Resolutions for the New Year

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It’s hard to remember a more difficult year for football than 2020. Certainly there have never been as many crises at the same time as in the last 12 months – a pandemic that stopped the game for three months, the financial blows that followed, an overdue Anticipation of Racism, a backlog of games on an already unplanned calendar.

But even in these hardships there are opportunities to change the sport for the better. Here are some soccer New Year resolutions.

Football should rearrange its priorities

Let’s start big. Football needs a rethink. His model, that is, the lack of one, inevitably ends up in clubs trying to devour themselves and each other. With no guardrails on their spending, especially now that UEFA’s financial fair play has proven utterly toothless, football clubs large and small are relentlessly tempted to pour every last penny into their first team. And although this is understandable at first glance, football is far too capricious a business to operate without a safety net.

Which is from a play with a separate theme: the lack of solidarity. Without a strong superstructure to support the game – because UEFA and FIFA seem really only interested in enriching themselves and trading power for favors – there is nothing to hold the clubs’ interests together. So it’s no wonder that the big fish keep threatening to tear themselves away.

Big clubs like Liverpool should work with smaller clubs like Lincoln City. (Peter Powell, Pool via AP)

At some point, sport has to understand that one person’s health affects everyone’s health. Does the Premier League need the fourth division of the second division? No, but the Premier League needs the championship. The championship needs the first division. And League One needs League Two.

It’s all connected. And that should be reflected in the way the entire business is run. More money should be shared. For emergencies, more emergency funds should be kept in a common pot.

For the good of everyone. Football needs some kind of New Deal.

Less emphasis on transfers

Football isn’t the only sport in which the agents wield excessive power. But it’s almost the only one where they are the driving force behind transactions. The players are constantly changing from one team to the next. Because agents get paid every time. The game’s super agents will make tens of millions of euros on individual transactions at the high end of the market. So they keep turning the revolving door.

But all of these steps are not always in everyone’s best interests. And they result in an enormous loss of money from the game into the agents’ pockets. Containing the power of agents is complicated, however. And a needle needs to be drawn between players’ ability to negotiate the money they fully deserve – avoiding bad ideas like a salary cap – and stopping the huge payouts to agents who bring little to the table.

Especially at a time when the still enormous transfer expenses on the summer market felt incomprehensible for players against the background of layoffs and vacations of employees as well as salary cuts or deferrals.

Transfer speculations are great fun, but the actual transactions aren’t necessarily good for the sport.

Relieve the players of anti-racism activism

The burden of eradicating racism in football rests with players like Raheem Sterling. This is unfair and it is a thing of the past that something has changed. (Jason Cairnduff / Pool via AP)

The lack of institutional support for social activism is a constant shock in football. The governing bodies go through the motions and do as little as possible against the deadlocked problem of racism in sport. The leagues aren’t very useful either, and don’t do much other than sanction the ubiquitous kneeling before the game.

So it is up to the players to take a stand. And they had to reinvent themselves and rethink what to do with their platforms.

But it’s hardly fair for them to have to fight more or less alone, not when there are so many different issues to address. It should not be left to them alone to fight the good fight. Clubs, leagues, associations and confederations have to do more.

Less is more

It was already known that soccer players have to play way too many games. But as the three-month layoff tightened the calendar further, the players began to hit their breaking point. Injuries were common and football has suffered from all those tired legs.

Football should have put a paring knife on the scene a long time ago, but at least the pandemic has created cover for a big, bold reform.

We don’t need that much football. More football does not mean better football, regardless of the financial incentives to keep developing new competitions. Let’s make the games more compelling and count more by having less of them.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a columnist at Emox News and a lecturer in sports communications at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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