Monday, June 15, 2009

This is what you can do with your 39th game, Scudamore.

In case Richard Scudamore is thinking of reviving the idea of the 39th game, may I make a suggestion. As I understand it, the idea behind the 39th game was to access previously untapped markets, encourage valuable shirt sales and stay one step ahead of the NFL, the IPL and the other competing leagues across the world who are after the same leisure pound and big TV rights deals. When he suggested it at the beginning of last season he was shot down in flames. One of the many sound objections was that teams couldn't waste their time flying halfway round the world in the middle of an already hectic season.

I have a plan which gets round that problem and puts the Premier League in touch with a section that their whole future depends on. The 39th game should be played in England in front of under-18s only. Just kids. No corporates, no season ticket holders, just the young people that everyone professes to be so worried about.

Nobody who's seen that stat about the average age of a supporter at the Stretford End rising from 17 to 47 in the last forty years can doubt that the people the Premier League has lost contact with are young people who no longer go to top rank games unless they've got a wealthy and/or indulgent parent with a season ticket.

In the past few years under-age club nights and rock gigs have proved a massively popular boost to the live music business, putting artists in touch with their most passionate fans and planting the seeds of a lifelong interest in gig-going. Surely football would reap even more benefit from under-18s Saturday. It would look and sound totally different on TV, do more good than all those embarrassing football in the community photo-calls we see on MOTD2 and might even turn our current feelings about top footballers from seething envy to something approaching affection.

What could possibly be wrong with that? It ticks every box. All except the one that says football's highly paid bureaucrats should get an all-expenses paid jolly-up to somewhere warm where their sponsors wish to interest the locals in their lager and internet gambling.


  1. I remember watching the England schoolboys team (don't know what they're called now) on the telly at Wembley and the crowd noise was very peculiar, a stadium full of football fans whose voices haven't broken yet. It sounded more like a David Cassidy concert.

    Good idea though.

  2. Paul K11:11 am

    Well, why not simply make the Community Shield game under-18 only?

    None of the adult fans take it seriously, because it's basically a pre-season friendly, but to a kid, it's the Champions vs the Cupwinners - Man U v Chelsea - at Wembley. What better match to appeal to kids? And, unlike the 39th game, it's already in the calendar!

  3. Exactly. Could even do it in aid of the NSPCC.

  4. I know talking to my nephew he likes going to matches with me and his dad because it's "grown up" and noisey and he's allowed bad food. He doesn't watch all the game but enjoys the atmosphere and the goal celebrations. Me and his dad over heard him defending our hapless team against one of his glory hunting mates, it fair brought a tear to the eye.
    You only have to look at how boxing and cricket fortunes (as broad based popular sports) have waned because they are in walled gardens to see that letting children is the only way forward.

  5. Anonymous8:18 pm

    Perhaps clubs would take the Community Shield more seriously if they called it the Super Cup, like they do in Spain and Italy?

    Anyway, I like your idea. Without wishing to get all Ron Manager, when I was a boy my Dad would take us to Hampden or Ibrox, or Parkhead, and we would go in the father and son gate, at a greatly reduced price.

    Now, I have a 6 year old son. I can't take him to Stamford Bridge or The Emirates on a Saturday afternoon, as I'm not a season ticket holder. And even if there were tickets available to the general public, I couldn't afford them.


  6. Paul K12:28 pm

    Actually, can I just say as a Chelsea fan that tickets at Stamford Bridge are massively reduced for lesser Cup games, and are readily available if you become a member (which is relatively inexpensive)

  7. Steve Wilkins12:54 pm

    Good shout.
    I was at Wembley on Saturday to see the England V France schoolboys ( the latter packed with representatives from the red scourge of Woolwich, but that's another gripe,).
    We also saw the finals of the national Primary schools competiiton - small kids and banner bearing support, with picnic toting proud parents.
    How well did the FA publicise this joyous event ? Did you know about it ?I'm a teacher - did my school know about it ?
    Were there any stars who could be arsed or even asked to show their faces to acknowledge their future audience ?
    The grand arena which is Wembly had about 30,00 visitors for 5 hours of family focused football.

    There are more own goals scored in the administration of the game than even Heurelho Gomes could manage !

  8. "Father and son gate" - mentioned above. I took my godson to see Celtic a couple of years ago, and was amused to see that these tickets are now "Parent and child" tickets. £58 for me and him. A lot of money. I was delighted to have the chance to take him, and he still talks fondly of it. But he thinks of this as a very rare treat. (So do I, at that price)

  9. Le Provocateur9:52 am

    Mmmm - lucky you didn't want to take him to see, say, Bob Dylan, or Neil Young, or Blur, isn't it...

    (Oops, sorry, lid's off, worms are all over the place...)

  10. Anonymous4:51 pm

    Re Chelsea tickets, they may be "massively reduced for cup games" but that doesn't make them cheap, nor does that mean there are many such games. I took my son to the Southend game, 3rd round of this year's FA Cup. The tickets cost us £40, and that's hardly a particularly attractive match. £40 may be cheaper, but it's still not "cheap".

    And after the early rounds of the FA cup, opposition gets better so tickets get harder to get hold of, they may be drawn away, or even already knocked out, so you're probably talking 1 or 2 such reduced price FA Cup games per year.

    As for the glamourous Carling Cup, well the games are all on midweek evenings, i.e. school nights. No good for younger children, and the top teams tend to field their reserves anyway.

    And as for joining Chelsea, why should I have to do that, just to take my son to the odd match? And even if I did, for a new member tickets may be available for Bolton and Wigan, but I bet they're not for Liverpool or Man Utd.

    It will be very interesting to see if crowds hold up this year, as recession bites.