International breaks, safe standing, more: How we would change football
Football, like life, isn't perfect. There's a lot about the game that we adore, but there are more than a few things we'd fix if we could. So we asked some of our writers to tell us what they would change if they had the power.
Plus, we want to hear from you. Click here to vote on the change you'd most like to make and to suggest ideas of your own.
Gab Marcotti: Make public all wages, transfer fees and commissions paid (to whom and for what)
It's not just about the threat of corruption and bungs. It's about crowd-sourcing vigilance. Clubs will say it's commercially sensitive information but if it's all public, everybody is on equal footing.
If you accept that clubs aren't normal businesses but some form of public trust, it allows supporters and media to keep an eye on what is happening. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant. What's more, it would allow the analytics guys to actually figure out who is performing well and who is not; then the over-performers could get paid accordingly.
Iain Macintosh: End the current international break system
Nothing breaks up the excitement of a league season like international week. There's one in September, another in October, again in November and more during the second half of the season. Just when you're in a nice rhythm, everything stops for two weeks so that England can play Malta. It's a system that suits no-one. Clubs lose their players (sometimes for considerable periods if they get injured) and international managers don't get enough time to impose their ideas.
Wouldn't it be better to bundle these games and play them at one or two points in the year? Just imagine how much fun it would be if the qualifying campaigns were carried out over a single month in the summer -- it would be like another tournament. Managers would actually be able to build a team rather than hurling a selection of recently acquainted players onto the pitch. Perhaps two slots would work best, one in summer and one in winter. Far more sensible.
Michael Cox: Reduce the number of games
Modern football is a fast-paced, dynamic and physically testing sport. It is unrecognisable even from 20 years ago in terms of physical demands placed upon players; the unfortunate consequence is that players are frequently fielded when fatigued and well below 100 percent sharpness. In this environment, players collect too many injuries. Besides, quality is more important than quantity: allowing the players extra rest would improve the spectacle considerably.
A 16-team league (and therefore 30-game top-flight campaign) feels about right: it would allow the Premier League to have a winter break in January, therefore scrapping midweek fixtures that often place unreasonable demands on away supporters. It would also allow teams to take cup competitions more seriously and the division's best players could play at 100 percent. We might get more outsiders punching above their weight and more chance of final-day title deciders.
Tony Evans: Cap Premier League ticket prices
The game in England is richer than it has ever been, with wages and transfer fees spiralling. So too, though, have ticket prices. Club owners will cite supply and demand as the reason but at a time when matchday income is a smaller proportion of overall revenue, it feels like greed in action. There should never be an empty seat in a Premier League ground but many people cannot afford to attend.
The next TV deal should reserve money to cap ticket prices and a proportion of seats -- no less than 50 percent -- should be priced at £20. All away tickets should have a similar value. You cannot put a price on atmosphere and clubs will not realise that until it's gone. They will baulk at the short-term cost but it is the price of protecting the game.
Graham Hunter: Improve stadium atmospheres
In Spain, every single club should be obliged to allow 10 percent of tickets to be sold to away fans. Moreover, ticket prices must be adjusted to take into account the average working wage in the city in which clubs are located to make them more affordable to local and/or loyal fans. (The way to do that is through wasting less money: scout better, sign better.)
And finally, ban all stadium music when a cup final of any description is won so that fans, who've just seen their team lift a trophy, can sing about it and be heard. So no more Queen songs, no more "Tonight's gonna be a good night" and no more corporate anthems!
John Brewin: End the Europa League
The pitiful performance of English (one finalist) and German (two quarterfinalists) clubs in the last three seasons suggests The Europa League is not being taken seriously which, in turn, makes it anti-competitive. So with the Champions League strictly for the elite, even more so once four group-stage places are guaranteed for the four biggest countries from 2018-19, why not keep the Europa League only for clubs under a certain threshold of financial strength? Or else, just scrap it entirely.
Sevilla deserve huge respect for winning the competition three straight times but it has become a backwater, a refuge of the desperate. The prize of qualifying for the Champions League, as awarded to actually winning the trophy, is most craved by teams that have dropped out of contention in their domestic leagues. Neither Sevilla nor losing finalists Liverpool would have qualified for Europe's premier competition through their 2015-16 league position.
Tim Vickery: Pay more attention to the Club World Cup
The gaping chasm between the level of the game in Europe and in the other continents is a problem in contemporary football and it's not helped by the competition that could, in a small way, help to redress the imbalance. At present, the annual FIFA Club World Cup is squeezed into the global calendar at the end of the year in such a way as to disrupt the European team as little as possible. They fly in and usually walk their way to the title -- the South American representative won in 2005, 2006 and 2012 but always by a single goal and always by hanging on with a tactical plan that acknowledged the superiority of their opponent.
With a proper group phase and a minimum of three games each, there would be more time for teams to make an impact, become known by the global audience and cause the flourishing of new fans in the region they represent. Even if the Europeans were still likely to win, this format would surely help gain full value from the fact that the champions of all the world's continents are present. Organising the tournament along these lines would cause some disruption to the European calendar but would also be a fine piece of global solidarity.
Iain Macintosh: Allow "safe standing" in the Premier League
Perhaps the safe standing campaign would benefit if people called the alternative by its proper name: "Rail Seating." Popular in Germany and also in use this season at Celtic, seats can be locked in an upright position and waist-high barriers prevent surges. Tickets are sold in advance, and by the seat, so there's no overcrowding. It is demonstrably, emphatically safe.
Many people stand all the time at Premier League games anyway, which is not safe. It blocks the view of those who cannot stand, causing agitation, friction and, in some cases, violence. No-one is arguing for a return to "pay on the day" turnstiles and three stands of terracing but if it's properly trialled and carefully managed, there's no reason why an area of standing can't be safe. And think how much better the atmosphere would be.
Doug McIntyre: Permanently re-format the Copa America to include CONCACAF
If soccer truly is the people's game, its custodians must figure out how to make the format for June's wildly successful Copa America Centenario -- in which six teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean competed alongside South America's world beaters for hemispheric glory -- a quadrennial staple.
This summer's Copa, hosted by the United States, was a riveting spectacle. The quality of play was better than what was on display at the watered-down, 24-team Euros. Average attendance (46,000) almost doubled the numbers from the 2015 Copa America in Chile. Fortunately for the masses, new CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani and his CONMEBOL counterpart, Alejandro Dominguez, appear agreeable to the idea. "It's very important to remain open-minded," Dominguez said on the eve of the 2016 final. "This has been a success." And way too much fun not to do again soon.
Tom Marshall: Reduce teams to 10 players
Too many games, especially at international level, are tactical stalemates in which neither team wants to take the initiative. At Euro 2016, for example, there were 2.12 goals per game, or one scored every 44 minutes. As such, while the idea originally floated by former Mexico manager Ricardo La Volpe isn't one for the purists, it would reward attacking football and bring more excitement.
It would also be straightforward to implement: Increasing the size of pitches isn't logistically possible, but playing with fewer players would open up more space, making it harder for teams to sit back. As well as this rule change opening up more attacking opportunities, it would also be fascinating to see in which area of the pitch mangers would subtract a player.
Miguel Delaney: Create regional leagues in Europe
Domestic leagues are the traditional building blocks of European football but many of them are not as sturdy as they once were. The situation has seen Europe's biggest leagues become dominant and has also had a damaging effect on the Champions League, in which previous European champions from mid-size leagues like Celtic, Benfica and Ajax can't get near the latter stages.
Regional leagues would create more glamorous matches between bigger clubs and a greater sense of competition to increase appeal. You could, for example, have a much-feted North Atlantic league for the likes of Celtic and PSV Eindhoven, as well as a Balkan league. The domestic competitions could still be incorporated into this structure, whereby clubs could be promoted and relegated between the national and regional leagues.
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