The 39th game just won’t go away

In the midst of the enquiry in to England losing the 2018 World Cup bid, Lord Triesman advised that the Premier League would have backed the bid sooner if the FA had supported the proposal for the 39th game. Now most people would have thought the notion for the ‘39th game’ had been put to bed following overwhelming condemnation from fans, managers, and governing bodies alike when it was first mooted. So why has this reared its head again?

The original idea for this extra round of matches was made at a meeting of all Premier League clubs in 2008. Within weeks it had been pooh poohed by FIFA, UEFA, the FA, the Football Supporters Federation and current presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam to name but a few. But the suggestion did have its supporters.  If the pitch was successful in 2008, the extra round of matches was due to start this season to coincide with TV rights deals and has now been put back to a possible start date of the 2013/14 season at the earliest.

Now more than 3 years on, is this concept any more relevant than it was back then or will it still be met with strong opposition? Let’s have a look at both the positives and negatives:

Positives

+        Capitalise on the popularity of the Premier League

+        Reinforce and increase popularity to remain number 1 league

+        Attract extra worldwide interest

+        Increase all clubs brand awareness and reputation worldwide

+        Have a unique event that will be a first in football

+        Spread the football message

+        Attract future worldwide players

+        Helps fund our football economy further

+        Develop the game further in other countries

Negatives

-        Money motivated

-        Selling soul of game

-        English fans potentially won’t be able to travel to these games

-        ‘Real’ fans lose out

-        More physical and mental demands on players

-        Change an already perfect league format

-        Time difference difficulties

-        Loss of credibility to host nation’s own League

There seems to be a lot of opposition towards this proposal as an instinctive reaction. I often think opposition is always quick to surface when there is change, especially change from tradition. This would be a huge change, possibly one that is monumental in football history, but there have been a few before this over the years. Previous changes have been enforced, some through technology others through outdated practices.

I am a traditionalist at heart, but times are changing and so is my opinion. For me there are a few reasons as to why I have changed my mind:

Globalisation and capitalism are signs of the society we choose to exist in, clubs already spread their message with pre-season tours that go far and wide so how is this that much different in respect of travelling fans or watching these games? The only difference would be that one game out of 39 would be out of the country.

The NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium

NBA and NFL games have successfully come over to England. They haven’t been intrusive, but you get to see the big name players, athletes at the top of their sport and get excited about seeing something you wouldn’t get the chance to see ordinarily. The American’s never resist their best products going worldwide, they don’t want to keep things to themselves, they encourage growth, globalisation and success and drive themselves forward, which is why we see so much innovation coming from America.

Why not make the Premier League brand, along with all the clubs in it, stronger and more profitable by taking them abroad for one game a season. Would this be so opposed if we had a winter break and this was played as a friendly round/warm up games before the season kicks in?

It is easy to resist modernisation but in reality we are prolonging the inevitable. At the moment La Liga has started to catch up with the popularity of the Premier League because of Real and Barcelona, why not reaffirm our position whilst we still have it.

For me this suggestion by the Premier League is simple business principles, sell your product when it is popular to make it even more popular and even more widely used to consolidate market leadership. The fact this is blatantly about money means purists will turn against it. But football is now all about money at every level; QPR promoted after throwing money at the club, same with Crawley Town, the success at Manchester City – the list goes on.  

Every person associated with the club as a fan, player, manager, sponsor or director wants success for their team and if you say you don’t you are a liar. Unfortunately success now comes in the form of money or a messiah and messiah’s, like Alex Ferguson, are hard to find. Think of all the foreign chairman in the Premiership now; the Premier League is a global proposition.

This advance is about keeping with the times and strengthening our football economy to ensure the longevity of English football. We are top of the pile, over the next 20 years there will be challengers from emerging young football nations like America, Japan, and even Qatar.

We should take this opportunity to streak ahead, to establish English football as an innovator in these boom years . One argument I have heard is why is a fan in Asia who supports Manchester United any different to someone from London who supports Manchester United? They are not.

We need to start realising what the future holds. Never before have we had such technology at our fingertips. I could probably watch every game my team plays, anywhere in the world at the click of a button and never have to go to a stadium ever again (obviously I wouldn’t want to). Due to the internet I could support a team anywhere in the world and follow their every game, be up to date with goings on 24/7.

Everyone needs to realise that football is changing. A new generation of football fan is coming. A generation born in a post-digital world, a completely different beast. Fundamentally football has changed in to probably one of the biggest contributors to the UK economy. The old skool will cling on to the classic football ideals for as long as possible, some will embrace the advances this young industry will make. Which will you do?

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  1. Bazza not Gazza says:

    People need to get with the programme i love those people you hear who don’t want to admit fotball is about money now. look at what happened with alan smith and the ex on twitter sayin ghe is only in it for the dollar. football is now about business players either play because they cant do anything else or because they love the money, usually enjoyment or love of the game is second. reality folks

  2. Scottie says:

    What a rubbish idea a 39th game would be, who gives a stuff about fans abroad it should be about the fans here. They can support their own local teams and come over here on holiday if they want to watch my team! Saying that if the extra money they earn from this is passed on to fans then it would be more appealing.

  3. Spencer says:

    A tough argument to be honest and I can see both sides, purist will resist, forward thinkers will say try it & see what happens. Whatever the future holds on this one, for me, an extra football game is always a good thing…well as long as your not a West Ham fan!

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