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The demand for English soccer continues to rise, as does the price of supplying it

IT is Sunday at Fenway Park, Boston, and I am eating a mound of chocolate ice cream out of an upturned baseball helmet.

My son, Ally, sips at a beaker of beer and peers intently as the Red Sox take on the A's.

It is a moment's relaxation in a hectic programme. Ally Tours are so gruelling they form the basis of SAS officer training. He does not so much go on holiday but invade it. When he came up to the stands with the ice cream, I was relieved. I thought he was going to leave me behind with a canteen of water and a revolver with a single bullet.

The baseball was, of course, brilliant. Fenway is one of the great stadiums and rounders is a smashing game. The A's were already up 1-0 when a guy slipped into the seat beside me and asked: "How did they score the run?"

My stuttering answer gave him the indelible impression that I was either a tourist or a moron. It would take a conversation to prove that I was both.

Yet Kevin McPhail, a New Yorker exiled to Boston, was both courteous and informative. He explained quietly some of the nuances of the match unfolding before my bleary eyes.

He also displayed a knowledge of soccer that was frankly surprising. "What is Alex McLeish up to now?" he asked at one point.

Boston loves sport in the way Wall Street loves money and Glasgow loves a humour so dry it needs a sprinkler. Ally's expeditions took us all over the city and the inhabitants were festooned in Bruins, Celtics or Red Sox favours. And that was just the priests and the bankers. Fenway and the TD Stadium, home to the basketball Celtics and the ice hockey Bruins, stand as pillars at either end of an historic city but at most points in between there are reminders that one is in the presence of a sport-obsessed enclave.

There was a routine every morning. I would wake up to the sounds of a US commentator describing the options for the draft for the Patriots/berating or praising the Bruins in the Stanley Cup play-offs/asking why the Sox could not repeat recent glories.

"Sorry the telly is on so loud," Ally would say, his contrition difficult to detect in his tone. "But your snoring was such that it was registering on the Richter scale and causing some alarm to the couple from Los Angeles in the next room who claimed they were reminded of the shifting of tectonic plates at home."

Pre-breakfast was thus spent listening to sport and, curiously, discovering that soccer is alive and thriving in the US of A. The specific dish of choice is the Barclays Premier League. It was difficult to avoid discussion on the likely destination of the league title wherever one went.

Pausing in front of a fine John Singer Sargent portrait in the Museum of Fine Arts, I was advised by a guide that the composition was excellent but it did not have the fine, definite lines of a Jose Mourinho defensive set-up.

The love of English soccer carries a price tag, of course. NBC, who broadcast the matches, know a bidding war will erupt for the 2016/2017 season. More than 30 million people watch its coverage. The TV rights are now worth almost £6bn but, with 175 countries desperate for pictures, this figure is certain to rise. The bottom team in the Premier League now pockets £62m from telly. The top teams can take £90m and then ponder just how much telly will pay for their Champions League matches. It is probable that, in the near future, a Champions League team in England will earn £150m annually from telly alone. Spain, France and Germany will have similar deals.

The distance between the rich and the rest will stretch, causing problems for the game in the once vibrant heartlands of Scotland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and elsewhere.

It is no surprise to learn that American businessmen have identified - with varying degrees of success - the potential of English soccer. The Fenway Group owns both the Red Sox and Liverpool. They both came up short on my Fenway Sunday. But they both will be receiving large cheques from broadcasters.

"There is a lot of moolah in sport," one of my Yankee cousins confided to me. "Well make mine deep-fried then," I replied, anticipating another long march with Ally.

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