All-Star breaks are big, tacky and crazy – a Premier League one would be brilliant

You’ve got to hand it to Todd Boehly — the man knows content.

When Chelsea’s new owner-slash-sporting director spoke at a New York finance conference this week, he could have lulled the crowd to sleep talking about boring money stuff. Instead, he decided to send the entire football world into an uproar by having the audacity to suggest — and please hold onto your pearls here — that the Premier League should play an All-Star game and donate the proceeds to the rest of the football pyramid .

The main problem with this idea seems to be that All-Star games are just so… American. Which, yeah, fair enough. The first one was invented by a Chicago sports page editor named Arch Ward, who suggested that fans select the best players from baseball’s two major leagues to play each other in an exhibition match at the 1933 World’s Fair.

Was Boehly’s pitch really that awful, though? Premier League players from Rio Ferdinand to Romelu Lukaku have been proposing the same thing for years, for the not-so-insidious reason that they saw some other sport doing one and thought it looked like fun.

If we’re going to entertain the possibility of a Premier League All-Star game, here’s how to do it right.

The mistake baseball people made with the All-Star game was thinking it was supposed to be a serious competition. Ward’s newspaper hyped it as “The Game of the Century”. The Sporting News promised it would be “an even greater attraction than the World Series, as it provides, for the first time, a test of the best talent in each major league”.

Fans knew better. When they saw that the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig was going to win the vote to play first base, they started trying to stuff the ballot for another legendary first baseman, Jimmie Foxx, to line up at third base. Who cares about positions? All-Star games aren’t supposed to make sense, the same way every fan XI you’ve ever seen has three left-wingers and not even a hint of defensive midfield.

There’s the first rule of a good All-Star contest: Give the people what they want.

Let the fans vote for 20 players — any team, any position, no holds barred. If a bunch of sickos want to see David de Gea play midfield, just imagine the TV ratings. If the internet feels like naming the teams Boaty McBoatface and Mister Splashy Pants, listen, those shirt sales are going to end non-league football for decades.

Why just 20 players? Because we’re not actually going to play a full match.

The dirty secret about All-Star breaks is that nobody cares about the game itself. In any sport that’s ever played an All-Star game, players get subbed in and out at random, defending is basically illegal and the closest thing to a training session is some 2am team bonding in a nightclub VIP section the night before. No sane person can tell you the final score of an All-Star game, least of all the people who played in it.

You know what elite athletes do care about, though? Bragging rights. We’re going to maximize the competitive angle and minimize the complete lack of tactics by stealing a page from the National Hockey League and replacing the main event with a four-team tournament.

Instead of elevens, we’ll play five-a-side. Instead of North versus South — which, let’s be real, isn’t exactly a fair fight — we’ll make the top four players from the fan vote captains and let them pick their teammates from the rest of the All-Stars.

The player draft alone would be worth the price of admission. Ever wondered whether Erling Haaland would secretly rather get service from Bruno Fernandes than Bernardo Silva? Here’s your chance to see him admit it on live TV. Maybe Harry Kane will go galaxy brain with his five-a-side squad and get laughed out of the room by Trent Alexander-Arnold like LeBron James to Kevin Durant:

But the five-a-side tournament is just part of the action. The best part of an All-Star break is always, without fail, the sideshow skills competition. We need our own Home Run Derby. We need some kind of Slam Dunk Contest.

What we need, to be honest, is the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.

Feel free to get creative with the format here. The crossbar challenge is a no-brainer, and that thing where you try to lob balls through a humongous skee-ball board is brilliant, but some of MLS’s other ideas are a little undercooked.

Let’s swap out the passing contest (yawn) for something a little more Ninja Warrior. Make Allan Saint-Maximin dribble through a hedge maze. Make Mohamed Salah try to run across a water-filled penalty area without diving. The key thing is less the nature of the challenge than the number of gratuitous flamethrowers and air horns we can cram into the broadcast for 90′.

There is one old MLS gimmick that a Premier League All-Star break should bring back: Goalie Wars. The world needs Aaron Ramsdale and Jordan Pickford hurling balls at each other’s net from 20 yards apart.

You don’t even have to make up new games, really. Pair off players for footvolley and teqball tournaments. Let’s see Bukayo Saka and Luis Diaz go head to head in a juggling competition, or allow the All-Stars to place bets on Ibrahima Konate against Ollie Watkins in a 40-yard dash. Throw in some foosball, why not — it’s got its own World Cup, after all.

Does this whole idea still sound dumb to you? Good, it should. All-Star breaks are big, tacky and more than a little insane, which is really just another way of saying they’re American. But if the United States knows two things, it’s show business and making money, and Boehly’s not wrong that a little extra Premier League cash could go a long way down the pyramid.

Tell you what — let’s settle this the All-Star way. Let’s put it to a fan vote.

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(Top photos: Getty Images)

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