Friday, February 8, 2008

Put the Premiership on the Map

As you know if you read this often, I am an American. I have to work very hard to watch matches because they are not on TV or radio often, and it clearly is too expensive to fly from Florida to London every week. I'm mentioning all of this because the Premier League governing body or whatever it's called have proposed that by 2011 there would be one weekend in January where every team would go somewhere different abroad and play a league game. I can't tell if I'm completely for or against this (and I really don't think I could fully be either one), so I'm going to lay out two different viewpoints of why people are for or against this. Arsene Wenger says he is open to the idea, because you have to be innovative, which is true. If football had been the same for the last 100 years it would be far, far behind the times these days.

So first I'll go over why I think it would be a good idea. First, as Mr. Wenger said in the story above, 90% of fans of a club will never get to see them play simply because of location or because of lack of funds. I have to watch my beloved Arsenal on a shoddy stream twice a week but I do anyways because I love the team. I can't afford to go to London all the time and would give my left arm to be able to go see Arsenal. Contrary to what a lot of people think, mostly Englishman i suspect, there are fans that love Arsenal just as much or not more in other parts of the world than they do. I don't think it would be a ridiculous notion to go and play one game out of the year in another country so that other people can finally do something they have dreamed of.

The first thing that pops into my head when I hear about this potential situation is the NFL. Last season, the New York Giants (now Super Bowl Champions) and Miami Dolphins played a regular season game in London. The game was successful because of a couple of reasons, which I think could also apply in this case. First off, the teams had a bye week the week after the game abroad in which to recover and get back on their normal schedules. This could be accomplished with the Premier League season as well. Maybe not a full two weeks off but if a match was on a Saturday they could have the next game the following Saturday back in England. Secondly, there is support for other sports abroad. If there were no NFL fans in England then the NFL would not have gone. Same thing goes for the Premier League. There are die-hard Arsenal fans in America I am sure, including my circle of friends who I know would pay and travel just to see the Gunners once.

Another reason it would work, and everyone seems to hate this reason, is it would provide more money in the long run. Not only would the teams be able to over-price tickets for the one match, but seeing a team play in person usually increases your likelihood to become a fully fledged fan if you are not already. This means more club memberships, more sold merchandise, and more people flying to England to see the rest of the matches. Money runs football these days, so we may as well get used to it. The best teams make the most money and get the best players. That's just how it works.

So now I'll go over the only real problem I see with this plan, and that is the whole idea of a 39th league game. First off, do you know how many matches Arsenal plays every year? I'm not sure either but I think depending on where you get to in the Cups its 60 games or so. One more is just not necessary. You already see injuries and fatigue setting in by the halfway point in the season, and to cram another game into January is ridiculous. Also, determining opponents would be a real problem. There is supposedly some system which would make the "Big Four" not have to play each other, but how would you feel if you're Fulham, fighting against relegation and get drawn against Man United in Australia and have to play them three times that season instead of two?

Point is, if they want to make this work, the way to do it is to take one of the current games and take it abroad, don't add another. Teams have enough of a work load over the course of the season to have to deal with long travel for another game. I would love to see Arsenal come to America, but if they are going to make it a 39th league game, I'd just prefer to see a friendly here.

Tell me what ya think.


Anonymous said...

Yes, its is unfair that 90% of fans can't watch their team play, and I can understand the need to continually look to improve the game but what they are suggesting here goes entirely against the concept of fairness in sport and purely for the purpose of making money.

The problems are numerous but lets start with the big ones. Firstly, why merge a cup concept of a lottery with the league. THe league used to be about the best team over 38 games but now it could be the best over 38 who were also lucky enough to get relegation fodder in their international round.

Secondly, fixture congestion - there is no space available for an extra game without either giving up the FA Cup or dropping an international game. And that doesn't even account for jet lag.

Talking of which, three, how is it fair that 4 teams go to New York whilst 4 get sent to Australia?

Four - how the hell do they think that Fulham v Wigan is going to fill a ground in Beijing? It just isn't going to happen.

Five - it destroys the local leagues because the best sponsors just attach themselves to the Premiership.

Six - the NFL example is totally misleading because this was the Doplhins giving up a home game in the normal season. If clubs want to do that then so be it but they know that going it alone won't work - hence bringing in the PremierLeague to jointly operate the round.

Seven (and I could go on all night) - there is a totally misguided concept that if the best teams get richer then its for the good of the sport. That is complete and utter rubbish. Look at clubs like Bournemouth going into administration. Half the league clubs are in the same position. So where do we think players are going to come from if clubs disappear? Or more importantly cut costs by ridding themselves of a youth programme. The answer is simple - the players will come from abroad and the English player will get worse. This only leads to a greater disconnect between the home based fans and their club.

By all means by innovative but lets be innovative to improve the game not our wallets.

ArseNole said...

Actually, your information on the NFL game is incorrect. All NFL teams over the next ten years or so are going to have a game played internationally that will take a way a home game. It was not the Dolphins volunteering.

As for fixture congestion and the "lottery", I mentioned both of those points in the article.

Personally, I would go see Wigan vs Fulham...but I'm a hardcore fan.

Last, I don't think having English players means anything to fans of Arsenal certainly, and probably many other clubs. I couldn't care less if there was one Englishman on the team. Even Englishman say they'd rather have a good club team than spend more money for English players.

Most importantly, I'm giving my point of view. Everyone is allowed to disagree and voice their own opinion. I just think if they made one of the 38, not 39, games and made it be abroad it would be a good thing. I don't support adding games with a random drawing.