I was scuttling up and down the country on a Pendolino yesterday when the news about the Premier League wanting to play abroad came out.
Let me set my stall out now: I hate this idea.
And the more I think about it, the more I hate it. The Premier League chairman can bleat all he likes about it being an exciting opportunity in a global game blah blah blah – but it is a money-making exercise, pure and simple.
There are many things I increasingly hate about modern football, and one of them is that football clubs are now referred to as ‘brands’ and ‘franchises’. This might excite the moneymen who want a return on their investment, but as ever, the normal football fan has been trampled in the dirt.
Even if the earnings went straight towards reducing ticket prices (and there’s as much chance of that as me becoming the Pope), it’s still a rubbish idea. It makes the season lopsided, it favours the top few clubs who will earn most of the money and have most of the foreign fans behind them, and no doubt the draw will end up being fiddled in a desperate last attempt to stop one big team drawing another while another draws a smaller team. You might say all that suits us – but in the long term, does it really?
I am not opposed to playing abroad to make money – lots of teams do this already. But to add a 39th fixture, to be played up to 12,000 miles away from home, and which earns points that count towards the league season, is an abysmal idea, right up there with dropping a plugged-in toaster into your bath.
Our players are almost always shagged out by the summer, so why add another fixture? If anything, we need fewer.
It’s so muddled. Who will this 39th fixture be against? How many points will it get? What if it ends up being decisive in a relegation or title race? Is it fair that one game might be played in New York while another is in Sydney? Or that one game might be played at 20C in low humidity while another gets played at 35C in 100% humidity? What happens if it’s called off due to unforeseen weather, or something else? How will it affect national leagues already under pressure from foreign football on TV?
And what next? Nobody ever foresaw this idea, but here it is, growling on our doorstep. What will they try next? Banning relegation? Play-offs to decide the league winner? A full-time European league? Moving a club from England to Dubai or New York or Singapore full-time?