Chelsea’s American owner Todd Boehly ruffled some European feathers on Tuesday when he suggested the Premier League hold an all-star game. “How dare some outsider suggest changes to our beloved game” was the standard outcry in England, but Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp gave some of the worst reasons against a Premier League all-star game.
Boehly, who took over Chelsea from ousted Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich earlier this year, is an American sports owner through and through. He is at least a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks. Speaking at a conference in New York on Tuesday, he brought up the idea of a Premier League all-star game, noting how much money the MLB All-Star Game raked in for the league. He also suggested a relegation playoff (which is done in other European leagues).
Todd Boehly Suggests Premier League All-Star Game
“Ultimately, I hope that the Premier League takes a little bit of a lesson from American sports and really starts to figure out why wouldn’t we do a tournament with the bottom four teams, why isn’t there an all-star game?” Boehly said. “People are talking about more money for the pyramid — MLB did their All-Star Game in L.A. this year, we made $200 million from a Monday and a Tuesday. You could do a north versus south all-star game for the Premier League to fund whatever the pyramid needed very easily."
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly floats the idea of a PREMIER LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME.
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) September 13, 2022
This isn’t a new idea. We wrote about it four years ago. Rio Ferdinand tweeted about it in 2011. European football holds many charity matches that are essentially all-star games under a different guise.
But as soon as the comments were made, Boehly was excoriated by British pundits and on social media.
Love Todd Boehly telling us the Premier League needs to learn from American sports. The last time American owners decided to teach us about American sports, they tried to drag us into a European Super League and we needed a fan uprising to stop it.— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) September 14, 2022
I keep saying it but the quicker we get the Regulator in the better. US investment into English football is a clear and present danger to the pyramid and fabric of the game. They just don’t get it and think differently. They also don’t stop till they get what they want!— Gary Neville (@GNev2) September 14, 2022
After Liverpool edged Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday, Klopp was asked about the idea of a Premier League all-star game. His immediate reaction was to laugh.
Jürgen Klopp On A Premier League All-Star Game
“Great — when he finds a date for that, he can call me,” Klopp said. “He forgets that in the big sports in America, these players have four-month breaks. It is completely different in football. What can I say? Does he want to bring the Harlem Globetrotters as well and let them play against a football team?
“I am surprised by the question so please don't judge my answer too much. But maybe he can explain it to me at some point and find a proper date.
“Not sure people want to see that. Imagine that: (Manchester) United players, Liverpool players, Everton players altogether in one team. It is not a national team. North against south. That means Northeast, Newcastle... interesting game. And all the London guys together, Arsenal, Tottenham, great. Did he really say it? Interesting.”
"He forgets in the big sports in America, they have four month breaks. Does he want to bring the Harlem Globetrotters as well?"Jurgen Klopp's response to Todd Boehly's idea of a north vs south "All Star" game pic.twitter.com/hpb03mUMFU
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 13, 2022
Sorry Klopp, you’re a great soccer coach, but you’ve got some bad reasons for not wanting a Premier League all-star game.
Let’s start with Klopp’s first argument: the date. Klopp makes it sound like it’s impossible to find a date to play an all-star game. They also said it was impossible to play a World Cup in November-December, and yet we’re about to play one in just over two months. All it takes is a bit of desire and an extra midweek match in the calendar. Make it part of a winter break, replace the meaningless Community Shield or give Premier League clubs a longer pass in the EFL Cup or FA Cup.
Here’s an idea I know will only piss off the Brits: Make it the new Boxing Day tradition. I’m not saying that’s a good idea, but to suggest there is no possible date to play a Premier League all-star game is to not even consider it as a possibility. There are ways this can be done without messing up the schedule as much as a winter World Cup or a queen’s death.
Klopp then made an offhanded comment about the Harlem Globetrotters that, to me, makes no sense. Obviously, no one is suggesting a basketball team play a soccer team. But if there were a soccer equivalent to the charmingly skillful basketball team, I think everyone would love to watch them play. Better yet, let’s take a cue from MLS and add EPL skills challenges and goalie wars to counter home-run derbies and dunk contests.
Klopp’s final argument against a Premier League all-star game is without a doubt his worst. He claims no one wants to see club rivals team up to play together. Maybe this was a legitimate argument 40 years ago when one-club players were the norm, but these days it holds no weight. Who wouldn’t want to watch Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland team up for an exhibition match?
Klopp scoffs at the idea of rival players joining forces, but it happens all the time in national teams. With a few exceptions, most professional footballers are friendly with each other.
I’m not saying the Premier League definitely needs to make an all-star game happen ASAP. The league determines its own priorities, and perhaps maintaining a high level of competition is ranked above making money out of a spectacle.
But as Boehly explained, if Major League Baseball, a declining league in America, can make $200 million on a Monday and Tuesday from an exhibition match, imagine what could be made in the Premier League.
There’s a common complaint among English football supporters, players, pundits, owners and administrators about the lack of funds available to lower levels of the soccer pyramid and grassroots football; just watch “Welcome to Wrexham” to get a feel for how many clubs are struggling just to exist. Boehly has suggested an idea that would be fairly easy to pull off and could make millions of dollars to send down the pyramid; it seems like a slam dunk. Is an all-star game too high a cost to ensure lower-level football survives?
And yet the first reaction of most football purists in England is to laugh at the idea of a Premier League all-star game. (In Italy, Serie A is seriously considering the idea.)
Klopp isn’t alone in his thinking, but he’s wrong to dismiss the idea of a Premier League all-star game outright. Just as the American soccer pyramid should consider promotion/relegation, so too should European soccer consider all-star games.
Change doesn’t have to be bad.