There is frequent talk of fixture congestion in the Premier League and the troubles it causes later in the season. This is especially true of the top players and the top teams. There are lots of matches across a number of competitions for your club and then the strong likelihood that you’ll be playing in meaningful competition for your country or be recalled for a friendly because you’re a big gate attraction to bring in the fans. For fantasy columnists like myself who don’t do this as a fulltime job, there is a similar issue that is even less predictable and it brought me to my intro for this week’s column.
My form of fixture congestion revolves around a combination of family obligations, my day job, and the encroachment of other sports on the amount of free time I have to focus on the Premier League and writing about it. This particular month has been pretty heavy in terms of my commitments between my niece and nephew’s birthdays in Philadelphia on different weekends, a lot of travel and off-site meetings for my job, and the college basketball tournament and start of Major League Soccer in the sports world. The counter-balancing factor has been the fact that the Premier League has played very few matches this month between international dates and the various cup competitions. It has been a welcome respite for me because I would have been running from obligation to obligation and doing nothing well this month if there had been a full EPL schedule in addition to the rest. [Insert your own jokes about how well I do with more time in other months here if you are inclined toward that sort of thing].
The combination of a few streams of thought – fixture congestion, the college basketball tournament, and Major League Baseball Spring Training (pre-season games in either Florida or Arizona for those not familiar) – got me thinking about how the powers-that-be in English football could answer a few long-standing issues. The issues? Fixture congestion, a winter break, the fading prestige of the League Cup, the increasing costs of season ticket costs for working class fans, and adding a 39th match and playing it abroad to give foreign fans a chance to see meaningful matches.
Here’s my solution to both in one fell swoop:
Welcome to League Cup Madness presented by Carling (or someone else with even deeper pockets). The concept is to pack up the six rounds of the Carling Cup into a three week format like the NCAA College Basketball Tournament and take it on the road from approximately January 10th through the end of the month. The tournament would rotate between warm-weather sites proximate to large markets that the Premier League is interested in building – Southern California in the US, Goa/Mumbai in India, Qatar, and somewhere in Southeast Asia that is warm with some serious stadiums. Here are the benefits: