Italy and Spain revive idea of overseas ’39th game’

A so-called “39th game”, shorthand to describe a regular season match played overseas, is back on the agenda according to AC Milan’s commercial director Japp Kalma and Malaga vice-president Moayad Shatat.


Speaking on Sunday to delegates at the Soccerex Asian Forum at the King Hussein convention centre, some 60kms from the Jordanian capital Amman, both men said they supported the idea.

Kalma said Serie A clubs were discussing the move, having already played the Italian Super Coppa in Qatar.

“It’s one of the things we’re discussing, yes,” he said.

“I can see it happening. What we have already done is play the Super Coppa, the match between the winners of the Coppa Italia and the league champions, in Qatar.

“That’s a relatively easy match because that’s not a match that is part of a competition. One of the other things in Serie A we are studying is having the season opener or another emblematic match during the season played abroad.”

Shatat agreed that the idea of an overseas match would help the leagues, which have fallen behind the Premier League’s global reach in terms of TV viewing figures and commercial contracts.

“Nothing can beat the experience of a live event,” he said. “We can push it through different channels like social media, but nothing can beat the live experience. Now we will hopefully have games abroad involving regular season matches.

“Last year we created a new tournament, the La Liga World Challenge where the clubs are travelling abroad and playing friendly matches and tournaments in order for the fans to experience La Liga live.

“We want to bring the live experience closer to the fans who support us around the world,” he added.

Football fans, especially those brought up on Europe’s major leagues, are often resistant to change and the Premier League’s proposal to play a game overseas was dropped partly due to the vehemence of supporters in England.

However, it has become the norm in other sports with the National Football League and National Basketball Association playing games outside of the United States.

Three of those regular season NFL games will be played at Wembley Stadium in London this year.

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)