Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Premiership All-Star Weekend

The inspiration for this post was very simple - the NBA All-Star weekend. It took place last weekend and, having watched some of the events, it got me pondering whether or not it would be possible to implement a similar feature into the Premiership season.

The NBA weekend is run over three days. It consists of a rookie versus sophomore match, a D-League (the minor league) All-Star match, a team shooting challenge, a skill course, a three point shooting competition, a dunk contest and culminates with the East versus West All-Stars. Indeed, all American sports have the same mid-season for similar event-packed, star-studded affairs. The break can prove problematic for players and clubs alike, though. A weekend break for such festivities is not ideal for a team trying to gather or maintain momentum and form.



It remains, however, something that I think would be extremely interesting and entertaining to see transferred across the Atlantic. It allows fans to see a different side to the players, witnessing some absurd bits of showboating and it often is a useful means of raising money and awareness for various charitable causes.

The way it would work is relatively straight forward. Players, managers and journalists would vote for the players that they believe deserve to feature in the All-Star match (not fans - this prevent clubs with larger fan bases simply getting all their players in the team). Other players, meanwhile, would be selected to take part in the individual events which I will outline in due course.

There are a couple of obvious problems in trying to introduce such an event. These are, firstly, the Premiership has a hectic enough schedule as it is to try and fit it in and secondly, the league is not split into two separate conferences (as American sports leagues are) from which to select two sides. These problems can, however, be easily overcome. To fit the game in the season could either be prolonged by one extra week or simply add one set of midweek fixtures. To form the two sets of ten teams from which the 'All-Stars' could be chosen, a simple solution would be to divide the the league between the northern and southern clubs. This would mean that the pools of teams would look like this:

North – Newcastle, Sunderland, Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool.

South – Stoke, Wolves, West Brom, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea and Fulham.

On balance the north/south divide seems to split the teams quite fairly which would allow for a reasonable mix of the Premiership's elite players to face off against one another. As for the events. The focal point of the day would, of course, be the north versus south All-Star game. But other competitions would be required to make the whole thing more interesting.

There would have to be some form of skill-based time trial, something akin to what you would see on Wayne Rooney's Street Striker. This would involve dribbling and passing into or through targets so we could see which Premiership player has the best “tekkers”. Another event could be a skill showdown as features on Soccer AM or a skill shot contest (alla Ronaldinho's shot from behind the goal, below). Others could be simple challenges to see who is the quickest player at dribbling the ball half the length of the pitch and a test to see who has the most powerful shot. It could even tie in with 'The Match' by featuring the celebrities versus ex-pros game.



Amidst the mayhem of the Premiership campaign, an All-Star break for one weekend of the year would offer some light relief and allow us to appreciate a different side to the league's footballers, and indeed football itself. This is just a quick example of what some potential line-ups for the events could be... you know you would want to see this:

Tekkers Trial – Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Arteta, Modric, Nasri.
Speed Dribble – Walcott, Bale, Lennon, Guitierrez, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor.
Skill Showdown – Berbatov, Adam, Anelka, Silva, Young, Van der Vaart.
Power Shot – Huth, Alex, Hitzelsberger, Van Persie, Taylor, Kolorov.
With an All-Star match of the League's best performers of the season.

Now some may not want to see such a weekend introduced as a distraction from the Premier League season. Moreover, managers would almost certainly not want to lose their players for such an occasion. But tell me you would not want to see the Premiership's finest go head to head over a series of irrelevant yet intriguing challenges.

Would very much like to hear people's thought on this idea. What kind of events would you like to see footballers go head-to-head in? Who would you like to see take part in such challenges? Which players would make your All-Star XI from the respective north and south divisions?

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

9 comments:

  1. It would be an excellent idea
    Imagine:

    The PL selling the TV rights for huge sums
    The smaller clubs can rest up for the run in
    Wembley could be used as the venue and be paid off early
    Have some sort of Volley competition similar to Home Run Derby featuring best players

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  2. Cross bar challenge!

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  3. http://www.a3k.com/ had this idea with Villa Ronaldo Rooney and a couple of others to compete in a skills showdown. I do like the idea of a north vs south all star match though. Maybe just a Premier League all stars that can play La Liga/Bundesliga/Serie A all stars too??

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  4. I quite like the idea. But can you *imagine* Arsene Wenger's reaction if van Persie injured himself trying to twat a ball as hard as he could. He'd explode!

    So, yes, completely in favour. ;)

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  5. Ahem, West Brom are NOT a Southern club.

    *storms off*

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  6. I've long wanted:

    a) An English league vs Scottish league XI
    b) English FA Cup winners vs Scottish FA Cup winners

    Why not?

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  7. A good read - and I am not 100% sure that this is not a tongue in cheek blog to get people to agree and laugh at them later...

    Assuming it is genuine, I can think of few things in life that would sit below this on things I would watch.
    Football lasted for over 100 years doing very well before Sky "invented" it, and now everyone seems determined to destroy what little is left.

    Sorry, and I will continue to read the otherwise excellent pieces on here, but this has actually made me angry - let's seed the FA Cup and introduce game 39 while we're at it.

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  8. Cheers for all the comments guys.

    Andy, some sort of volley competition would be interesting - always want to test the players' tekkers. Sam, cross bar challenge would be a must.

    Anon, a Premiership versus rest of the world match would be great to see but would then involve the break spreading over various leagues, thus making it far more difficult.

    Twistedblood, Wenger would almost certainly kick up an almighty fuss but what's new there. Ethan, truly sorry but they are one of the ten most southernly clubs. I am not sure, however, if you would have to worry about anyone from West Brom representing the South team!

    Rob, I think either of those ideas would be good. Could be a replacement to the Community Shield as a season opener?

    SpurSimon, I can understand your view. This was not meant as an entirely serious suggestion but nor was it a tongue in cheek post. It was, like many of my posts, an attempt to spark some debate over potential changes to the game.

    I think that there is something to be said for a weekend of light hearted events to raise money for charity and it ought not to ruin the fabric of the game. Nevertheless, it is, of course, a very commercialised and Americanised idea and could be seen as a sign of the McDonaldisation of football.

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  9. I have just written a similar piece on my blog. I have since been directed towards this piece by SpursSimon. I actually think it would be a good idea. I'm not sure there's a need for all the showboating stuff but a one off game of south v north would be good in my opinion.

    The time to do it would be at the beginning of the season with the best players from the previous season playing and it should be instead of the charity shield. That way it doesn't effect the normal footballing calender.

    I also didn't concentrate on charity. I'm all for that and it could still be done but my concern was giving something back to the fans. We all spend a small fortune nowadays and are moved from pillar to post because of TV schedules. Give tickets out for free or minimal amounts and base it on a draw ballot so everyone has an equal chance of going.

    It'll obviously never happen but in my opinion the fact it does in American sport where the stars get even more money than premiership footballers, plus they play about 50+ more games a season means an injury to one of them is more costly to their clubs and they still allow it. It's a shame it wouldn't happen because I think it'd be great for the sport to give something back.

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