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All Things Footie | Thursday, August 4 | Jordan

An idea

I was browsing BBC Sport when I came across a piece on Fulham’s recent friendly against the MLS All-Stars. What a great idea. Imagine, come the end of the season, a round robin between The Premiership, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Championaat and the Dutch EreDivision All-Stars. Managed by the manager of the respective divisions’ champions. I’d pay to see that. It would be infinitely better than normal International competition, and would get immense TV audiences World Wide. It’d be a no-lose situation (apart from the poor players getting even more knackered—though it wouldn’t have to last more than a week or two).

I’ve never been the biggest fan of US Sports and competition structures, having written them off as boring, over complicated, or just plain drug-addled, but after reading a recent Observer Sport Monthly special on US Sports, I have to say I’m warming to some of the philosophies behind the more popular US Sporting pastimes.

Take American Football. I’ve always thought of it as a wet version of Rubgy, even though the bruality and general disorganisation and chaos of Rugby is exactly why I can’t stand the game. When it comes to football, I’ve always preferred (and have more respect for) the more cerebral management style of Trapattoni, Wenger and Mourinho to the blood and thunder methods used by the likes of Keegan, Clough and Ferguson. It’s more difficult, more studious and more it helps to push the game forwards.

I now see American Football as an extension of the cerebral style of football management, perhaps taken to extremes, but still a close relation. In American Football all of the onus is on the manager, unlike (Real) Football or Rugby—where once the players are on the pitch the manager can only pray until half-time, when a stern bollocking or a few pats on the back are almost as much as can be done. In football, substitutions aside, the manager prepares and picks the teams, then puts his faith in the players. I’m now beginning to understand that the choreography and planning by coaches/managers in American Football are not necessarily bad, and that it certainly promotes (and hides) a more considered style to the one often projected by American Sports of knuckleheads running into each other.

If football relied so heavily on tactics and forward planning, Kevin Keegan would certainly never have gotten a job in management. Which may or may not have been a good thing.

The socialist transfer system in American Football is actually (in my opinion) far fairer, better and more interesting than the capitalist meat-market in Football. In case you’re unaware, in a nutshell, at the end of the season the teams in the NFL that have done poorly, get to pick the best young players coming into the game, and the teams that have done well get the dregs. Thus the league gets levelled out a little each year, and you are less likely to have spells of one team dominating the game (if they do, it’s only because they have an exceptional manager). If a similar system applied to Football in the UK, Wayne Rooney would probably be at Blackburn or Southampton. An NFL-style salary cap would also mean you didn’t have wonky-lipped mecenaries going from club to club trying to get paid more than the average Middle-Eastern Oil Baron.

There’s a lot the FA and football could learn from much-derided (in Europe anyway) American sports, if you’re still not convinced, I’d definitely recommend reading the OSM American Edition

(21) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

# Posted by Anonymous Pandy at 12:20 PM
I think a lot of the problem with American sports is that they are dull to watch on television, but a lot more interesting in person. Ice hockey being a prime example - it all looks rather easy on the telly, but rinkside it's mental.

Motorsport is the same too, being at a race brings home how fast/loud and difficult those cars must be to drive, whereas on tv it looks like child's play.

Football is exciting to watch on tv, and it looks bloody difficult into the bargain, no matter whether the Keegan or Wenger style is played.
# Posted by Anonymous lurker at 2:21 PM
Good comment on the transfer system in the NFL and the salary caps in the NHL. I'd like to see something similar introduced in Europe too...John Mikel Obi at West Brom, anyone?
Ice hockey looks easy on telly!? How can anything done on skates on ice look easy?
# Posted by Anonymous Rogue at 5:26 PM
You might be on to something. Well done.
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:56 AM
I'm an Englishman living in America and believe the Premiership will eventually develop a system similar to American sports, otherwise football, as we know it will cease to exist. There will not be a Premier League, but rather some sort of "super" league where only the very rich clubs can afford to compete.

American sports, for the most part, have evolved for the benefit of television. Baseball and American Football have predictable breaks in the action to be used for advertising (and useful for the viewers to grab another beer) and Basketball, although not as predictable, has lots of time-outs where the TV stations can advertise. It's boring and interferes with the flow of the game.

As far as money is concerned, all major, sports in the US have revenue sharing, limitations as to the number of players on the roster, and salary caps. If we apply that principal to Premiership Footie, Chelsea either would be prohibited from going over a certain budget (as in American Football and Basketball) or (in the case of Baseball) would be required to pay a “luxury” tax to the league if they go over the salary cap.

They also have a system that prohibits the poaching of another team’s players. Players cannot negotiate with another team while they are under contract. Players are typically not bought and sold (as every team has the same budget), but are traded. I might give you Roy Keene, Wayne Rooney and RVN in exchange for T Henry, but money doesn’t change hands. There is no such thing as a "free", a team is always compensated for a player going to another team.

As mentioned in the article (blog), all players coming into the professional ranks must go through a “draft” where the lowest finishing teams draft the top prospects and the top-flight professional teams draft last. The interesting thing about that system is that the winners are usually the winner every year i.e.: the New Yankees are usually the winner, but they usually draft last, so draft position doesn’t seem to make much diff.

I think the Prem would be better off with a salary cap, but then we probably could not compete in Europe unless they had one too.
# Posted by Blogger Jordan at 8:43 AM
Thanks for the input Anon:

"Players cannot negotiate with another team while they are under contract."

Same goes in the Prem, but that doesn't stop my favourite CEO (see previous article).

The idea of salary capping appeals to me, but it would have to be put in place Europe-wide, and the players union (headed by that deplorable little turd Gordon Taylor) would no doubt fiercely oppose any such proposal.

One of the things I found most amusing reading the OSM magazine was this idea that despite the national demonisation of the socialist ethos, US sports are inherently communist in their beliefs -- the spreading out of good players, money not being the route to success, everyone sharing their revenue for the good of the collective.

And here we are, the nasty European capitalists!
# Posted by Blogger San Francisco at 5:02 AM
Quite right re: socialist ethos. Just goes to show how we compromise when it comes to the almighty buck.
# Posted by Blogger Dave Ciskowski at 1:35 AM
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
# Posted by Blogger Dave Ciskowski at 1:55 AM
Jordan wrote: "An NFL-style salary cap would also mean you didn’t have wonky-lipped mecenaries going from club to club trying to get paid more than the average Middle-Eastern Oil Baron."

Not exactly. If anything, we have more free agency ("leaving on a free") than there is in the Prem. Players demand raises or trades all the time. The current big NFL story is about Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles, and his demands for a new contract, one year on from his previous deal. Same song, different singer.

Still, it's interesting to think about. I put up a few more notes on my blog. Now, if we could just get relegation battles into the American leagues...
# Posted by Blogger Jordan at 11:03 AM
Interesting stuff Dave.

If a salary cap was imposed UEFA wide though, the clubs owuld presumably all support it (it saves them money after all) so I can't imagine a breakaway league would be a problem (who'd lead it? the players?)

It was interesting to read about Terrell Owens, and I maybe missed out on the fact that most US sports stars are paid a hell of a lot more than their footballing (soccering?) counterparts.

What are his options if the Eagles won't pay him his demands? Will he just disappear and go somewhere else? Does it work like that?
# Posted by Anonymous beefy at 11:40 PM
totally random almost off topic comment about rugby. I think if u really took a look its not as disorganised and chaotic as you think. A well organised team will beat a better team any day especially if the manager can expose a weakness in the opposition.
As for the salary cap i think thats a great idea because then we can finally break the domination of chelsea/arsenal/man utd and see some real compitition at the top of the premiership.
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1:56 AM
To answer you question Jordan, yes that's how it works.

Terrell Owens is an EXTREME exception, the Eagles got him when he refused to live up to his contract with the 49ers.

The Eagles can either sue him for breach of contract or trade hime to a team that is stupid enough to take him.
# Posted by Blogger Dave Ciskowski at 2:11 AM
Sorry, I've been off sulking all day. I hate Drogba.

There would be two sources of opposition to a UEFA cap. One would be the players, of course. The other would be the top teams, and that's what makes it tough to implement. Imagine how happy Chelsea would be if they were told that they have to let half their players go, since they now have to cut their wage bill by 40% or something. A salary cap, by design, limits any individual team's ability to load up on the top talent. So the Man Utds, the Real Madrids, the Juventuses will all be against the idea. If UEFA tried to create it anyway, I think you'd see these teams secede to form a real Champions' League.

Really though, transfer fees are probably a bigger problem for the small clubs. Maybe a good alternative step would be to limit the amount that any team can spend on transfer fees in a given year, or (even better) the total amount of transfer fees for all the players on their books. Roman Abramovich still wouldn't like it, but maybe a lot of other clubs would be for it. It would also encourage clubs to keep homegrown players, since they would represent 0 against the transfer fee cap.

As for Terrell Owens... in the NFL he doesn't have many options. He can sit out the year, but Philadelphia can fine him for every day he misses, and he ends up losing so much money that it's hardly worth it. His best bet is really to make a case through the media, and shame the ownership into renegotiating. Failing that, he'll probably get so obnoxious as to force a trade to another team that would be willing to renegotiate.

One thing to keep in mind is that NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. So Philadelphia can release Owens at any time, and then stop paying his contract. So really, it's only a contract for him -- not for them. It doesn't matter too much today; he's currently one of the best wide receivers in the league, and if they cut him he'd have a great new contract in no time. But all it takes is one serious injury and he's off the team and out of a paycheck. The other major leagues (baseball, basketball) have guaranteed contracts, so players get paid even if they get injured or suddenly lose their skills, which seems a bit more fair. If you offer me a 7 year contract, I would expect that it'll actually last for 7 years!

If you want to read more about the struggles between players and owners, look at hockey. Last year, the league and the players' union couldn't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, that was designed to impose a salary cap, among other things. So, to force the issue, the owners locked out the players, thus shutting down the league. The 2004-2005 season was cancelled. Completely! Of course, the owners lost all that revenue... but they also didn't have to pay the players. Eventually the players gave in and accepted the owners' deal. Here's one look at the deal.
# Posted by Blogger andyrupe at 9:41 PM
wow, never learned so much bout american sports before. They really dont leave the continent do they!

and now with these cheap date lines on here too, this site just keeps on giving! - ive never felt more ready to impress 'local' american singles with my sport knowledge.

Good work jord
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:05 AM
Re: Andyrupe's post.....you are not living in a vacuum and the World is getting flatter everyday. Perhaps, just maybe, you might learn something.

You're doing great Jordan, you're reaching all the way to Yankeeland and good luck to you.
# Posted by Blogger Jordan at 8:36 AM
wow! REAL singles?
# Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:03 AM
I usually respect your blog posts, but this time I'm going to disagree.

I've been waiting for the right venue to write my diatribe against American sports. Here goes...

American sports are designed to make money for every owner. You can lose every match and still make profits at the end of the year. There's no tension like you'd see in a penalty shootout to determine who's moving up from div 1 to the premiership. No money at stake, just pride. There's no relegation at the end of the season if you fail to win.

It's also a franchise system so the sport is controlled by the group that runs the franchise. The teams can't control their own marketing or set their own ticket prices because it's all determined at the league level. Therefore the teams lack the distinct identity that English soccer teams have. They're really just like another KFC or McDonals outlet.

The sports are only playable if you're a physical freak. You need to be tall and jump well to play basketball. It's almost impossible to succeed if you're not. Compare that to soccer, where you can get people like Maradonna or Gazza, neither of whom seem particularly athletic, but they were some of the greatest players. American Football is another sport in which you have to be a physical freak with incredible upper body strength. Baseball is also tending in that direction with all the top players needing steroids to boost their strength.

I'm sure there's a few other problems with US sports, but that will do for now.

Signed:
An English soccer fan living in San Francisco.
# Posted by Blogger Jordan at 12:26 PM
Interesting stuff.

That's always been my opinion of American sports, I began reading OSM magazine that concentrated on American sports redy to mock at every corner, but I have to admit that I finished it with a newfound respect for most of them.

I even began to appreciate baseball (particularly the tales of it's heyday).

I'd recommend reading the OSM (I linked to it in the post), just for a different angle on the whole debate.

Thanks for the comments.
# Posted by Anonymous Tanner at 5:00 AM
As I read this thread I think it is really interesting to read the English perspective on American sports (especially since im American). Specifically Pandy's comment that "I think a lot of the problem with American sports is that they are dull to watch on television...". Ironically enough, just the other day while watching European Football a friend walked by and made a derogatory comment about watching soccer and how it was boring.

I believe that in reality you end up being interested in what you know and it is difficult to adjust to a new sport. I myself grew up as a soccer player, but still had trouble adjusting to watching soccer on TV. In fact, referering to Pandy's comment again (sorry to pick), I thought that was soccer was great to watch in person but boring on TV.

I guess all Im saying that picking a favorite sport depends on perspective. I just love sport and competition overall...and luckily as I have gotten older I have really come to enjoy watching European football on TV.

As for thoughts on salary cap and what not, I think that the Premier League has a lot to learn from Major League Baseball. For sometime baseball was in real danger of killing themselves b/c of the same problems with English football (the spenders win all the time). They are starting to address it, but we will see soon enough if it works. American football has done a decent job, but the TO issue may change a lot of those policies.

Either way...I'd still rather watch some random El Salvador match of FSC than watch regular season baseball.

Keep up the good work!
# Posted by Anonymous andrew at 6:09 PM
I wouldn't say that in baseball the big spenders win all the time. The low spending Athletics, Marlins, and Twins have been very successful in the last few years while the big spending Dodgers, Mets and Phillies have not.

I think that you're right about the Premiere League learning from Major League Baseball. A luxury tax (with increased revenue sharing) is much better than the salary cap of the NFL.


And as for TO. He's a total punk, even the other punks in the league aren't that bad. His whining won't change any of the NFL policies.
# Posted by Blogger David Skul at 3:45 AM
Spain a Contender in World Cup 2006

This Friday December 9, 2005 saw football lovers round the world clinging to the edge of their seats, ready and waiting to determine who they would play in the group stages of the World Cup 2006 in Germany. The ceremonial occasion contained all the anticipated fanfare and hoopla that a soccer fan would normally link with modern sporting events. In other words, the smitten sports buff was subjected to hours of mindless slobber when awaiting for the unparalleled action to start out. Whosoever puts these events together just can't perchance believe that the football fans who have tuned in to see such an event can be in any way smitten in the flaky magic exhibits and dance troops they force out. One can only believe that heavy numbers of hard cash in brown envelopes that changes hands in order to generate some feeble performers their luck to be on worldwide television. The experience was produced slenderly supplementary endurable with a handsome blonde in a revealing dress co-hosting the program.

When the standoff did at last came it was dragged out, with a horde of footballing celebrities taking balls to pick out the teams. Again, a soccer fan has to accept that the presenters and celebrities were being paid off by the second as they struggled to make this non-event into a television spectacular. This should have taken no further than fifteen minutes to carry through, but no, soccer reporting went on for a undivided three hours! Because this is an indication of affairs to hail it is no question that the tourney will take an entire calendar month to finish.

When the dust settled on the over padded proceedings in Leipzig, England came out of it rather well. Notwithstanding having traditional rivals for Sven's loyalty, Sweden, in the group, Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago are surely there just to make things fair. With the top two from every group coming along to the second round, England are favorites to proceed into this phase with out too much trouble. Depending on the setting in both England’s group (B) and the Germany / Poland group (A) the substitutions perchance set up an early crunch match with the hosts. Even so this would bank on either Germany or England neglecting to win their various groups and an England vs. Poland second round match is tremendously additional probable. Providing this potential banana skin can be negotiated, the usual is that England will crash out on penalties in the quarter finals to either Holland or Argentina. All England buffs, notwithstanding the optimism that usually rings the ballyhoo to a world cup, hold a sensation of the inevitable heroical defeat in the latter stages of the tourney. The common comments have been made up by the various directors, with Sven contributing in his normal unrestrained flair.

Perhaps the most intriguing groups are C, where Holland and Argentina are drawn jointly, and E, where Italy takes on USA, Czech Republic and Ghana. Normally ho-hum starters to tourneys, and having broke down to go on from the group stages last time around, Italy stand a tough task onwards. Having been drawn with the very much improving USA and a Czech side who are beginning to indicate signals of the retuning glory days with an mythical performance in the last Euro Championships, Italy may be the competitors first large casualty, with Ghana being very tremendously an unsung entity. Group C caters to an early clash of the prominent boys, where the Dutch face are good deal better than their ungraded position suggests, but both Holland and Argentina need be firm enough to overcome Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro to win to the second round. The only question in truth is of who may top the group and in theory cast the easier second round match.

Historically it has been very rocky for a South American squad to win a world cup in Europe and at first site Brazils ranking as clear front-runners might seem a little generous. Notwithstanding, the game is not the equal as it has been in the yesteryear and several of the Brazilian team already frolic in top European sides in England, Spain and Italy. Their adaptation has been years in the forming and the European manner of soccer fused with the traditional Brazilian genius and talent may be mouthwatering to observe. It might take a very expert face to take away their pennant from them and in Ronaldhino they have a player who can bend any play off on his own.

Perhaps the most fun facet of any world cup is catching the dark horses, those minnows from commonwealths not affiliated with footballing grandness, progress and bowl over some of the brighter lights. This time around, there are reasonable aspersions of African commonwealths in the blend and some surprises could come from there. It may be worth looking out for the likes of Ivory Coast and Ghana when determining where to set that venturesome high odds wager at the loan shark. South Korea, Maybe the surprise bundle of the previous world cup in Japan are unlikely to be capable to replicate their heroics and will not be undervalued a second instance

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# Posted by Anonymous leviramsey at 3:46 AM
If you're interested in how the NFL grew, added revenue sharing and the salary cap, and in general how the business side of the League has evolved over the last 60 or so years, I can heartily recommend America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375725067/qid=1154835436/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_0_1/026-6964172-6717216

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