Only 13 months ago, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand touted the idea of a Premier League all-star game to replace the FA Community Shield.
His remarks on Twitter gained plenty of press coverage, but short shrift from the powers that be in English football.
Swiftly swept under the carpet, it appears the world has forgotten about Ferdinand’s quite brilliant idea.
"Baseball All-Star game tonight, TV coverage is quality. We need a PL All-Star game too... the powers that be let's talk + develop this," he Tweeted last July.
"Replace the Community Shield with #premierleagueallstarteam?"
Ferdinand made the comments whilst on tour in America with Manchester United, and the all-star game is very much a concept that has been embraced in the States.
Major League Baseball and the National Football League led the way in the 1930s, with the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association following suit in the following decades.
The specifics of the matches have changed over time, but the most successful change has been to allow fans to vote for the team. How much of a say supporters have varies from game to game, but in most cases, people get to choose the starting line-up.
Players and Coaches vote for the other players that make it into the squad, forming a team mixed of professionals who are popular with both the fans and their peers.
If an all-star game were to replace the FA Community Shield, then it would need to work in one of two ways. Either, supporters pick one team to face the Premier League champions, or they pick two teams split geographically – as is the case in America.
It’s the first idea which would seem the most logical, rewarding the Premier League winners with a chance to play a team made up of the best players in the division. As a reward for winning the FA Cup, the manager of that team could take charge of the all-stars.
It is a huge surprise that the FA have not shown more of an interest in this idea, given the potential global appeal that would be generated from an EPL all-star team, as it would be known around the world.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has previously touted the idea of a ‘39th game’ in the Premier League, with all teams playing one fixture abroad in a season.
Unsurprisingly, it was met with fierce opposition from Premier League managers, who already believe that their players are having to take the field too much in a season.
But, with interest gradually dwindling in the FA Community Shield, surely this is an opportunity to tick a number of boxes. The rights to host the match could be sold to foreign countries (most notably China and the USA), with that money going towards the charitable course that are being helped by the game in its current format.
In turn, the game helps achieve Scudamore’s original aim of globalising the Premier League further, and increasing interest in the ‘product’. Nobody can sell the English top flight like the top players, and taking the very best around the world would be a marketing dream.
“We've just done our latest research, and there is about a 4.7 billion TV audience now across the world,” said Scudamore back in November.
“I'm not going to be raising it (the 39th game) again because I don't think it's worth it in the scheme of things.”
Given that clubs now travel the world as part of their own pre-season push to gain more fans, there would be little scope for complaint if the Premier League attempted to do the same thing.
Taking players away from their clubs a week before the season would be the major stumbling block, but with the international break doing exactly the same thing just days before the new campaign, there would certainly be room for some kind of negotiation between all the clubs involved.
Whilst the FA Community Shield used to be an impressive curtain-raiser to the season, it’s now an outdated friendly match. That point was proved with the empty seats at Villa Park, and the lack of a suspension for Branislav Ivanovic’s straight red card.
So why don’t we do the right thing, get rid of it, and replace the match with a much more exciting game that would increase interest both in this country and around the world.
And, just to prove how exciting the match might be, here’s the GMF all-star XI that would have gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City at the weekend…
Petr Cech; Kyle Walker, Martin Skrtel, Fabricio Coloccini, Leighton Baines; Juan Mata, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey, Gareth Bale; Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney.
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