When Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre recently suggested that the larger among the Premier League sides should be allowed to negotiate their own independent television deals, he might have expected a mixed reaction from the other top division sides. For such a proposal to be ratified, Liverpool would need the approval at least 13 of the Premier League clubs – even Ayre would concede this to be unlikely. However, he could hardly have expected the vitriolic rebuke with which the proposal has been met across the entire Premier League, where opposition is seemingly unanimous. Critics of the TV proposal span the league from top to bottom, with the Manchester United manger, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, among the most vocal. “You won’t get more money by killing the heart and soul of the Premier League” said Whelan. “It’s the American Dream”. Couple this sentiment with the outrage created by another recent proposal (this one from foreign based Premier League club owners) that relegation should be scrapped in favour of adopting an American style ‘franchise’ system – in which big clubs are safe-guarded and given years to develop – and one could be forgiven for suggesting that something of an anti-American feeling is starting to permeate English football.
But before we allow ourselves to be swept along with such animosity, therein lies a sporting question worth looking at objectively: Would English football benefit from borrowing some principles of American sport?
Yes, it could –
Video Technology – The NFL utilises video technology through a challenge system known by them as ‘instant replay’. The head coach of each side is allowed two challenges during the game whereby they may question an official’s call and have the incident checked with the benefit of video technology. If both challenges are upheld then the side are rewarded with one further challenge. Bizarrely, English football has resisted implementing any such technology, often on the grounds that said process take too long and slow up the game. This argument seems less than convincing given that in the NFL a challenge can only be presided over by officials for a maximum of sixty seconds. Such technology would also provide the ancillary benefit of forever removing the manager’s ‘I didn’t see it’ excuse. Now they will; it’ll be replayed to the whole damn stadium on a fifty foot screen.
Profit Sharing – Despite what so many would have you believe about the rampant fat-cat laissez faire cranked-up capitalist culture that exists in the USA, the truth is, when it comes to their major sporting sides, the American system is remarkably egalitarian in nature. In Major League Baseball, the money each team makes from ticket sales, merchandise and TV rights – which, quite obviously, will be significantly higher for the most popular sides – is taxed and then shared around across all of the teams in the conference. This is not just done for the warm feeling it gives every do-gooder inside, but rather in an attempt to induce competitiveness across the sport, and stop the same few sides dominating every year. In fact, the last six World Series have been won by six separate sides. Compare that with the fact that the last seven Premier League campaigns have produced just two separate winners and it’s clear which system provides a greater capacity for competitive change.
The Rooney Rule – Widening the interview process to include ethnic minority candidates for coaching jobs can only be a good thing. Read why in the previous article.
No, it wouldn’t –
Excessive advertising – It’s bad enough for football fans in this country that for the fifteen minutes that exist between each half of a televised game we can expect approximately twelve of them to be taken up by meerkats and nodding dogs convincing us to buy their brand of insurance. But such is the driving force of advertisement across the pond, American Football has actually adapted its rules to create more commercial exposure. These ‘television time-outs’ are an untimely reminder of the market forces that threaten to trump the real reason why so choose to get involved in sport: sheer love of the game. Also, there’s something distinctly undignified about having to play your home football fixtures every week at Pizza Hut Park.
Playoff Obsession – American sport is obsessed with the notion of playoffs. So much so, that since 2007 even their golf tour has been encumbered with the ridiculous system of caprice. Golf, by the way, is about as suited to ‘playoffs’ as the sport of bowls is to a ‘powerplay’. Americans love playoffs because of the drama they create – but so often it is cheap drama, created at the expense of consistency; the true arbiter of the best side over a whole season. The Premier League has done well thus far to forever resist the temptation of deciding their yearly champions based on such a system. The same cannot be said this year for the Super League (the top division of Rugby League) who saw their grand final title decider played out between the sides who finished 3rd and 5th out of twelve. That, to put it mildly, cannot be right.