Game on: the Commercialisation of the Pre-season Friendly

A seminar as part of the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Public Seminar Series

Given by: Steve Menary, Author and Journalist

The Black Suite
The British Medical Association (BMA) House
Tavistock Square
London WC1H 9JP

Monday 8th February 2016 at 6pm

For directions click here.

Attendance at the event is free but you need TO REGISTER.


In this seminar the author and journalist Steve Menary draws on research into the growing commercial significance of pre-season football friendlies to pose the questions: do they undermine the attractiveness of the leagues from which the participating clubs come from?; does their under-regulated nature leave them more vulnerable to manipulation by match-fixers?

When more fans are willing to watch a July 2014 pre-season friendly in Los Angeles between LA Galaxy and Manchester United than the hosts playing in the third-place play-off game of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, does this demonstrate that there is a significant potential market for the Premier League to play fixtures overseas? Manchester United have been particularly active in organising friendly fixtures abroad.

The organisation of pre-season friendlies was once a series of ad hoc fixtures that attracted little regulation. With the advent of globalisation, these matches have become highly commercialised yet remain largely ungoverned. Arranged mainly by agents and often at the behest of sponsors, can these fixtures undermine the leagues from which the participating clubs come from?

This presentation includes new research on the pre-season touring activities of Premier League (PL) clubs at three key points in time: the run-up to the first season of the competition in 1992/93, the pre-season of 2007/08 before the notion of an extra round of PL matches abroad – the controversial Game 39 proposition – was publicly announced, and the latest pre-season in 2014/15.

These overseas fixtures reflect the increasing commercialisation of the game, and raise the question if they are possibly symptomatic of a growing disconnect between the leading PL clubs and their domestic fans as some of the leading PL clubs no longer play any pre-season matches in England at all.

The research will show how these fixtures have changed into global pre-season schedules targeting parts of the world where individual PL clubs are seeking to gain supporter market share. Comparisons will be made with the activities of clubs from other leading European leagues in France, Germany, Italy and Spain and also the Football League.

The research will demonstrate how PL clubs have effectively created an extra round of league matches overseas that is more  extensive than that proposed in the Game 39 concept. But as these fixtures only have value off the pitch do they serve to undermine the domestic competitions they are often ostensibly used to sell?

More generally, does the fact that pre-season friendlies lie outside the regulated framework of organised league competitions, leave them more vulnerable to manipulation by match-fixers?


Steve Menary is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to World Soccer magazine, ESPNFC and He has written on sport for outlets ranging from the 2012 Olympic programmes to Bleacher Report and When Saturday Comes. He contributes to the BBC World Service show World Football and is the author of five books on sport, including Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot (Know The Score 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 Football Book of the Year Award; a second edition was published in 2012 (Pitch Publishing). Steve has also lectured on sport at Southampton Solent University, the University of East London and the University of Winchester, and has had work published in peer reviewed journals, such as Sport in Society.


  • Menary, S (2015) ‘Friendly Competition’, World Soccer magazine, July 2015
  • Menary, S (2014) ‘Where will the 92 play in pre-season?’ FC Business magazine, September 2013
  • Menary, S (2013) ‘Where in the world? And with which goals in mind?’ FC Business magazine, September 2013
  • Menary, S, ‘Game on: the commercialisation and corruption of the pre-season friendly, Soccer and Society Journal’. Publication date TBC

Contact Details

Seminar Series Details

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6759


Twitter: @Birkbecksport

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