Can international football matches be arranged by private companies?

The rights holders for international football matches

For competitive international football matches the rights holders of the matches will be the governing bodies of the event which is the match is involved in. For example when a competitive match is played during an international football tournament such as the World Cup the rights holder of the match will be the world governing body of football – FIFA.

Similarly when a match takes place during the European Championships football tournament the rights holder of the match will be the European Governing Body of football – UEFA.

In both these scenarios the organisation and aspects such as the ticketing will be organised by these governing bodies.

What is the case in relation to international friendly matches?

When an international football match takes place on a friendly basis there will be no involvement by the governing bodies in an organisational aspect. This organisational aspect will be done by the national governing bodies. For example when the England national football team is playing in a friendly match the rights holder will be the Football Association – the national governing body for football in England.

Can these rights be sold to private companies?

In a lot of cases the national governing body will sell the rights to these matches to private companies who will then arrange all the coordination and operational elements of the match.

What is the upshot of private companies organising these matches?

As these matches are only friendly matches and not under the adjudication of FIFA or UEFA when they have been sold to private companies that company will often seek to have the match played in a country which is different to either of the teams participating in the match. This is the reason why we have seen such sides as Argentina and Brazil playing a friendly match in London or England and Argentina playing a friendly match in Switzerland.

What is the reason for this?

One of the reasons behind this is to give football fans the opportunity to see certain international football teams and players which they would normally have no chance of seeing. However, the main reason behind this is money. If a friendly match between Argentina and Brazil is played in a big stadium in London it is likely that the stadium will be full for this one of match. Furthermore as the fans attending the match will be used to paying for Premier League football the company will be able to charge “Premier League prices” thus making more money for themselves in the process.

Is this legal?

This is perfectly legal as the rights owner being the private company is not restricted on where the game can be held by FIFA rules as the match is simply a friendly match and does not form part of an international competition.

Are there any potential problems in doing this?

The potential problems of international matches played in different countries was one which became apparent during June 2010 in a friendly match prior to the 2010 World Cup organised by a private company.

Prior to the match 10,000 tickets were handed out for free outside the ground. This led to a stampede of people trying to gain access to the stadium which eventually caused serious injury to a number of people.

As this match was organised by a private company there was no involvement from FIFA. This in turn meant that there was not the same security and ticketing provisions that have been imposed by FIFA to ensure safety during the World Cup.

If private companies arrange matches in this way it may be advisable to have some consultation with FIFA prior to the match taking place.

Does the organisation by private companies simply relate to international friendly matches?

The organisation of friendly football matches also extends to domestic football clubs as well as international matches. For example if a club is wishing to undertake a pre-season tour of another country then often they will appoint a private company to oversee all aspects of this tour.

Is it legal for them to do this?

As the match is a friendly match and not part of the FA Premier League schedule it is perfectly legal for clubs to do this.

What is the reason for clubs doing this?

Often a club will wish to undertake a pre-season tour of another country or a certain area of the world where they already have an existing fan-base or are trying to create a new fan-base. Playing games in such areas of the world as Asia can be a highly lucrative business move for Premier League clubs.

Often a club will put a private company in control of this to utilise the expertise that the company may have of that area of the world and staging events there.

This will ensure that aspects such as safety of the fans are not compromised.