Early Doors

Hollywood comes to the Premier League

Early Doors

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Football fans! Not content with the saturation of the Premier League? Feel like the most over-exposed competition in world football is still lacking something? Well help is at hand, following the news that the powers that be are exploring Avatar-style "immersion technology".

Yes, if outlandish plans do come to fruition then fans will be able to don 3D specs, whack on a pair of headphones and enjoy a game on a computer that simulates the experience of actually being present at the ground. As Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says: "It might seem a bit 'blue sky', but it isn't. It'll certainly happen within my working life."

'Blue sky' is one way to put it.

"There's been a step-change from standard definition to high definition in terms of how people consume football," said Scudamore, explaining the concept with a management-speak thesaurus close to hand.

"3D is coming along and there have been all these new devices coming on to the scene. There'll soon be a technological development that will allow people across the world to have a much richer type of experience in terms of watching and consuming football.

"There's immersion technology being developed right now where you can sit down with headphones and a screen in front of you, and reproduce the feeling of being in a stadium. If you turn your head one way you're looking at the left-hand goal and the other way you're looking at the right-hand goal.

"You'll be able to decide where you want to be: you could be on a Saturday at 3pm, English time, in Hong Kong deciding whether you want to be on the Kop end at Anfield or the Holte End at Aston Villa. There'll be a drop down menu and you'll be able to choose where you want to be and watch the game. "

A much richer experience? Reproducing the feeling of being in a stadium? Choosing where you want to be?

It all sounds great but will they be piping in the faint whiff of horse poo en route to the ground, manufacturing the swell of excitement as you take your seat, or replicating the flurry of swear words from the old woman five rows back?

This latest "step-change" brings to mind Sky's typically breathless unveiling of their product that promised to bring you football in 3D for the very first time. Well, Early Doors can think of a truly immersive 3D experience: actually going to a match.

Of course, the problem with that admittedly loony concept is that attending a game isn't exactly affordable nowadays. Indeed only this week the BBC published a report that detailed how the cheapest possible day out - a ticket, programme, pie and cuppa - costs nearly £47 at Liverpool, with four other clubs breaking the £40 barrier and just four coming in at under £25. That's just for one adult of course.

Is it any wonder that at many a Premier League game, you cast your eyes around and see stands full of middle-aged men? Surely the Premier League would be better off investing time and money in efforts to ensure that attending a game is more affordable for those fans who do actually get along to see their team.

In this regard, the much more affordable Bundesliga is a shining beacon.

Of course this latest innovation by the Premier League is aimed at viewers overseas, but frankly Early Doors is unconvinced that in the suburbs of Abidjan or Lagos, 'consumers' will be fighting over themselves to purchase Avatar-style technology.

Scudamore certainly says it is not designed to impinge on the traditional 3pm kick-offs, that have taken such a battering in recent years.

"It's more a global vision, as we wouldn't do anything in England to undermine the 3pm window," he says. "We want to protect the whole of English football and I'm a great protector of that window. I'd rather people were attending the stadia in England, whether it be at Barnet or Arsenal.

"Anything we did to undermine that would be difficult for me personally and professionally.

"But this can become a reality, and it can be produced to satisfy a mass market. As most consumer goods are. This is innovative, but I can see it happening. And it's exciting: the sort of thing we should be doing."

He continued...

"Our efforts and energies are concentrated in that area, rather than they are in the old-fashioned and passé idea of flying around the world playing a 39th game. We'll find a technological solution."

Note Scudamore's attempt to distance himself from the dreaded 39th game. As a man who likes to deal in the language of 'brands' and 'consumers' he knows only too well that the Premier League's ill-conceived and short-lived plot to skew the balance and fairness of the league in order to take it on a world tour has become toxic in the eyes of supporters.

But it is not, as he suggests, "old-fashioned". In fact the 39th game's conception was a symptom of the very modern globalisation of the game, and it was the "old fashioned" values of normal supporters and the revulsion they displayed towards this farce that forced the plan to be canned. Proof that advocating change is not always the same as making progress.

Scudamore and the Premier League are responsible, either partly or fully, for some laudable developments in the English game: the influx of world superstars; the growth of the most watched league in world football; the great advances made in eradicating hooliganism and racism; and the community projects that clubs embark on.

But with some of those changes have come gentrification and sanitisation, and the alienation of traditional supporter bases in favour of corporate clingers-on and the middle classes.

This is hardly a new observation, after all the Fast Show was satirising this trend years ago, and any regular visitor to Emirates Stadium will tell you this clip has a basis in fact.

Pitching football as an Avatar-esque experience surely only accelerates the trend.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "With these 'unsettled' players it depends where they come from - and why they come. If they come from Milan, maybe. If they come from - no, I don't want to name cities, but I had a great time here. The most important thing for me was to play for the best club in the world with some of the best players in the world. That's the important thing when you're a professional player. The greatest time you can have is on the pitch. I loved Manchester when I was here, and I loved the people. I had a great time." - Eric Cantona provides a counterbalance to the likes of Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez by sticking up for Manchester.

FOREIGN VIEW: "It's terrible to see someone die at such a young age. It's a big shock. He was a great guy and I felt a close bond to him. My thoughts go to his family. He was a reliable and strong player and key for Japan's World Cup side in 2002." - Former Japan coach Philippe Troussier reacts to the sad news that defender Naoki Matsuda has died at the age of 34 after collapsing during training.

COMING UP: We preview all 24 League One clubs ahead of the Football League kick-off on Saturday, while Fulham and Stoke are both in action against sides from Split in the Europa League qualifiers. The Armchair Pundit delivers his latest column and Never Mind the Ballacks returns after a summer break.

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