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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Time to move the Community Shield out of England

Mark Ogden

Published 06/08/2014 | 17:58

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Wembley will be sold out for Sunday's Community Shield encounter between Manchester City and Arsenal, the game will be broadcast live across the globe and the Football Association will bank a fortune for the good causes which benefit from the staging of the annual curtain-raiser for the new season.

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But with City, Liverpool and Manchester United returning from a series of sell-out fixtures in the United States during pre-season trips across the Atlantic, this weekend's occasion in north London suddenly feels out of date and a relic of a bygone era.

The prospects of the Premier League's aborted '39th step' proposal coming to fruiting any time soon are as bleak as back in 2008, when chief executive Richard Scudamore was ridiculed and condemned in equal measure for so much as raising the idea.

But the Community Shield is a fixture which could be taken across the globe, with the Italian and French equivalents already having been staged in the likes of Beijing and New Jersey in recent years.

Resistance to the Community Shield being staged in Tokyo, Bangkok or Los Angeles would melt away on the grounds that, on this occasion, the English would be following the lead of others rather than attempting to impose their brand of football on the rest of the world.

Attendances in the States during the last two weeks have been so impressive that it would be unthinkable for the Football Association to reject out of hand the idea of taking the Community Shield overseas.

In the short-term, the FA is obliged to stage the fixture at Wembley until 2017 due to the 10-year Club Wembley packages sold to coincide with the reopening of the stadium in 2007.

The FA will also point to the 90,000 fans who will attend this weekend, many of whom will be domestic supporters who have spent three months waiting to see their team return to action following the end of the 2013-14 campaign.

Premier League clubs may now be global businesses, but local fans continue to fill stadia on a weekly basis between August and May and it is a constituency that cannot be ignored.

English football is followed and adored throughout the world, however, and supporters in the Far East and United States watch their team play in the early hours of the morning and follow results as passionately as their counterparts in Manchester, London, Liverpool and every other football hotbed in England.

So perhaps the time has come for the FA to take note of this summer's attendances overseas and contemplate taking the Community Shield overseas.

Financially, television rights and ticket sales would match or even surpass a sell-out crowd at Wembley.

The 109,000 who turned out to watch United face Real Madrid in Michigan at the weekend paid an average of £75 for a ticket, so the financial rewards for the FA are obvious.

And when Liverpool faced United in Miami on Monday evening, over 51,000 ignored the torrential rain in Florida to sit in a roofless stadium in order to watch English football's two most historic clubs slug it out for the International Champions Cup.

It surely can only be a matter of time before the FA chooses to take a slice of the American pie by taking the Community Shield to the States.

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