United play are six or seven hundred million - it is a global game," he told the BBC.

A large proportion of these viewers are in China, where matches will once again be on free-to-air television in 2009/10. Viewing figures for Premier League matches are reported to have dropped from 30m to 20,000 when games were only available on pay-per-view television after 2007.

The Premier League teams themselves have been bolstering interest - and revenue - by taking part in overseas tours during the close season.

Every Premier League team - from Hull, who went to China, and Burnley, who travelled to the US - played overseas games this summer.

US interest in the Premier League is continuing to grow

FA Cup winners Chelsea made more than £2m from their tour of the United States and former Los Angeles Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas, who helped bring David Beckham to Major League Soccer, said: "Anybody looking at soccer here and its progress has to be pretty impressed - and the English clubs realise that."

Overseas interest is crucial, because this is the first year Premier League clubs have started to feel the full effects of the global recession.

The Premier League says 12 of its clubs have seen their season-ticket sales increase, while four have sold the same number as last year and four have experienced declines.

But there is anecdotal evidence that corporate hospitality is down and that clubs like Arsenal are offering tickets to fans who have been on waiting lists for years.

International deals will help to buck this trend though, as English football can now truly be described as the global game.

* Watch the BBC News Channel/BBC World on Friday for more interviews and analysis on the global growth and appeal of the Premier League.

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see also
Asia offers hope to sports business
30 Jul 09 |  Business
English club finances worry Uefa
04 Aug 09 |  Premier League
Premier League 'defies downturn'
03 Jun 09 |  Business
Real beat Man Utd in rich league
12 Feb 09 |  Business
Europe's football finances 2007/08
03 Jun 09 |  Business
Where the Premier League's players come from
17 Aug 09 |  Premier League

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