English Premier League football is about the best in the world, but when Liverpool played Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday in Baltimore, it wasn’t just sporting firepower on display: the match also highlighted the growing sporting and business links between the US and UK.
I was fortunate enough to be among the 42,000 fans in attendance for the friendly match at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. It was fantastic to see two first-class English clubs play on US soil just hours after the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As a proud (but long-suffering) supporter of Nottingham Forest FC, I must say how happy I was to see ex-Forest Centre Back Michael Dawson back in action for Tottenham. Before kickoff, I got the chance to spend some time touring the field and speaking to some of the two sides’ players and senior staff, all of whom seemed to be impressed by the turnout of US fans.
We should not be surprised though, given the increasing popularity of the Beautiful Game on this side of the Atlantic. Tottenham has an American goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, in its first squad. Eleven Brits play Major League Soccer in the United States—including, of course, the great David Beckham, seen in action most recently on a speedboat during the Olympics Opening Ceremony. It is no coincidence, then, that Manchester United has just signed a sponsorship deal with American auto maker Chevrolet.
This popularity is matched by a growing British interest in American sport. For the past five years, the NFL has held a regular-season game in England. The 2009 edition attracted more than 84,000 fans to London’s famous Wembley Stadium.
But the Liverpool-Spurs matchup on Saturday also brought deserved attention to the close business ties between our two countries. The Reds (that’s Liverpool, by the way) are one of five English Premier League teams with American majority owners—NBA great LeBron James has a stake, as does Fenway Sports Group, which also owns the Boston Red Sox. Spurs’ kits are made by Under Armour, which is headquartered in Baltimore, while Liverpool’s come from Warrior Sports, based in Michigan.
I am an avid sports fan, but I am also, of course, an equally huge fan of the economic relationship between the UK and the US. We are each other’s top investors, biggest foreign employers and most prolific partners in science and innovation. Saturday’s match showed that in sport and business, the UK-US partnership goes from strength to strength.