It is all systems go as the 2016/2017 season of the English Premier League gets underway in a few days. The build-up to the new season culminated with the Community Shield match on Sunday, a curtain-raiser to what is arguably the most popular football league and a highly sought after competition in the world.
This is the top professional national football league in England marshalling television viewers from across more than 150 countries. According to Statista, an online research firm, EPL enjoys a global television viewership of 4.5 billion people.
The league global euphoria has not spared the United States. The Daily Mail, a British mainstream newspaper, projects that approximately 500,000 Americans watched at least one EPL match last season. The whole of 2015/2016 season was watched by an aggregate number of 214 million Americans, reports Daily Mail. This meant that the league recorded a 150% increase in television audience from 2012/2013 season. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) owns exclusive rights to broadcast the league in the U.S. till 2021/22 season. The viewership of the EPL in the United States is expected to soar dramatically as more Americans subscribe to NBC channels following a growing publicity of the league in the country.
“We have a belief that the English Premier League is the right product for us. The excitement, the level of competition and unpredictable outcome of every match in the league offer Americans the best value for their time,” remarked Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group.
The Manchester United vs. Liverpool match on September 12, 2015 was the most watched game in the U.S. last season registering a television audience of 1.25 million people followed closely by the West Ham vs. Manchester City clash on January 23, 2016. According to NBC, the Manchester Derby staged at the Etihad Stadium on March 20 this year featured among the 10 most watched EPL matches in America.
“Most of the matches that were recorded as the most watched ones on our channels featured Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool, undoubtedly the biggest clubs in the league,” Lazarus added.
The Premier League, as it is fondly known, has astonishingly brushed aside and overshadowed national leagues in Asia and Africa with fans from across these regions flocking social joints to follow their favorite team live on television.
It is worth noting that China is one of the biggest fan bases of the Premier League in the world. Nielson Sports, a global sports research firm, estimates that there are over 170 million Chinese following the league in the over 20 available television sports channels in China.
The Premier League excitement dominates the air in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa as more and more locals are carried away by the enthusiasm of what has become the most thrilling sporting action the world over. In Kenya, the enthusiasm and passion for the league is so great that many youthful men – and without exception of young women – get moved by the soccer euphoria that is spreading like a burning bush in the Harmattan.
In Kibera Slums, the largest group of slums in Africa, a queue of excited youths gradually snake along the narrow verandas of dilapidated houses every match day as they make their way into a tiny hall where a large magnificent screen is erected purposely to project the live proceedings of the Premier League. Cheers rent the air throughout every match as the enthusiasts momentarily forget the reality of poverty threatening their survival.
“I watch at least four matches every week because I am particularly impressed by the standards of the game and the fact that the top crop of African footballers play in the league,” said Thomas Okello, a resident in the slums.
For many EPL fans in the world, the new season promises to provide more scintillating football. New player signings into the league is expected to skyrocket the viewership figures to unprecedented high especially in America, Africa and Asia.
Clubs in the league have spent millions of dollars in the transfer market to lure top talents into the league. Manchester United appointed former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as their manager on a three-year contract at a reported fee of $19 million a year. The Red Devils then spent a staggering $ 100 million to bring Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic, making him one of the most expensive players ever.
Other notable players that joined the league in the pre-season include Granit Xhaka, who joined Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach, Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City) Ahmed Musa – (CSKA Moscow to Leicester City). French sensational midfielder Paul Pogba is touted to join Manchester United in what many football commentators believe will be instrumental in propelling the viewership by 15% globally.
The new signings, without doubt, will add spice to the English football and increase its fan base to more countries and regions. It remains to be seen how the new season shapes up and how global fans react to the new talent on show in the upcoming season.