Last week Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku suggested that the Premier League should look into an All Star game, pitting the best players of the teams from the north of the country against those of the teams from the south. The idea had mixed responses, with some saying it was great and it could be used to generate money for charities and grass roots football; others thought the Premier League bosses would just use it as another way to line their pockets and didn’t think all teams would get a fair representation.
Personally I’m a big fan of the idea. I think the All Star events from the major sports in the U.S. are a fantastic spectacle, and while the games themselves normally leave a lot to be desired (especially the Pro Bowl, which, to be fair, have been marginally better the last couple of years) the affairs as a whole are generally entertaining as hell. But how would it work?
North vs South is probably the most logical option as to who faces who, with an assumed ‘border’ around the Birmingham area – this season that would see the north comprising of Newcastle, Burnley, Huddersfield, Manchester City & United, Liverpool, Everton, Stoke, Leicester and West Brom, and the south would have Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, Swansea, Watford, Southampton, Brighton and Bournemouth – an even 10/10 split with no arguments over the ‘border’. It also works out nicely from a league table standpoint too – while the Premier League table will move around every week, as it stands at the time of writing there are 5 teams from each in the top 10 and 5 from each in the bottom 10.
One of the detractors people have been bringing up is team representation – they say the All Star lineups will be dominated by a handful of teams. This probably would be the case but this is no different to the U.S. All Star games – obviously the fans want to see the best players regardless of what team they play for. The way to work around this is by following the rules of the MLB All Star game and having at least one player from every team selected. And to make sure everyone gets their fair share of game time why not have at least 22 players represent each part of the nation underneath 1 manager and have different line ups for the first and second half, similar to a pre-season friendly? This would have the added bonus of bringing up tactical gameplans from whoever manages the teams – do they play teammates together to take advantage of existing chemistry? Do they put the players they perceive to be the best on the pitch at the same time or split them up over both halves to even out the talent? If they do go for the best players at the same time do they put them out in the first half to try and build up a lead or put them out in the second half to try and close a game out?
The selection process would have to follow U.S. rules as well because as a nation we could not rely purely on a fan vote – it’s how we end up with research boats called Boaty McBoatface and as much as I’d like to see Alan Pardew lead the south into battle I don’t think he’s the best candidate for the job. I propose 50% fan vote, 25% press/media and 25% players.
The location could be up for debate – Wembley is recognised around the world as the home of football and as such should be the host of the first ever Premier League All Star game. But going forward it could have a different host city every year, alternating between a north and south location because not everyone wants to pay £8 for a beer.
It would need to be a full weekend event to properly capitalise on having the leagues best players in the same place at the same time. Among other things the NBA has the dunk contest, the MLB has the Home Run Derby, the NHL has the skills competition and the NFL has the Skills Showdown. What events could the Premier League All Star Weekend involve? There should definitely be a skills competition that focuses on ball control, passing accuracy and the like. Other options could be a keepy-uppy last man standing competition, crossbar challenge and a hardest shot competition. But the main event should be a 22 man cuppies (or World Cup singles depending on your preferred term) event to determine the real All Star of the Premier League – who wouldn’t pay to see that?
Motivation for the players could be an issue as there isn’t much to play for other than pride – the MLB All Star game gives the winning division home field advantage in the World Series but the Premier League doesn’t have anything like that it could offer as an incentive. Other than the obvious financial offerings why not impose a 2 week social media ban on the players of the losing team? You’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t think Jesse Lingard would put in a Balon D’or worthy performance with an imposing threat of not being able to share his breakfast plans with the world.
The whole weekend would need to be linked to at least one charity because the last thing the Premier League needs is more money – that is one of the negatives that I do agree with. I’d like to see 50% of proceeds go into grass roots football, 25% to the various Premier League community projects and 25% to a charity partner, again the partner could change every year.
And what kits would the teams wear? As a kid I used to love designing alternative kits for all of the teams in the Premier League (especially if highlighters were involved) so I say a nationwide competition open to school children every year to design the best and most outrageous kits they can think of, the winner being decided as part of the voting process.
So there you have it – the blueprints for what would promise to be an amazing All Star weekend in Britain. If you need any help co-ordinating the event you know where I am Mr Scudamore.