What is the future for football? We have eagerly anticipated the return of football and delightfully consumed the content. However the football we are now witnessing is only the same in name. Of course these are extenuating circumstances and throughout every aspect of football there have been measures taken to protect players and clubs. Is football however going to resort back to normalcy in the future or are things going to change?
The biggest change of course to the game is the introduction of water breaks and 5 substitutions available. While this is of course a preventative measure to try ensure player safety and the water break is likely backed up by sports science, it is hard to not draw comparison to timeouts, common in American sports. This change if it is to come to fruition will drastically change the flow of the game and it will allow perhaps more tactical in game changes. This may lead to a much slower, less entertaining game. the 5 substitutions could however see an increase in playing time for youngsters and help their development at top clubs. If these changes continue it is almost inevitable that there will eventually be an increase in in game advertising too. With footballs relationship and fondness for allowing sponsorship from betting companies it could be detrimental to many who struggle with a gambling addiction and push others further into betting, something only the wealthy will benefit from. It would be disappointing to see these changes continue on.
The timing of the games and the constant presence it seems of football on our screens is probably unlikely to occur as in normal times the fans have to be catered for in being able to get to games. However how the Champions league and Europa league are set to be concluded presents a real excitement and potential for what we could see with cup competitions especially those with the elite involved. Could the league season and European season be somewhat separated? Present the European competitions as festivals of football played each year in separate countries across Europe with maybe two groups of 4 comprised of the winners of the previous years league title in the top 4 leagues and 4 other teams who qualified from a format somewhat similar to the current competitions now. This of course is a flawed idea but the thought of updating cup competitions presents an exciting opportunity to innovate in the modern game.
Of course hopefully at some time in the next 6 months fans will be allowed back into games and stadiums will roar once more. What of the fan experience that we have seen might stay however? Large screens with pictures and videos of fans? Could added crowd noise be a consistent on our tv screens to generate atmosphere? Perhaps we are in the midst of a reset that will bring even more corporate agendas and money into the game. It seems to be a feature that while yes there have been different mosaics of players and stands drowning in beautiful flags, the advertising has been more prominent. It would be nice to see maybe a more interactive way for fans to be able to support their teams going forward. I think it’s something clubs and media outlets should be continuing to look at how to make the fan experience for both those at the game and at home as enjoyable and interesting as possible.
I’ve left the most important to the last perhaps. What of the future for activism in football? The premier league has chosen to champion Black Lives Matter but is that in part due to the attention that it has been able to generate because there is so little else going on. We must not forget the recent troubles of racism in football. Will clubs, leagues, players and managers support individual players if they choose to represent a certain cause they feel strongly on that won’t harm anyone? Hopefully this moment represents a time where football actively promotes their players as activists and individuals who are representative of all of us. In my world political messages that do no harm are welcome in sport and sport is a beautiful opportunity for messages of inclusion to be spread. I hope to see a strong message sent out in the coming years that promotes equality and inclusion in the sport from individuals and organisations. Of course they have to look from within to begin by creating a space in the mens game where a gay or bi man can exist openly and financially supporting and respecting the women who play the game and the joy they can bring us.
Footballs future is unknown. Am I hopeful? I’m not sure but there have been promising signs but hey we’re only one Fifa corruption scandal or the potential Newcastle takeover from denting a hole in all my hope. Football certainly has a future at the top level which will be entertaining and gripping. As for everyone lower on the pyramid, in the words of Natasha Beddingfield; “The rest is still unwritten”.