Football’s back, but at what cost?

By Alex Reid

Like millions of others around the world, I can’t wait for the Premier League season to kick off again this weekend. As we say goodbye to the summer and the nights slowly draw in, any football fan looks forward to many months of quality Monday Night Football and packed Super Sundays.

But, having said all that, with the England cricket team getting under way at Lords today for the second of five test matches against India (a tour which doesn’t wrap up for another month), it does, once again, beg the question about the length of the football season in England.

Having barely drawn breath from the nation’s magnificent run to the final of the Euros, it feels like there was a brief interlude to marvel at the world’s best athletes in Tokyo, before the season’s curtain raiser gets underway in Brentford tomorrow night.

I love watching football, but how much football do we really need to have a great season? I’m a big fan of American sports too, and if you look across the pond they do things a different way.

The NFL, America’s flagship game, kicks off in September, with the Super Bowl usually wrapping up by early February the following year. That means it’s on screens for 42% of the year.

Major League Baseball kicks off in early spring and wraps up in the fall with the World Series, meaning the seven month season takes up 58% of the year.

And what of the NBA, another ace in the pack of American sports. Longer than its baseball and football counterparts, the season kicks off at the end of October before the NBA Finals wrap up the following June. Time on our screens? 63%.

So how does the beautiful game compare? Kicking off in early August and wrapping up the following May, the Premier League is on for a whopping 78% of the year – very nearly double the length of the NFL season.

No doubt Americans are spoilt by their choice of quality sport throughout the year (I didn’t even mention NHL), which affords them the luxury of fitting shorter seasons around each other’s pivotal moments. But in England we too have highly competitive rugby and cricket seasons, as well as a major European golf tour.

Of course, money talks, which is the main reason the Premier League is on for so long. But you can’t tell me that television rights companies haven’t pushed and pushed the Big Four to increase the length of their seasons, in the same way that the Premier League has been milked for every last pound it offers.

With so much talk about it being time for the Premier League to take a leaf out of Germany’s book, with its Bundesliga winter break, dare I say it, but I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t enjoy the Premier League more if it was actually a couple of months shorter, the competition higher and the players less fatigued. Who knows, perhaps it would pave the way for other sports to shine.