Todd Boehly has brought back some chilling memories with his wacky ideas about the future of English football.
Not too long ago, another American with a rather clumsy hairstyle was spouting nonsense every week – from the White House.
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have the exclusive right to say the first thing that pops into his head to make headlines.
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Chelsea chairman Boehly appeared to be following in the footsteps of his disgraced chairman a few days ago when he addressed the SALT conference in New York.
Placing itself as far away as possible from an English football ground in the Big Apple, billionaire Boehly’s most controversial suggestion was to stage an ‘All Stars’ match between selected players from northern and southern teams.
Now that a million English jaws have been snapped back into place, the howls of derision and laughter have died down, it’s time to look behind what was in fact a carefully placed and considered thought process, even if it was nicely disguised as a terrible joke.
Boehly and his friends at Clearlake Capital don’t know English football. His roots are in Major League Baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but as an American he witnessed the gargantuan earning power of American sports.
He has never tasted Bovril in an English stadium, knows little about throw-in law or the history of our national sport. His expertise is in turning a dollar into ten. As such, he didn’t need to consult his business administration degree or his degree from the London School of Economics to wonder why football doesn’t do the same.
The best comparison between us and them, across the pond, is watching American football – the NFL. According to the latest estimates, its global television audience is around 800 million people. The Premier League is calculated to reach three billion. More than four times more.
When clubs said the whole world would stop to watch important games, it was considered largesse, but today it doesn’t seem so stupid. In March of last year, the NFL entered into a new television contract for the next 11 years. The value of this contract is $110 billion (£96.4 billion). The current Premier League television deal has reached a record sum of £10.4 billion for three years.
You don’t have to be a brilliant entrepreneur to realize that English football is being harmed. More viewers but less money. Boehly makes this known and launches the debate on the direction to take in the slavish pursuit of the wealth of football – the game of the world today.
The NFL holds the Pro Bowl every year, which sounds suspiciously like Boehly’s idea of a North-South exhibition game.
The general opinion is that the Pro Bowl, which has existed since 1951, is a waste of time. It’s apparently played at half-speed and the signature NFL physicality is non-existent. Some cynical observers have compared it to a “giant pillow fight”. Even television ratings are below average.
But this is perhaps where Boehly shows great intelligence.
By presenting a plan that is so far-fetched, so wrong and irrelevant, it gets maximum publicity. This proved true as gigabytes of memory, meters of newsprint and hours of television were devoted to the furious debate the proposal sparked. Boehly has only been in football for five minutes but he is already top of the football news.
There is also a theory in politics that coming up with stupid ideas is a clever ploy to get what you want.
When the first ridiculous proposal is rejected amid outcry and outrage, the second, only slightly worse and still your first choice, doesn’t seem so bad and is accepted with open arms.
This is where Boehly is different from Donald Trump. He really thinks about the words coming out of his mouth and his puff isn’t bright orange.
Now that the noise around the All Star Game has died down, let’s wait and see what he comes up with next.
Chelsea are 33/1 to win the Premier League with Betfred*.
*18+ BeGambleAware Odds subject to change