Skip to content
Skip to main content

Games without frontiers: Sporting events which cross national borders

Updated Tuesday, 29th April 2014
The Giro D'Italia isn't the first sporting event to move beyond the country where you might expect to find it. In fact, there's a long tradition of fixtures, teams and even entire leagues taking up residence in a different territory...

This page was published over 8 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see how we deal with older content.

Arizona Cardinals versus San Francisco 49ers, NFL, 2005

Played in Mexico City, Mexico

The American NFL has always been keen to grow the popularity of the sport outside North America, and since 1986 had staged warm-up games around the world under the American Bowl branding. These had run their course, however, and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue decided that it would make more sense - and have a greater impact - if regular season games were played outside the US.

The NFL at Wembley The home of Association Football hosting the American NFL So it was that Arizona and San Fransisco found themselves at a stadium 2,000 feet above even Denver's lofty mile-high pitch, ushering in a new era for the NFL with Futbol Americano. Despite being two of the sport's less attractive teams, the game set an attendance record for the NFL.

Since 2007, overseas matches have become a formalised part of the NFL's season, with matches played at Wembley Stadium in the UK.

North Korea versus Japan, Football, World Cup qualifier, 2005

Played in Bangkok, Thailand

An earlier match in Pyongyang between North Korea and Iran had ended with crowd violence after the home team lost. Riot police took two hours to escort the Iranian team back to their hotel, and as a result FIFA ordered the switch of venues for the last match of the series scheduled to be held in North Korean capital.

Last minute attempts by North Korea to get the match moved to Beijing, or played to an empty stadium in Pyongyang failed, as did a petition from South Koreans inviting FIFA to hold the tie in their nation. In the event, Japan won 2-1.

In the qualifying rounds for the 2014 World Cup, Japan did travel to North Korea to play. The Japanese team was detained for four hours at customs upon arrival.

Paris - Dakar rally, motorsports, 2009 onwards

Travels through South America

Originally, the Paris-Dakar rally - as the name implies - started in France and ended in Senegal. The broad Europe-to-Africa nature of the route endured from the first race in 1979 through to 2007, although Paris stopped being the starting point quite early on, while Dakar wasn't always the ultimate destination. In 1997, the race never left Africa, with Dakar being both the start and end of the route.

In 2008, though, the race was cancelled after the death of four French tourists in Mauritania led to serious concerns about the safety of contestants. A replacement event, the Central European Rally, filled the gap, but the following year the Dakar Rally was relaunched as a race across Argentina and Chile.

Even this event wasn't without trouble, though - the eleventh stage was cancelled as fog and the need to move across the border of the two host nations made a race difficult to organise.

The Paris-Dakar rally has remained in South America ever since.

Equestrian events at the Melbourne Olympics, 1956

Held in Stockholm, Sweden

Shortly after the 1956 Summer Olympics had been awarded to Melbourne, it became apparent that Australia's tight animal quarantine regulations would cause a problem - animals entering the nation had to be held securely for six months, making horse-related events a logistical impossibility.

Although technically in violation of the Olympic Charter, the equestrian events were split from the main Olympiad, and a new bidding round was held to find a host city. Stockholm won the honour.

The games took place in June; by the time the main summer event started in November, five nations who had taken part in Stockholm refused to go to Melbourne. Egypt boycotted because of the Suez crisis; Switzerland, Netherlands and Spain pulled out in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Cambodia's attendance at the Equestrian events was its first appearance at any Olympics, but didn't field any competitors for Melbourne.

Berwick Rangers, Scottish Football League team

Play their home matches in England

Berwick Rangers, famously, are an English team playing in the Scottish league, although in the earlier part of the last century they'd attempted to remove their anomalous status by joining Northumberland leagues. Their approaches were rebuffed.

Because of their physical location, they were the only club in the Scottish leagues obliged to introduce the Taylor Report measures mandated for English and Welsh teams following the Hillsborough disaster.

Until 2002, Berwick 's English club playing in Scotland status was mirrored by that of Gretna, who were a Scottish team in the English league system. That year, though, Gretna joined the Scottish league.

Equally, many Welsh teams play in the English league system - Cardiff City even winning the English FA Cup in 1927; when they made it to the finals of the competition again in 2008, the English FA changed their rules to allow clubs that are members of the Welsh FA to qualify for European competition through victory in English events. Swansea took advantage of this new rule after winning the League Cup in the 2012/13 season.

Wellington Phoenix, Australian A-League team

Play their home matches in New Zealand

Wellington Phoenix don't really have much choice but to play in the Australian league - they're the only professional football team in New Zealand. They replaced an earlier New Zealand team in the A-League, the New Zealand Knights, which fell into difficulties both on- and off- pitch.

The league decided to replace the NZK with another team from New Zealand despite competition for the slot from a side based in Queensland; they decided the connection with a national marketplace was too good to lose.

Indian Premier League, cricket, 2009

Played in South Africa

The second series of the IPL, due to be played in India at the time of mounting tensions over terrorist attacks and a multi-part election, looked set to collapse under the weight of security concerns. The Indian Government announced it was unable to provide the level of security the event demanded, and so the decision was taken to move the nascent competition to a safer location.

Although discussions about holding matches in England took place, the favoured location was South Africa, ostensibly because rain was less likely to stop play.

The tournament returned home in 2010, although in 2014, another election year, the games were again relocated.

Giro D'Italia logoIn May 2014, the Giro D'Italia holds its early stages in Ireland: The Big Start 2014. This is one of a series of articles from OpenLearn celebrating the event.

See the full list of OpenLearn content for The Big Start 2014


Become an OU student

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?