How Premier League Matches Influence Football Enthusiasm in Canada

It’s fair to say that Canada’s national soccer team isn’t one of the strongest. Indeed, Les Rouges, as they’re fondly known, have only qualified for the FIFA World Cup twice. The first appearance in the competition was in 1986, in Mexico, where the Canadian side scored no goal. The last appearance was in Qatar in 2022, where they didn’t win a single point. 

Despite such underwhelming results, the country’s love for soccer is on the rise. Not only soap football, the funny version of the traditional sport, which became a popular family summer sport. Here’s how the English Premier League has been leading this rise. 

Soccer, Supporters, and Punters

According to research from the Variety Intelligence Platform, sports betting significantly affects viewership and engagement in a sport. Another study from CRG Global about the NFL found that over 60% of fans watch more games when they’re betting on them. Soccer follows a similar pattern, and the internet is filled with platforms bringing updated soccer odds.

The online sports betting market is booming in Canada, reaching nearly CAD 1.35 billion in 2023. It’s also a promising market, with projections pointing to an annual growth rate above 10% until 2028. Soccer is among the most popular choices for punters, along with hockey and the NFL.

The EPL in Canada

The EPL was the most-watched soccer league worldwide in 2023. There were 643 million fans watching every match, with global viewership numbers as high as 3.2 billion people. Thousands of Canadian fans also closely followed every movement of the league. Arsenal is widely supported by Canadian fans, for instance. 

Not long ago, soccer was a niche sport in Canada, and live games on TV were scarce. Hockey is still the most popular sport in the Great White North, but the EPL became big enough to be aired by a couple of national all-sports networks. It’s also gaining more space among online streaming channels. 

Live EPL games are aired in Canada in the early morning due to time difference. It’s the only competition aired at this time on Canadian TV. The unpopular times aren’t enough to scare supporters away, and viewership keeps increasing. The United States seems to be following the same trend. Even back in 2012, NBC paid three times more for broadcast rights of the competition than in the previous year: USD 250 million.

Travelling Passion

Sports betting and the love for soccer aren’t the only factors driving up EPL viewership in the country. Several teams from the league go the extra mile to win overseas fan engagement. In 2015, Manchester City played an exhibition match against Toronto FC, with an attendance of more than 23,000 fans, despite the high prices of tickets. Man City also played against the Houston Dynamo, during the same tour.

This marketing initiative is based on a straightforward principle: the more viewership, the better. When those teams get closer to their fanbase across the sea, fans are more likely to watch their home games. Partnerships also play a big part in this regard. More than a popular team, Manchester City is also a funding partner to the MSL team, New York City FC.   

The strategy is indeed effective, but it isn’t new. The NFL has created the International Series, where American football teams play abroad. In 2023, the match between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks took place in Frankfurt Stadium. It’s the second German stadium to host such games. 

The NFL International Series was launched in 2005 in Mexico. The match between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals scored an attendance of 103,467 fans, the largest in the history of the league, including home games. The EPL seems to be repeating the successful formula in Canada.