In some ways, the 39th Game concept is the best thing that could happen to English football right now. The supporters in England need a wake-up call. Something to make their blood boil and to show that they still care. Or have most of them already given up completely?
For more than 12 months, many of the readers on the EPL Talk site have been predicting that the 39th Game would happen. One American reader in particular, eplnfl, continued to raise the possibility of regular season games being played abroad. Most of the expats, myself included, scoffed at the idea saying that the English fans would never let it happen.
How wrong we were.
For too long, we’ve watched Premier League matches from afar and looked on at the throngs of fans sitting motionless in their seats. No emotions on their faces. No songs being sung from their lips. No jumping out of their seats and showing their passion. Sure, there are a few exceptions (any away fans, or home fans at Boleyn Ground, Villa Park, Goodison Park, Anfield, Fratton Park, Stadium of Light and Pride Park). Otherwise, for the most part, we see lifeless fishes sitting in the crowd week after week.
Maybe English fans take things for granted. They’re so used to having their Premier League football on their doorstep. Sure, they pay good money to watch these home matches, but have they been spoiled all these years? And how many of them are, as Roy Keane famously pointed out, members of the “prawn sandwich brigade”?
What will be interesting will be to see whether fans make protests at their grounds in the coming weeks. After all, it’s the Premier League that’s pushing this proposal but that’s with the backing of the 20 Premier League chairmen. So instead of just taking it out on Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, fans from these Premier League clubs should be protesting against their board. That’s if they really care and feel strongly about this.
My sense is that the English press is furious at the 39th Game Proposal and most fans are disgusted by the idea and they see it as just one more nail in the coffin towards the death of English football as we know it.
However, I’m sure there are some fans who are interested in seeing what happens with the proposal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see throngs of supporters attending the match in the United States involving their beloved team. Hordes of Brits are already coming over to America more often than before (some of them for weekend shopping trips to New York City), so a weekend trip to Miami or New York during the dreary winter would be something many fans (and their spouses) would love.
The fact is that the Premier League will soon earn more revenue from TV deals overseas than it will from matches shown in the United Kingdom. While English fans are taking their team for granted, there are millions of fans around the world salivating each weekend as they watch matches from their home in far corners of the globe.
Like me, they’re watching these Brits and seeing how emotionless most of them appear. Personally I can’t wait to see the day when matches are played overseas to see how passionate the foreign spectators act in contrast to the English.