The Groundsman’s Shed

The Merits of the (39th) Game by groundsman
February 12, 2008, 4:57 am
Filed under: EPL, football

Everyone in the world seems to have tossed their two pennies into the big Tom Bowler of opinion about the extension of the English Premier League’s matches and the inclusion of an overseas “neutral terrority” match for the clubs, so I thought I’d give my initial thoughts (along with some from sources who carry much more weight). 

When I first heard the proposal I thought, “I’d LOVE to go to Miami to see Arsenal play!” My next immediate thought was, “The press and the fans will be LIVID about this proposal.”  The reasons for their dissent are obvious, as teams already have multiple titles to play for in a season, and already travel for international playing committments, so the feeling that an extra match with extra travel time will only serve to tire the teams.  More infuriating is the notion that the teams will be hurt just to generate more money for an already rich league.   Then there are the heart-string tugging reminders about of the good old days of the English leagues and the notion that since the Premiership’s very inception, the game has become more advertised, more globalised, and therefore- more soul-less and less decidedly English.

I get it, I understand, I know why you’re upset.  I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same way if I didn’t live in Atlanta, Georgia with little hope of getting to see any EPL action in person for a long time.  But I do, so my concerns are different.  I’m fairly sure the managers on both sides will treat this match as a “show” and field weaker sides.   I don’t think the extra matches will do much to raise the standards of US Soccer  because seeing one match between Derby and Middlesborough’s second teams isn’t likely to inspire American youngsters- especially without the knowledgeable crowd to provide atmosphere.  US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati seems to agree, as he told BBC Sport today “We understand it’s a global sport but it’s about nurturing the home game.” 

I find that stance a bit surprising coming from our officials after a our pro league’s history of waggling their eyebrows suggestively and waving Premier League caliber salaries at old or knacked foreign players while young American players make substantially less money,  but it’s an encouraging statement for the American national game nonetheless.  

What’s next? Everyone says Scudamore and Co. have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, which as the Guardian reports, he will clarify the plans in front of officials from the Football Association on Tuesday.  He will likely say a lot of very obvious things like, “We still have a few kinks to work out”.

So until all is signed and accounted for, a lot of worries and questions remain.  The fans have had their say, in the form of protests of both a fiscal and virtual nature (you can sign a petition here if you’re so inclined), but like most fan protests, this is likely to fall on ears blocked with wads of cash.


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[…] Scudamore becomes increasingly more shrill about the 39th game proposal, and says he’s willing to take on FIFA to make it happen.  Would it be worth England losing […]

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