Amid salary cap revenue boost Cole Palmer plan sorted to bridge the gap

Amid salary cap revenue boost Cole Palmer plan sorted to bridge the gap

There’s no doubt that football is the world’s biggest sport. From the west coast of Chile to the far reaches of eastern Russia, there will be football fans.

But despite almost the entire world embracing football as the dominant sport in their culture and society, the U.S.A is one of very few that have relegated it to a background event. Of course, you have the likes of cricket in India, rugby in New Zealand and baseball in Japan but these countries still hold huge football followings.

But with the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL having such a hold over the core sports scene across the pond, it’s no wonder that the Premier League is putting so much into trying to break the mould and grow its worldwide fanbase. Things like the league’s partnership with Apple TV’s Ted Lasso will help to bridge the gap – even if AFC Richmond aren’t a real club – and Chelsea’s American owner Todd Boehly has done what he can to acknowledge that growing fanbase in his home country.

Speaking at a one-on-one session earlier this week, the Blues owner highlighted how the sport he’s come to appreciate since arriving in West London nearly two years ago must first connect with young audiences before broadening out to those with less free time and one way of doing that is to give them someone to connect with.

“You have to make it relevant to them [young people],” Boehly said via the Athletic. “And I think the sport is becoming more and more relevant. The window that they have on the east coast in particular Saturday morning and Sunday morning — where there’s nothing really that competes with other sports — really gives it a great opportunity to reach.”

Of all the players Chelsea could offer the US, Cole Palmer fits the bill the best by far. Through hard work, determination and an equal opportunity to succeed – the three core tenets of ‘the American Dream’ – Palmer has gone from being relegated to a bench-warming role at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to being the standout star at Stamford Bridge in less than a year, having netted 24 goals and providing 13 assists across all competitions for them this season.

Having already picked up the club’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards, the 21-year-old is the one who has carried the torch through a dark debut season for Mauricio Pochettino which could still end in the light with a place in the European competitions. It’s another huge reason why a top six finish for the Blues this campaign would be seen as a big success – it helps reinforce any new potential supporters that the team they’re thinking about supporting is worth cheering for.

While supporters in a club’s country may choose to become a fan through familial connections or how near a club is to where they grew up, choosing a team from another country is not the same, especially if you’re entering a sport you know nothing about. You want to see excitement, you want to see wins which is why football has such a global outreach and why you see people from the Philippines to Brazil supporting historically great clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Boehly wants Chelsea to be one of those teams that people from the US entering the sport for the first time can immediately look to as a successful, enticing option to put their money into and using Palmer as a way of facilitating that is simply good business.

“The fan fests that the Premier League do from city to city, you see them, it only builds momentum,” he continued. “Hopefully, Cole Palmer will become a household name [here] soon. He’s been a phenomenon for us and so we’re thinking hard about how we continue to expand our brand in the United States. That’s ultimately a priority as well.

“One of the things that Premier League clubs have is worldwide marks they can use — we’ve got a global group of players from Argentina to Brazil. Part of the long-range plan will be really to extend the brand as much as possible to build a fanbase because ultimately the larger our fanbase grows, the more competitive we’ll be able to be because these salary caps are based on revenue.

“In order to compete, you have to have growing revenue. And I think a brand like Chelsea really allows for that. Growing that brand, especially globally, is predicated on winning. I think that winning is at the top of the things that’s most important. When you’re attracting a new fan, the key is to have something that’s really aspirational.”

With his fingers already in the MLB-pie so to speak, the American billionaire already has someone to model Palmer into – Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani. Nicknamed ‘Shotime’, the Japanese international has taken the baseball world by storm over the last few years, having been compared to the likes of Babe Ruth for his elite two-way playstyle of being both a league leader in hitting and pitching statistics.

The $700m (£561m) ten-year contract the 29-year-old signed last year is the largest in sports history, even surpassing both Lionel Messi’s Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr mega-contracts over their careers. And if you find yourself thinking, ‘Well this Ohtani guy can’t be that famous, I’ve never even heard of him’ then you’re standing in the shoes of an American reading about how Palmer is lighting up the Premier League.

While there won’t be a contract that size landing on Palmer’s agent’s desk in the near future, it does show that the Premier League still has a lot to compete with over in the US. But Boehly is right – the more chances they get to bridge the gap by sending teams over to play preseason tours during the summer and even hosting league matches abroad, a topic which has recently come up in discussion, the more they can work their magic and generate revenue in what’ll be a dramatic change to the league’s dynamic if the salary cap is introduced.

But before all that, the results need to come on the pitch. Without wins, things will start to get messy for BlueCo. and those at the top. In recent weeks, we’ve seen what Chelsea can do with Palmer and Pochettino at the helm but there’ll need to be a marked improvement next year for there to be any realistic hopes of expanding the fanbase globally.

There are priorities at the end of the day, and while expanding your fanbase and generating new revenue sources is up there, the Blues need to look at their problems on the pitch before working hard on anything off it.


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