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Todd Boehly’s All-Star outburst reveals Premier League hypocrisy in Chelsea’s plan

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Todd Boehly's All-Star outburst reveals Premier League hypocrisy in Chelsea's plan

If you have not been watching the new FX series ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ that charts Hollywood stars Rob Mcclenny and Ryan Reynolds buying a struggling non-league club in the heart of a hopeful city, there is quite an informative scene over football’s protective culture…………  READ FULL ARTICLE

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Humphrey Ker arrives at Wrexham to act as the new owners’ conduit whilst they are stateside. Ker is an actor and writer who had worked alongside Rob McElhenney for years, he is not the stereotypical ‘football man’ if such a thing even exists. He exudes a self-professed geeky personality as he stands in front of the room of Wrexham players, anxiously waiting to introduce himself.

“It feels like you are standing in front of all the coolest kids in school” Ker explains in a voiceover. The eventual exchange is played up for its awkwardness, once he leaves and the door slowly closes behind him, we hear shared laughter amongst the players. That picture of humour at the expense of an outsider feels pretty representative of some of the responses to Todd Boehly.

The American owner has already been accused of many things in his short-time owning Chelsea. “Playing football manager” was how a disbelieving Gary Neville referred to his actions as interim sporting director over the summer, a line that has tediously stuck. Only further enforced by claims he and Chelsea’s other owners had been preparing their recruitment in a ‘4-4-3’ formation as a source in an Athletic piece claimed.

People have already shaped their views on Boehly, and nothing in the almost 30-minute interview at the SALT conference in New York managed to change that, in fact, it only sparked a mass hysteria that fried supposedly intelligent minds.

In case you haven’t been aware, Chelsea’s billionaire co-owner and chairman caused quite the stir when he merely suggested the idea of an “All-Star game” between North and South Premier League teams.

“People are talking about why don’t we have more money for the pyramid. MLB [Major League Baseball] did their all-star game this year.” Boehly said. “They made $200m from a Monday and a Tuesday. You could do a North vs South all-star game from the Premier League to fund the pyramid very easily.”

Then, when asked what his counterparts think, the Chelsea co-owner responded: “Everyone likes the idea of more revenue for the league, but there’s a real cultural aspect. I think evolution will come.”

This triggered mass condemnation veering from people acting very dramatically about the suggestion taken from a pretty expansive interview to just mere condescension, a lot of it related to Boehly being an American.

People want to paint Boehly as the wild cowboy, charging into the Premier League, loudly discarding any known wisdom for his own whim. Going for ‘that Ronaldo guy’ in the summer transfer window because he’s the only player he knows. There is hypocrisy to the coverage of Chelsea’s transfer window that simultaneously tries to paint Boehly as the arrogant amateur, showing no respect for football’s traditions, whilst also being criticised for leaning on the expertise of Thomas Tuchel.

“When you take over any business, you have to make sure you’re aligned with the people who are operating the business.” Boehly said on the sacking of Tuchel.

“[Thomas] Tuchel is obviously extremely talented and someone who had great success at Chelsea. Our vision for the club was to find a manager who really wanted to collaborate with us, a coach who really wanted to collaborate. There are a lot of walls to break down at Chelsea. Before [we arrived], the first team and academy didn’t really share data, didn’t share information about where the top players were coming from. Our goal is to bring a team together; all of that needs to be a well-oiled machine.”

Some of the snap reaction tweets seemed to quite easily trot out almost every lazy American stereotype you could think of, including jokes that he would be proposing rule changes to the sport at his next appearance. Jurgen Klopp dropped the “Harlem Globetrotters” in for good measure when he was asked about it following Liverpool’s win over Ajax on Tuesday.

Among more serious accusations levelled, Gary Neville, in what was certainly the wildest response, tweeted that American investment is a “clear and present danger to the pyramid and fabric of the game.”

The sheer force of hostility reflects a culture that prefers putting people in neat and simple boxes. In English football, American investment or involvement can seemingly only be viewed in two ways. Either, The Glazers – the distant owners, holding their supporters in supposed contempt with no emotional connection to the clubs they own. Or the out-of-touch outsider, who doesn’t “get it” or can be mocked for his accent and attempted Americanization of the sport.

Think about the way from a coaching perspective, Bob Bradley was covered at Swansea, even Jesse Marsch now at Leeds, consistently related to the fictional Ted Lasso played by Jason Sudeikis.

There is already an assumption about Boehly and the role he is supposed to play. Chelsea’s transfer business was perceived to be the brainchild of Boehly, arriving and going mad like ‘a kid in a sweet shop’ as one report described.

The reaction that an all-star game would undermine the integrity of the entire sport is pretty funny, because of course, we currently have no games on the current calendar that lack significance of competitive integrity. Of course, there is the Community Shield, where for about a 24-hour period, mainly to fill time on podcasts, we all have to pretend this glorified friendly which has always been a glorified friendly is somehow a game we should all take seriously.

How about the UEFA Nations League, still being played in a ridiculously congested year where a winter World Cup is the sandwich filling in between two slices of domestic football. Oh, what about the proposed reintroduction of FA Cup replays, or the extension of the FIFA Club World Cup to mirror international tournaments, a larger Champions League, larger qualifying, and more miles travelled for pre-season tours across the globe?

Whether you think the ‘All-star’ format is a woeful idea is kind of not the point. It was the mass outrage machine spiralling into overdrive which made for a truly baffling sight. Particularly when you realise that out of everything Boehly said, that suggestion was actually the least substantive point.

In this public appearance, Boehly answered a question about Tuchel’s sacking almost a week after a decision was taken. He spoke about the expertise he wants to put in place at the club, the importance of the academy and the potential for owning multiple clubs, albeit a controversial topic. This was one of the big owners in this country openly talking about his ideas, but little of that was clearly of much interest to those who have little interest in Chelsea.

Would we rather this or the secret plan of owners who plotted the European Super League proposals that sparked mass protest and panic? As Klopp laughed amongst the media, it might be easy for some to forget it was his employers who spearheaded not only the European Super League but the concerning Project Big Picture. A spectacle that led John W. Henry to record a grovelling apology. A short, but seismic period of English football that caused a level of outrage that was absolutely merited.

Boehly merely suggesting the idea of a hypothetical game that likely will never happen, is at worst misguided. But some of the responses have reflected some attitudes towards outsiders, that aren’t just influenced by fair concerns over the deeper intentions of owners with deep pockets.

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