Elsewhere on this site you can read about the All Star games that take place as a matter of course in the various sport that are played in the United States of America. It is a one off game that sees the best players in a sport brought together in order to take each other on, typically raising money for charity or another good cause. Despite the popularity of such games in the US, it is not something that has ever caught on in Europe. Of course, just because something hasn’t caught on in the past doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future.
As more and more American owners buy Premier League clubs, the idea that an All Star game could become a reality has started to dawn on some football fans. Though the very idea of it is one that many people will have a visceral reaction against, it does lead to the question: how would such a thing look? Given the necessity to offer money to the lower leagues in the football pyramid, could an All Star game provide the opportunity to raise some much needed cash for the divisions that would otherwise struggle financially?
What Is an All Star Game?
If you’re a British sports fan reading this, it is entirely possible that you haven’t got the foggiest what on earth we’re talking about when we discuss an All Star game. After all, that is a concept that is huge in America but isn’t something that European sports have ever really been all that interested in. It is something that is fairly self explanatory, pitting the best players in a sport against one another. The biggest and best players in a league are used to create two teams, which take each other on in a one off exhibition game.
The teams are created solely for the All Star game, disbanding immediately afterwards and are unlikely to ever be the same two sides. Usually, a manager from the league in question is brought in to manage one team, whilst another manager is brought in to take charge of the other. Though they are organised like any other game, there is definitely an extent to which there is a much smaller emphasis on winning. Indeed, the players are usually very keen to do what they can to avoid picking up any sort of injury or fatigue.
The games are friendlies, up to the point that any sporting star can not be competitive when taking part in a match. The exact format of the All Star games that are played in the US differs depending on the sport, though all of them tend to see the top players from the sport going head to head. How the teams are selected varies within the sport, often seeing supporters getting a chance to vote on who they think the best players within the division have been during the course of the season. The players are then divided into teams and the match is played.
The Premier League’s First All Star Game Suggestion
When Roman Abramovich was forced into a quick sale of Chelsea Football Club in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the club was bought by a group headed up by American, Todd Boehly. Boehly already had shares of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association side the LA Lakers, so understood what it meant to have a hand in a sports franchise. Resisting the urge to take his time and slowly integrate himself into the world of the Premier League, Boehly had some big ideas early on.
He announced quite soon in his tenure of Chelsea that he hoped that the Premier League would ‘take a little bit of a lesson from American sports’, which is obviously something that supporters of British sports were keen to hear. Whilst the attempted launch of the European Super League, with its lack of promotion or relegation and a huge amount of money being shared around the various teams that were to be a part of it suggested that there is a desire of some European clubs to learn from the US, its failure is a sign that not everyone is on board.
In amongst the various things that Boehly decided the English game could learn from US sports was the notion of having an All Star game. Why, he pondered, isn’t there an All Star game already? Had he listened out for an answer, he would have realised that it is because most English people thing that the majority of American sports are awful, with just 1.3 million tuning into the BBC in 2022 to watch the coverage of the Super Bowl. That does not compare favourably with the 19.4 million that saw England lose to France in that year’s World Cup.
How Would It Work in Theory
If we imagine for a moment that Boehly’s idea wasn’t laughably stupid and laced with the arrogance that we’ve come to expect from certain Americans around British sports over the years, how might it actually work? The man himself suggested that it could see a team from the South taking on a team from the North, without quite explaining exactly what that would look like. The North-South divide is one that has long been a problem when it comes to unity in the United Kingdom, so it isn’t the most useful thought process ever.
Even so, we can imagine that the two teams would be made up of the best players from the most northernly sides and the best players from the most southernly sides, which would obviously change in any given season. There are, at any one time, 20 teams that make up the Premier League. In the 2022-2023 season, this would have been the line up of the ten most northernly teams:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Leeds United
- Newcastle United
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Aston Villa
- Nottingham Forest
- Leicester City
That would mean that the players for the team from the North could be chosen from those ten teams, whilst the players for the team representing the South could be chosen from the following sides:
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Brighton & Hove Albion
- Crystal Palace
- West Ham United
Premier League fans might well notice a slight lack of balance in terms of the quality of the teams on offer there. If bias is removed, there is little question that the north of England boasts better sides overall than the south of the country.
Picking the Players
For the five or so seasons before the start of the 2022-2023 campaign, Liverpool and Manchester City were the best teams in the Premier League. They regularly both broke the 90 point barrier and went up against each other for the title and other trophies. Any manager worth their salt would pick a combination of players from those two teams and leave the reason of the country to wonder how on earth it could be beaten. With that in mind, it would make sense to introduce some sort of limit to the number of players that could be chosen from each team.
That could be done in a style similar the one used by the Premier League’s Fantasy Football game, wherein a maximum of three players could be chosen from each side. Presuming that you’d have a squad made up of 11 players and, that same number of substitutes, that would mean that teams could be constructed without certain teams having any representation. That would not be all that good for the morale of teams, so it might make sense to limit it a maximum of three players whilst also saying that each team would need at least one player in the squad.
When the football magazine Four Four Two pondered this very question on Twitter, here is the team from the North that they selected:
- Emi Martinez (Aston Villa)
- Keiran Trippier (Newcastle United)
- Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
- Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
- Renan Lodi (Nottingham Forest)
- Casemiro (Manchester United)
- Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
- Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
- Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
- Allan Saint – Maximin (Newcastle United)
Though some teams have been missed out from that side, it isn’t outrageous to suggest that they might be made up via the substitutes. Here is how the team from the South looked:
- Robert Sanchez (Brighton & Hove Albion)
- Reece James (Chelsea)
- Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur)
- William Saliba (Arsenal)
- Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)
- Declan Rice (West Ham United)
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
- Lucas Paqueta (West Ham United)
- Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
- Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Again, the rest of the teams based in the south of England would be used to make up the substitutes bench. Looking at the two sides on paper, only the most fervent of supporter from the bottom half the country (in a geographical sense) would believe that the South would defeat the North in such an All Star game. In fact, Four Four Two carried out a poll to ask football fans which side they would win and, after 1,584 people voted, 85.2% of people casting a vote said that it would be the team representing the North.
Would It Ever Work?
Having explored how an All Star game would work in the United Kingdom, using teams from the Premier League, the next obvious question to ask is whether or not it would work. Boehly obviously thinks so, saying, “People are talking about more money for the pyramid. In the MLB All-Star game this year we made $200 million from a Monday and a Tuesday. So we’re thinking we could do a North versus South All-Star game for the Premier League, for whatever the pyramid needed quite easily.” Is that just wishful thinking from a naive American?
Almost certainly yes. The majority of football fans are extremely passionate about the team that they support, actively disliking teams that they don’t. As Liverpool and Manchester City went head to head on a regular basis, the supporters of the two teams began to become extremely tribal to such an extent that joint letters had to be issued by the clubs. Why would people that seem to passionately hate others suddenly be happy enough to cheer on players from the teams that they hate in a meaningless friendly match?
Despite what Boehly may have wished when he took over at Chelsea, British sports don’t work in the same way as American ones. Football fans over here aren’t all that bothered about friendly matches at the best of times, let alone when it involves a mix match of players from teams that they don’t like. All things considered, therefore, it doesn’t seem all that likely that an All Star game would work in the Premier League. When money is involved, however, common sense rarely manages to win through.