Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Premier League Will *Not* Be Welcomed as Liberators

So about that Game 39, the plan to have each Premiership club play a 39th match abroad that was a subject of our point-counterpoint earlier. The supporter outrage was expected and understandable, but turns out, it's also getting chilly receptions in the United States, Asia, and Australia, presumably the three most desirable destinations for the 39th Round.

Oops. You figure when you propose something as explosively touchy as taking matches abroad, the least the Premier League honchos could have done is send out feelers and see how willing the potential hosts were. But the rejection by the Asian Football Confederation should pretty much kill this misguided adventure before it has even left the gate.

The more I think about it, the more I see how ridiculous this idea was from the start. Did PL owners seriously think that Asian leagues, who have a tough enough time fighting for attention with European leagues as it is, would roll out the red carpet? That was about as likely as Michael Dell setting aside space for MacBooks at Dell's mall kiosks because Steve Jobs told him that would sell more Inspirons.

You see, the problem in America isn't turning sports fans into soccer fans. No, the challenge now is turning Eurosnobs (and to a similar extent, Mexisnobs) into Major League Soccer fans.
The doubleheaders that EPLtalk envisages will only reinforce the league's second fiddle status. Sure, there is a way to use the European leagues to sell the game and the domestic league, but Game 39 is pure football imperialism.

And now Wigan chairman David Whelan reveals the owners weren't unanimous on the plan as the league claimed, but their reservations were pushed aside. Good lord, the Bush Administration parallels just keep coming.

As with globalization in the marketplace, globalization of the sport is a Good Thing, but it's not without its perils. For one thing, this plan does nothing to stem the growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class (see what I mean about the parallels?). The Lutons and the Leeds and the Sheffield Wednesdays won't in any less of a crunch because the Liverpools and the Chelseas get their millions - trickle down economy is only slightly less bullshit in soccer than it is in real life.

Ultimately, the clubs (not franchises) belong as much to the supporters (not fans) as they do to the owners, and they are part of communities, rather than outposts of a national corporation. No offense to Spectator, but this isn't nostalgia; this is the essence of English football in 2008. And whatever the merits of this plan, pushing a plan without bothering to gauge the reaction from supporters and host countries was a stupid, stupid mistake.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Awesome turn of events. You'd think such a well run and brilliantly direct organization such as the Premiership would have at least approached some of these other federations before announcing their plan to the world. Although I'm pretty sure Alexi Lalas would love to have an LA Galaxy doubleheader with an EPL game. Then again, he whores out the LA Galaxy for far less.