Butler on BPL: London calling with Nairobi, Bangkok, Sydney

Noel Butler
8/16/2013 3:11:57 PM
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On the morning after the Tartan Army's invasion of Wembley, dozens of weary Scotsmen and approximately 10,000 beer cans lay strewn across Trafalgar Square - the traditional gathering point for any London-based football celebration.

Following a very successful preseason for the Barclays Premier League (as clubs criss-crossed the planet delivering the BPL eulogy to the faithful), don't be surprised if you catch CEO Richard Scudamore sipping champagne from those very same Trafalgar Square fountains this weekend.

Whist the debate rages on regarding the collateral damage caused to the national team - due to the league wide preference to import talent at the cost of providing top flight competitive football for English players - the BPL's global footprint continues to enlarge.

Earlier this month, the well-regarded sportingIntelligence.com provided a statistical breakdown of all BPL players' nation of origin.

English-born players now represent less than 37 per cent of the overall talent pool in a season where we will see the very first Kenyan play in the Barclays Premier League - Southampton's Victor Wanyama.

Outside of the four home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Wanyama's signing means the East African nation of Kenya will become the 100th different nation to have a player ply his trade in the BPL since the league was formed back in 1992.

To understand how extremely popular and emotionally attached the locals are to their favourite club, one only had to witness scenes this summer as teams jetted into destinations like Jakarta, Bangkok, Sydney and Durban.

Then when you factor in clubs who toured the U.S., it's hardly surprising to read one UK newspaper claim the 20 BPL teams collectively racked up over 200,000 Air Miles. In other words, the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe eight times this pre-season.

Although this will be the very first season we won't witness Sir Alex prowling the touchline in search of prey, the storylines will compel soccer fans across the globe to gather round their TV sets in record numbers every weekend between now and mid-May.

The Barclays Premier League is now screened live in more countries than there are member states of the United Nations. Coincidentally this comes in a season where TV monitors will play an active role this season.

My how Goal Line Technology will miss the world's most famous Scotsman!

Following the IFAB's decision back in March to allow Goal Line Technology in football - Hawkeye, one of the two systems FIFA approved, has been installed this summer at all BPL stadiums.

By the time beautiful B.C. fully awakes Saturday morning, we may have already witnessed the very first instance in world club football the video replay monitor will be the determinant on whether a ball fully crossed the line.

Although very few disputed goal calls occur in any one season, it can only be a matter of time before GLT replaces AVB on the back pages of our newspapers.

As for the debate over whether David Moyes can replicate the unprecedented success and riches his predecessor bestowed on Manchester United? If the stock market is any indicator, it would seem so.

Ticker symbol MANU has gained over 10 per cent since the ex-Everton manager took over at Old Trafford on Canada Day.

Speaking of splashing the cash (as opposed to the conversation settling on which one of the big names), outrageously-priced new players will dominate the BPL this season as the focus has been on the pending  departures of Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney. 

With every passing day and only 17 more sleeps until the transfer window closes, there stands a greater probability that Crystal Palace will win the title this season than these so-termed 'want away' players all getting their wish this offseason.

Of the top clubs garnering success in the transfer market by doing their shopping early and often, Manchester City stand head and shoulders above all other contenders.

Cesc Fabregas still remains elusive for the champions and Jose Mourinho admitted telling fibs about whether or not Chelsea will table a third bid for Rooney. But let's just hope for the sake of his health that Arsene Wenger has more success at the grocery store then he does in the transfer market. 

Ironically, the only manager in the BPL with an economics degree seems with each passing summer to become less capable of attracting the highest calibre players to the Emirates.

Ferguson proved you could win with youngsters, but the manager who has bought more promising youngsters than any other manger in BPL history has yet to mould a winning team round that philosophy.

Wenger can't ever be accused of not adding to his club's bottom line. No one in England develops and then sells on their best players quite as effectively as the 63-year old Frenchmen who is just about to embark on a ninth season without any type of trophy.

To me, the best story of this preseason hails from highly unfashionable Stoke.

As BPL clubs continue to increase their revenues domestically and globally as they look to squeeze every last penny, baht or rupee from their fans - the club which was formed in 1863 when they became only the second-ever professional football club in existence are picking up the entire travel tab for their 3,000 supporters who will make the journey to Anfield Saturday morning.

Yes - money will continue to dominate and player's salaries will increase to yet more record levels, but how comforting it is to know that at least one club is not only recognizing and paying lip service to the financial sacrifice their supporters are willing to endure - but they are actually doing something about it?

Something tells me when the pictures from Anfield this weekend are boomed into living rooms, roadside tea shops and shanty towns across the globe, Stoke City will have cut a swathe into that gap they currently have with the champions who claim 659 million followers worldwide.

Kicking Off with Arsenal v Aston Villa Saturday at 10:00am TSN Radio is your BPL home this season.
Broadcast schedule available here: http://www.tsn.ca/toronto/feature/?fid=103193

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Victor Wanyama (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)


(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)
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