Last Saturday was a quality day; fine sunny weather so I was having a day out and about in the sunshine with my friends, there were a few beers flowing, some football tennis being played and some lady watching going on behind my dark lens’ … unfortunately not all of Saturday could be this good as I ended up stopping the fun at 4.30pm and heading back to watch the England game.
Conceptually I was excited about the game. With the football season over I welcomed football back, a little taster before the under 21’s kick off in Denmark. Not everyone was sharing my excitement levels, and it is no surprise that a lot of England fans have become disillusioned with England and their performances of late. Saying that I have probably had the same mentality since around 1998, but there is always that optimistic side of me that thinks things could change.
In the run up to the game there had been the usual build up, the press swiping at England and Capello, a few key players were missing, but everyone thought we should beat the Swiss. We all know what happened, everyone immediately became negative and pessimistic, ruining the atmosphere for Saturday night and the usual moaning about England commenced.
It is the same stuff all the time, I am not saying from my mates, but from the general public and especially the press. The papers will read “Capello out” and I don’t disagree, but I think that there is a bigger problem – club football has overtaken international football on all levels and the balance needs to be readdressed.
Ok so Wembley was almost at capacity, there were a lot of people tuning in on TV throughout the country, dare I say world (let’s hope not) to watch this game, but the excitement and the meaning of what it is to play for England has all but disappeared. Things need to change.
I looked at 3 possible ways we could make International football more appealing again to the fans and players so the power balance can be readdressed and this is the first scenario that I think should be considered.
Scrap all international games throughout the season. Simple.
After the domestic season has finished you play your 8-10 qualifying matches throughout the summer months. This would mean so many benefits to not only players and club sides, but more importantly the fan.
Imagine every summer there is a mini tournament of qualifying if there is not an actual tournament. That would be a lot more exciting than random games breaking up the football season. People would follow this more closely and all the things we love about being football fans would happen every summer. England shirts everywhere, packed beer gardens, a nation coming together to support their national team.
This would then make international football more like the club football we all seem to yearn for. Players would train with each other day in day out over a number of weeks, the manager/coach could actually spend time getting to know his players and what motivates them so they have the best opportunity of getting their players to perform. It would be exciting having it all at once becuase when it is so segmented people lose interest.
Also at the end of the season you could pick the best team (injury permitting) defined by who has performed over the course of the season-you would have a tournament with all the best performers.
This would also actually prepare the players and teams for the big tournaments, they will have spent time together, know each other and played together under pressure.
The clubs would benefit as it would completely take away the club vs country row, they wouldn’t have their season disrupted either. The control of the clubs staff would be back in their own hands, no moaning about players getting injured on international duty and not having enough time to prepare for big games.
It would also glamorise international football again, bringing in additional TV revenues for all nations. Commercially this could really work.
The only negatives I see would be those fans who are purely international fans and would have to wait a long time to see their team play, but these fans are few and far between. I am sure a football nerd will tell me this could never work with playing schedules, time zones etc. but anything can work if people want it to.
The Premier League season would be reduced by 9 games, which equals about 1-2 months of football playing time and I am sure that everything could be switched around to make sure a full domestic and European calendar could be completed in sync and in a shorter space of time (no mid-season break for Spain et al.). This would leave the summer solely for a month of international matches and then a break before pre-season.
So for example, the season would begin at a similar time in August, for Premier League teams in the Champions League you can play up to 61 games if you reach all finals (plus charity shield), play two games a week you are looking at approx. 30 weeks of games. Now that is rough mathematics, but even with less games per week the season could easily run August to April and that would be 38 weeks. International squads would meet mid/end of April for games commencing the second week of May and concluding in the second week of June. The players then have 3 full weeks off to come back to pre-season training the second week in July.
So I think that this is a great idea, let’s not get all sentimental about when games have traditionally been played etc or the format. I can see that this could be a solution that works, obviously we would require a radical overhaul of football, but it’s minor!!! Let me know what you think-Am I a crazy fool? or could this be the way forward as I can’t see too many alternatives.