The NBA just had its star-studded All-Star weekend. The NFL had its end-of-season Pro Bowl earlier this month. The NHL had its celebratory All-Star game in January. The Premier League had, ummm, well, serious football to play.
Lighthearted exhibition games just don’t feature in English football. Sure, there are testimonials and Soccer Aid, but these never see the very best in the country playing one another. Instead they celebrate an individual’s career or allow us to chuckle at celebrities attempting to compete on the same level as Ronaldinho.
But why? Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic teaming up to take shots at a goal filled with David de Gea?
Well sadly, I’ve been thinking, and as much as I’d love to see a Premier League All-Star game, the practicalities of it are too overbearing for it to ever exist.
For a start, there’s the inherent unfairness of it all. Premier League squads are not designed in the same way as basketball or NFL rosters. Salary caps ensure that the top players cannot all be bought by the same team, allowing for a certain degree of parity. The Premier League has no such moral compass, seeing the best routinely snapped up by a select few who can afford it. This would therefore see All-Star squads made up of just a few teams, leaving little interest for fans of smaller teams, and thus ruining the jovial and relaxed atmosphere amongst supporters.
Furthermore, a lack of divisions would make splitting teams difficult. While a draft could be created – a la the Pro Bowl of a few years ago – it is a flawed concept that fails to encourage rooting interests, thus resulting in an atmosphere with about as much pop as a year old bottle of coke.
Of course, the main reason it will never happen is because teams don’t want it to. Like any match, no matter how ‘fun’ it is meant to be, there is a risk of injury. Managers and players would be berated if a star was to suffer serious damage in nothing more than an exhibition. Hardly worth it.
In seasons that already comprise of sixty plus games for top players, the incentive of an extra one in minuscule, especially after a long season that could well have seen international duty over the summer as well. And as for trying to play it mid-season, well, that’s just ridiculous. The Premier League still can’t see the sense of a winter break, let alone an All-Star weekend.
At the end of the day however, there is no demand for such an idea. No clamour from the fans. We have matches played nearly every week of the year, and although the summer months can seem long, we are already spoiled by the glut of fixtures at our disposal. Why ruin it. I’d rather watch Tranmere play Swindon and give it their all than the best in the world half-arse it for ninety minutes any day of the week.
We have Fantasy Football, and that’s all we need.