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How Will Football Look Different in the Future?

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Many football clubs in Scotland, the rest of the UK, and Europe have long histories that can be traced by hundreds of years. Celtic was founded way back in 1888, a little later than some of the other major Scottish sides. South of the border, Sheffield FC, which was founded in 1857, is the oldest surviving club, while Notts County, which dates back to 1862 is the oldest league club.

In the century and a half since, many elements of football have remained the same, like the number of players and the fact that a goal has always been worth just one point. However, many things have changed too, such as the introduction of referees in 1871, the addition of a crossbar on goals, and the removal of the requirement for throw-ins to be made with one hand.

The size and quality of stadiums has changed too, with millions being invested by larger clubs. For example, Celtic Park, which cost just £35,000 in 1929 was rebuilt in the mid-1990s for the princely sum of £40 million. More recently, clubs are regularly spending 10 times this, such as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium which cost nearly £400 million in 2004.

Much of this has been funded by the influx of money from television rights deals and sponsors. For example, in 2019, Celtic generated £22 million from “multimedia and other commercial activities”, accounting for around 25% of its overall income.

Despite the success of modern football teams to create a multi-billion pound industry, the wheels of progress won’t be stopping any time soon. Clubs will continue to innovate and adapt to the changing demands from fans, rule-makers, and sponsors. These changes will likely change how football looks in the years to come.

No More Television Broadcasting

Television has arguably been the biggest driver of change in football over the last 60 or so years. With fans able to watch games from home, many more have gained regular access to the sport without the need to travel to a stadium in person.

The £22 million that Celtic gets from its media activities each year is dwarfed by what its English counterparts receive from television rights deals. Today, the English Premier League’s most successful clubs earn upwards of £200 million from TV deals, more than the entire annual amount paid by Sky Sports to the Scottish Premiership.

With so much money pouring into football from television companies, it may seem strange for leagues and clubs to be considering ending this now-standard practice.

However, it seems very likely that leagues will begin to launch their own streaming services instead, selling access to games directly to fans and cutting out the middle-men. The English Football League has already begun this with its iFollow service, while the EPL is reportedly working on its “Premflix” service.

Last summer, the former Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, Roger Mitchell, told The Times that he believed the current broadcast contract could be the last when it ends in 2024-25.

Fewer Competitions

Fixture congestion is becoming a real problem in the top flight of football. For Celtic, this meant taking part in five different competitions during the 2019-20 season. This can put a lot of strain on players, who have little time to rest and recover between games.

In England, managers of Premier League clubs are beginning to complain that their players are being asked to do too much. Early season, Jose Mourinho said that his Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur would be unable to fight for the Carabao Cup because he would have to prioritise other competitions. Though this argument has lost some of its value since the club has made it to the final of that competition.

Although some fans and pundits will argue that clubs and players are paid a lot of money to take part in these competitions so they should just get on with it, it does seem likely that changes will be made in the future.

This could mean that rules are changed for some cup competitions to make them more accessible to smaller teams rather than them being dominated by the biggest clubs.

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