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A simple answer to most football problems



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What’s wrong with football?

Ask any fan and you’d wish you’d never gotten them started. The referees get it wrong, the players cheat (always the opposition, mind you), there’s too much money in the game, the players are greedy bastards who don’t give two hoots about loyalty and honor, international football is crap, there’s no talent coming through the youth ranks, tickets are too expensive, we haven’t won anything in ages….

And then some.

For a slightly more formal approach to answering the initial question, let’s look at the stakeholders involved in the game and what each group is complaining about:

The Fans: Erosion of club values, rising prices, poor decisions.

The Players: Fewer opportunities to play at the top level/fewer opportunities to win titles.

Management (coaching + club officials): poor refereeing standards, poor training standards at youth level (not everywhere), players picked up by top clubs too quickly (not everywhere).

Investors: Not enough money in the game, the top 10% get 90% of the attention.

The Caretakers (Fifa, Uefa, FA, etc): Different, conflicting agendas. International bodies want to strengthen international football, country-specific organisations are looking to strengthen club football. Not enough focus on training, transfers and refereeing, 3 of the main issues at stake.

The above list is by no means exhaustive – feel free to add to this in the comments.

That’s a lot of problems for a game that takes 90 minutes to play and has fewer than 20 rules. There’s good news though – the answer to most of these issues is quite simple. The bad news is that the people in charge of the game will never let it happen.

Less football at the top, more football at the bottom.

Fueled by a desire to mint money, the amount of professional football being played these days has reached high levels and organisations are looking at different ways to increase this amount (more international tournaments, preseason tournaments and what not).

In contrast, there’s not enough football being played on a more casual level – street football, football in your local park, etc etc.

Whenever you give someone less of what they want, they’re going to want it more. By managing the ‘production’ of top-level football, the investors can make more money per game while still being able to reduce ticket prices and with football growing at the lower level, find more opportunities to invest.

By reducing top-level football you’re going to give more time and exposure to all football levels below it, which (if harnessed correctly) will increase investment at those levels.

More space and time for referees to hone their skills at lower levels instead of being fast-tracked to the top. In addition, there will be more time for good refs to cover top games.

More football at lower levels gives younger players more chances of playing regular football, thus improving standards overall. In addition, more playing time also means that the clubs at the top can cherry-pick talent instead of buying kids up by boatloads.

More football at lower levels will increase the chances for players to win titles and build careers. It will strengthen club football while allowing international football the room it wants.

In most cases, reducing top-level football and increasing the amount of football played at lower levels works. For football. It probably doesn’t work for the moneymen and because of that this template may be better suited for implementation in future league setups and not football already entrenched in our culture.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.