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Should the Premiership Have an All-Star Weekend?


This is an idea I’ve been kicking around in the back of my mind for a few weeks now, and I wanted to put it out there for discussion.

Here in the US, all of our major professional sports leagues (NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB) have their own versions of an All-Star Game, and the NBA, MLB, and NHL all have an All-Star Weekend with festivities usually on Friday and Saturday leading up to the All-Star Game itself on Sunday. The cities hosting the events benefit from a tremendous economic boost during the weekend due to the mass influx of tourists and visitors looking to be a part of the whole showcase and experience.

There is often an extravagant halftime or pre-game musical act as well, and for those of you who haven’t seen an All-Star weekend here in the States, suffice it to say that it is an orgy of sports and entertainment crammed into a two or three-day span. Celebrity sightings are routine during these games, especially if they’re being played in a fun, desirable city like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc.

Before I get to the specifics of my Premiership All-Star Weekend proposal, I want to address the logistics of hosting such an event.

1. To capitalize on financial possibilities and to accommodate the large number of fans who would want to come to this event, only stadiums with a seating capacity of at least 40,000 and are used primarily for soccer would be eligible to host the festivities.

In England, that limits us to Old Trafford, St. James Park, Wembley, Emirates Stadium, the Stadium of Light, the City of Manchester Stadium, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Villa Park, Goodison Park, and Elland Road. I would also be in favor of playing the game elsewhere in Britain; in Scotland (Celtic Park, Hampden Park, and Ibrox), Ireland (Croke Park), and Wales (Millennium Stadium) to acknowledge the fans who support the league outside of England.

No stadium would be be permitted to host more than once in a 10-year period.

Total stadiums (at least at this point in time): 16

2. The city, stadium, and team hosting the event obviously would be responsible for hiring a sufficient amount of security, with cooperation from national governments. A weekend of this magnitude could very well bring terrorist threats and/or an increased rate of crime (both petty and serious) during the run-up to the weekend and the weekend itself. The number one priority is to keep the fans safe so that they can enjoy their experience without having to worry about their well-being, and it’s also necessary to protect the players themselves.

Now, to the weekend itself. The All-Star Game would be played on Sunday, with a “Young Stars” game on Friday night, a celebrity game on Saturday afternoon, and a skills competition to follow that night. I would schedule the festivities for the weekend immediately following the Champions League final; so this year, for example, it would be the 23rd-25th of May.

Young Stars Game: Players must be 22 or younger to be eligible for this game and can’t have been chosen to play in the “real” All-Star Game. Rosters would be comprised of 18 players, with one squad made up of players who play for clubs that finished in an odd-numbered position that season in the Premiership (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19), and the other made up of players who play for clubs that finished in an even-numbered position that year.

Each Premiership team would have at least one representative on the Young Stars rosters, with the manager of that year’s third place team coaching one side, and the manager of that year’s fourth place team coaching the other. Each Premiership team would nominate one player from their team to play, and the other eight players to fill out the roster would be selected by each Young Stars team’s manager. Unlimited substitutions, 9 vs. 9 (8 field players and a goalie), 35-minute halves.

Celebrity Game: This is where I defer to you folks in Britain. Surely there are some British celebrities–actors, singers, models, etc., who love to play soccer and played it growing up that you would love to see play under the bright lights. I don’t know of any offhand, but I’m sure you could find 20 “A-List”, “B-List”, “C-List”, whatever, who fit that description, 10 for each team. Unlimited substitutions, 8 vs. 8 (7 field players and a goalie), 20-minute halves.

This is the part of All-Star Weekend I’m flexible on; it wouldn’t kill me at all to not have this as part of the festivities.

Skills Competition: Taking a page from what the NBA and NHL do, I’d love to see a skills competition featuring Premiership players. To take part, you would have to be named to either the Young Stars Game or the All-Star Game. Two teams would be competing: the British team against the World team, with the Young Stars joining whichever of those they’d belong to.

Here’s a few of the events that I’d propose:

Fastest Man: Three heats, four players in each, two from each team, with the top two finishers from each heat advancing to a six-man final. Goal line to midfield; so depending on the stadium, it’d be anywhere from a 50-60 yard run or thereabouts. Wouldn’t you love to see just a dead sprint between speed merchants like Theo Walcott, Gabby Agbonlahor, Nedum Onouha, Aaron Lennon, and Ashley Young? I know I would.

Hardest Shot: Place the ball at the center of the top of the 18-yard box. Five players from each team, three shots each. A radar gun would be used to measure the velocity of each shot. To count, a shot has to go in the goal; I don’t care how hard you can strike a ball if it goes into Row X. Again, I’d love to see Steven Gerrard, Michael Ballack, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kolo Toure, and others just lay into a ball with no one in front of them.

Obstacle Course: This is something that could be taken straight off the training pitch. Get some cones or flags, put them close together and have the players dribble in and out. Make the players pass a 15 or 20-yard ball into a tight little space. Make them juggle the ball 20-25 times in a row, which should be no problem. Whatever. Come up with some course that challenges and incorporates the different skills it takes to be a player. Fastest time through the course wins, maybe six or eight players competing, three or four from each team.

Dribble-in Penalty Shootout: Taken from the old days of MLS, I think this would be entertaining. Five players on each team start 35 yards from goal and have five seconds to get their shot off, one team at a time. Whichever team scores the most goals wins.

All-Star Game: OK, here’s the centerpiece of the weekend. Again, two teams, the British team against the World team, or you could do the same even and odd thing I proposed for the Young Stars rosters. Each team would be comprised of 20 players (18 field players and two goalkeepers, with each Premiership team from that season having at least one representative so that it’s not just an Arsenal XI or a Manchester United XI. Each goalkeeper would play one half.

Same rules as always, with one exception: unlimited substitutions. The first-place team’s manager would coach one All-Star team (his choice), the second-place team’s manager would coach the other. Each coach would be responsible for picking both goalies and the ten reserves not nominated by each Premiership team. The players that the Premiership teams choose would start the game, so we’d see all 20 teams represented in the starting 22.

To incorporate the fans, perhaps each club could set something up on their website in which their fans select the one guaranteed representative.

This is a very, very rough outline of what I’d like to see one day. I don’t think anything like this would ever happen; All-Star festivities seem to be uniquely American in concept but I’d still love to see this kind of thing in the Premiership.

I’m interested in your feedback, whatever it is. Let me hear what you like in this proposal, let me hear what you’d want to change a little bit, let me hear what you wouldn’t want to see at all. Remember, the point of having an All-Star event, at least ideally, is to show off the game for the fans who love watching it, and to put on a showcase for those fans in a show of thanks and appreciation for coming out each and every week.

What I don’t want to hear is people simply saying that this would never happen and then criticize me for thinking of it; only comment if you have something constructive to say about the concept itself. If you want to say something about it to me, my E-mail address can be found on my personal blog.

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  1. Sheps

    March 5, 2008 at 5:21 am

    “On another note do you realize the last two World Cup Champions had a total of one active PL player when they won their titles? Yet PL snobs claim it is far and away the best league in the world, a completely laughable claim.”

    Do you fancy saying that again on Thursday morning, when half of the teams left (maximum possible) in the world’s premier club competition are from the Premier League?

  2. Sheps

    March 5, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Are you having a laugh? 9 on 9 games?!! We don’t do that to proper sports such as football thank you.

    There’s way too many games in the calendar as it is. Players get injured (Rooney) for just playing too much. End of May is also rubbish as every other year there’s an international tournament.

    We already have celebrity matches, they suck.

    I don’t like either how your initial list of why this is so good mainly centres around finances – this just sums up how the majority of Americans will never appreciate the passion that drives the game here. A Derby fan would much rather spend their weekend cheering on their losing side than watching an all star game, because we derive entertainment here from passion, not commercial over exuberant egoistical “all star” games.

  3. RedLine55

    March 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    I think it’s called “Manchester United vs. Arsenal”

  4. Alex Hleb

    March 4, 2008 at 11:44 am

    tom thumb, on point.

  5. Tom Thumb

    March 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

    American sports do this because they don’t have an active international set-up; and the league cartels don’t want to allow one. In soccer/association football, we have an international competition, it is great; and thus we don’t need gimicky All-Star games and skills competitions. The MLS one is OK, but World Cup qualifying, which begins this summer, is much, much better. Between the Champions League, and the Euros and World Cup qualifying, the EPL doesn’t need this.

  6. SamSpur

    March 3, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    The big problem with this idea:

    All the best players basically play for 4 clubs, so to try to find spots for reps of every club will mean not taking all the best players. And if you don’t require all clubs to have a representative, then it’s pretty much like watching a ManU/Arse match anyway.

  7. Baz

    March 3, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Crap idea.
    Confine the glitzy sports events for Hollywood.

  8. Alex Hleb

    March 3, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    im just against the term the nfl stole from the sport. i like to call it helmet ball instead. i think eventually the mls will be the mlf within the next 30-40 years. it will happen. im sure.

    and oh i know the history of the word, that one old guy derived the word from “association”, but i just i dont see the association in mls.

  9. Dimi Berbatov

    March 3, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    anyone who watched the “match of the 80s” video posted previously on this site will have noticed the extensive use of the term “soccer.” The current trend against “soccer” is just that. Why are you so angry Hleb?

  10. Kartik

    March 3, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you JM. Well said.

  11. jm

    March 3, 2008 at 6:57 pm


    Now there is no need for that in a post against sporting partisanship =)

    Anyway, I’ve never understood the problem with the term “soccer.” Well, to rephrase, I do not see any good reason to have a problem with it (elitism is not a good reason). It’s a name, and is essentially required, socio-linguistically speaking, in the American vernacular. I often switch which term I use based on the company I am in. It serves my purpose of referring to this sport, and I’m not sure what else we can demand out of a word.

    Using “football” does not give one access to the club of “real fans,” nor does the use of “soccer” show one to be an ignorant American in this regard. It’s an expedient term in many circles.

  12. Kartik

    March 3, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Alexander Hleb:


  13. Michael

    March 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Yes, and in America, there is the NHL, NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR, College Basketball, College Football, and Golf, along with a whole host of minor league sports and lesser professional leagues.

    I’m just saying, there’s more choice here than in Britain.

  14. Alex Hleb

    March 3, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    theres rugby, cricket to pay attention to as well. and you can also mention formula 1, golf. dont be ignorant and make assumptions.

  15. Alex Hleb

    March 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    sorry michael, you wont find any facilities used primarily for SOCCER. maybe football, but im sorry soccer isnt a popular sport in england.

  16. Michael

    March 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Jm, you make a great point when talking about the timing and the challenges of scheduling such an event.

    If the Premiership were the Bundesliga, say, the perfect time to hold this would be during the Christmas period when they’re on their winter break. You correctly pointed out that the Pro Bowl is overhyped for the actual product on the field because not only is it after the season, players usually opt out of it and instead prefer to go home to their families. Unfortunately, the Premiership is the exact opposite of the Bundesliga and squeezes in even more matches during the Christmas period.

    The timing issue is probably the most important of all, you’re right about that. There are no breaks during the course of the Premiership season so the only option is to hold it after. Unlike in America, where there are countless other sports for people to turn their attention to once one sporting league is finished, I still think British fans would still have an interest in watching an All-Star event. Whether the players would be in favor of playing in it after a grueling season, though, is another story.

  17. jm

    March 3, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    The biggest obstacle for this in the Premier league is timing. Between international duty, league matches, the FA cup, the league Cup and European competitions, fitting it in during the season would be very challenging. Especially since the players on the best teams are the ones with the toughest schedules, since they are often involved in all of those competitions. It would be worse to have the competition sans the top talent than to not have it at all.

    Looking at American All-Star games, having it during the season seems absolutely critical. The American Football Pro Bowl is held after the Super Bowl, which greatly diminishes interest in it. Contrast that with the baseball or basketball all-star games which mark a natural break in the season. Yet, I do not think there is any feasible way to do this in the English game.

    Also, as a matter of personal taste, I tend to prefer the style employed for the baseball all-star game rather than the NBA’s or NHL’s,. Indeed, I rather find that the homerun derby makes the baseball All-Star break too bloated, let alone all of the various things they have going on in the NBA. If the EPL were to have some sort of All-Star game, I think it would be best to restrict it to just a simple, single game. It would require less of a commitment from the top players (key since they have so many other playing commitments) and keep it from being such a spectacle.

    Actually, the more I write, the more I realize my disdain for the NBA and NHL all-star games. That’s more or less just personal taste, but it’s just the scope of the thing, the gaudiness of it, etc. I think it would be fun to watch some great EPL players play together for the first time, but I’d like to see it on the more austere model traditional to the MLB (which, sadly, becomes more of a spectacle each year itself). Unfortunately, I’m not sure the timing obstacle is one that can be overcome.

  18. Kartik

    March 3, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    The MLS used to have an ALL Star weekend with all the dumb idiotic skills competitions and they abolished it. Thank goodness for that. The MLS now has a game where the “all stars” play a foreign team ie Chivas or Chelsea. That is a much better draw for real fans.

    I can think of nothing worse than this, but considering the Premier League is simply a marketing/propaganda machine not a serious football league in many ways I assume this is being seriously considered.

    On another note do you realize the last two World Cup Champions had a total of one active PL player when they won their titles? Yet PL snobs claim it is far and away the best league in the world, a completely laughable claim.

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