The Premiership is the most lucrative football league on the globe, right?
So it will come as no surprise that television companies across the world are currently lining up to bid hundreds of millions, in order to broadcast the games when the rights hit the market in January 2009. But will a successful bid by ESPN be the final nail in a rotting coffin that will demonstrate the globalisation of a league that has already lost it's identity?
Since BSkyB's acquisition of the Premier League rights in 1990, their sports orientated channel Sky Sports has played an enormous role in the commercialisation of British football. They have arguably played the biggest part in making the Premiership the most popular football league on the planet today.
Who can ignore their extravagant themed advertisements for football matches, which somehow appear to have equal significance to a battle in a roman coliseum. Inteligently engineerd phrases like "Ford Super Sunday" are a prime example of just how commercialised football is in England. Why not just say "Big Match On Sunday"...
Either way it was this kind of over the top marketing and promotion that highlights why Sky Sports have enjoyed nearly two decades of domination in this particular field.
Nearly two decades of domination that recently came to an uncomfortable end when the EU intervened and demanded that Sky's monopoly in the sports television market was broken and shared. Que Setanta Sports, the Irish broadcasting company who bought a share of the rights in 2007; much to the annoyance of fans who where gradually kissing goodbye any chances of ever viewing full games on terrestrial television ever again.
Now American sports network ESPN are amongst the punters proposedley preparing to bid against BSkyB who paid an astonishing £1.31 billion to show 93 games this season. The speculation of a bid goes a long way to showing just how far the audience for "soccer" has grown in the States and just how lucrative the Premier League is.
The arrival of global icon David Beckham at LA Galaxy and the popularity of Euro 2008 across the pond was one of many factors that have continued to convince the puppeteers that investing in The Premiership would be immensely profitable. However I'm yet to be convinced America is ready to ignore it's own MLS for The Premiership on such a regular basis.
For some reason, the thought of an American broadcaster showing The Premiership seems inconceivable.
While there is an audience for it, this feels like the equivalent of BBC Sport showing live NFL games. British football should be shown primarily on the British channels, then everywhere else. Not the other way around. And British fans care primarily about football not the NFL, and likewise the opposite is the case in the States as well.
Even though Football isn't the biggest sport in the America, the sugar daddies of multi-billion dollar television companies are prepared throw money at the league in the hope that suddenly it will just catch on.
As if English fans aren't outraged enough that they have to subscribe to watch their live football in the first place. Imagine the out-raw at the prospect of paying for ESPN's coverage of a Man Utd Vs Chelsea, along with American commentary, advertisements, and the unnecessary showbiz kerfuffle they somehow manage to smudge over every sporting event.
If anything, a successful attempt to secure the rights by ESPN will only demonstrate that the Premier League will have become a victim of it's own success. Suddenly the focus is on promoters, advertisers, marketers, investors, broadcasters; a multi-billion pound industry that does little for football and more for the foreign billionaires throwing their chips into the center of the table and sucking out sizable profits.