The richest league in world football is in a spot of bother right now.
With the coronavirus pandemic in the UK preventing elite sport from being able to continue, Premier League clubs are struggling. Many of those in trouble are either furloughing staff or asking players to cut wages, and with no end to the crisis in sight the very future of the league is up in the air higher than a Rory Delap throw-in.
This week the Premier League have ramped up preparation for “Project Restart”, their blueprint to get matches back underway again in the summer behind closed doors. The overarching reason as to why is simple: should the division be unable to fulfil its remaining fixtures, a rebate to the tune of £765million could potentially be issued to broadcasters.
Whilst there is a chance the season could eventually be finished this way, the Premier League could potentially be one player’s positive virus test away from having to cough up that princely sum. In doing so, it’s conceivable that many clubs – and even the league itself – could go under.
Should that happen, a new division would have to take its place: Premier League 2.0, if you will. And if that clean slate presented itself, what could it look like? What changes could be made to realign the “product” back to its roots: the fans? Well, we’ve had a think…
1. Stop f*cking over fans with ridiculous kick-off times
Newcastle away to Bournemouth? Yeah, let’s make that the 12:30pm Saturday game at as late notice as possible. Manchester United travelling to Arsenal? Well, no fixture has ever screamed “8pm on New Year’s Day” like this before!
For years the match-going fan – the very supporters who generate the atmospheres which make the Premier League such an attractive proposition for broadcasters – have been relentlessly f*cked over by schedulers.
A well thought-out, sensible fixture list that prioritises genuine fans’ logistics should be a core requirement for any revamped decision. After all, why should viewers in America or China be treated with more importance?
2. Televise all games
The Premier League has been away for so long now, we’re actually beginning to miss having to fight through a sea of “adult” pop-ups on dodgy streaming websites just so we can watch fixtures that are being legitimately broadcast in every other country in the world. Admit it: so are you.
The domestic live blackout of many games was initially designed to protect matchday attendances, but there is no real evidence to support this. And as Amazon Prime proved earlier this season, the technology to simultaneously broadcast the entire fixture list is now in place (well, assuming you turn off live goal alerts on your phone, anyway).
Ergo it’s about time the current archaic laws and TV rights are rethought, whether that means making all fixtures accessible on-demand or solely for Premier League clubs’ members to watch their own team – without having to endure endless porn pop-ups.
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3. Introduce a salary cap
For far too long many clubs have been overly reliant on TV money as their main source of income, which has allowed them to hand out mega-money contracts, often to vastly overpaid players. As it’s now clear to see, this business model is more fragile than Andy Carroll’s hamstrings.
The introduction of a salary cap would help clubs behave more sustainably, stopping them from working up crazy debts and helping prevent players’ wages spiralling even higher out of control. As things are currently, all it takes is one player to break through the next landmark wage barrier before everyone else wants to level up.
And as an added bonus, we’d never have to hear the boring debates over Mesut Ozil’s contributions for £350,000 per week ever again. Result!
4. Create an NFL-style draft system
As the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea have proven, having a billionaire owner (well, one that is actually willing to spend money on the club – sorry, Gooners) is pretty much all you need to buy yourself silverware. The introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules were meant to have curtailed this, but in reality, it has had no tangible effect.
A revamped Premier League could be the perfect opportunity to introduce an NFL-style draft system to help clubs more fairly recruit the best new young talent. In time this would help level out the division, making for a far more interesting and competitive season each year. Much more fun than watching Liverpool sprint away with it, eh?
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5. Ditch VAR
Let’s be honest: VAR has been a total disaster. Initially concocted as a solution to help stop referees making rare blatant mistakes, the Premier League instead adopted it in an overzealous manner. As a result, many games have been reduced to live geometry lessons, as goals are ruled offside by a fraction of an armpit, whilst fans in the stadium sit none the wiser.
The spoiling of the game’s flow and matchday experience is simply not a fair trade for VAR. It’s time to stop playing with digital crayons on replays and get back to enjoying football as it has been for all of history.
6. Get rid of transfer windows
If the purple dildo of transfer deadline day has taught us anything, it’s that modern football fans care more about trading players like it’s a real-life version of a Panini sticker album than, y’know, the actual football itself. Why consign the fun to just two deadline days when we could have transfers happening all year round?
PS: Oh, and no Mike Dean. Come on, do we really have to explain this one?
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