Yanks for the memories Diana

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TIME FOR CHANGE: Liverpool FC owner John Henry wants radical changes made to the Premier League. AFP/VNA Photo.

Paul Kennedy

For me, the 1994 World Cup won’t be remembered for the 0-0 final between Italy and Brazil which the South Americans eventually won after a penalty shootout.

Nor will it be because of the amazing run made by Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland team that eventually lost out in the last 16 against the Netherlands.

No, for me, the overriding image I have of the tournament was soul singing legend Diana Ross missing a penalty from close range during the opening ceremony.

The Motown Queen performed at the curtain raiser and the climax should have been her slotting the ball home from just a few yards out with the goalkeeper deliberately diving the other way.

But she missed, by a country mile.

Despite her poor effort, the goal still exploded as if she had scored and the show went on.

The 1994 World Cup Finals were held in the US, a country that at the time, cared as much about football as Donald Trump cares about anyone other than himself.

There were rumours circulating that American organisers wanted to change the rules to make it more exciting. They wanted to make the goals bigger to ensure higher scoring games and they even suggested splitting matches into four quarters rather than two halves to open up more advertising opportunities.

Thankfully football’s governing body FIFA told them no chance, and the format stayed the same.

Since then, America’s love of soccer, as they wrongly call it, has grown and grown. Their women’s team are the best in the world right now and more and more top European players are finishing their careers in the US.

Along with Mexico and Canada, the US will also host the 2026 World Cup which will be far better received by local fans than the tournament was back in ’94.

It will never be loved as much as American football, basketball or baseball is, but the sport’s popularity has grown leaps and bounds.

That’s why it is interesting to me that the American influence is slowly, it seems, taking over in England.

This week details emerged of a secret plan led by Liverpool FC and Manchester United, two teams owned by Americans.

Their idea is to scrap two lesser competitions in England, the League Cup and Community Shield, and reduce the amount of Premier League teams to 18.

They are promising financial assistance to lower league clubs struggling because of COVID-19 and suggest that each club should be allowed to sell the broadcasting rights to eight of their games per season worldwide, excluding the UK.

The plan also would see a large chunk of control going to the bigger clubs as it includes a clause that only the nine teams who have been in the Premier League the longest would have special voting rights when it comes to big decisions.

Speaking from a Liverpool perspective, owners John Henry and Fenway Sports have been nothing short of magnificent since they took over the club.

Deals have been fantastic, the team have won the Champions League and Premier League in the space of two seasons, and the renovation work on the stadium has been carried out to the highest standard.

Right now, the idea is being laughed at and dismissed by those in power but I really think it needs to be considered.

Outside of the Premier League football is on the verge of dying as lower division clubs struggle because of COVID-19.

Changes must be made for the game to survive, and right now, the ideas proposed should be given a fair amount of due diligence.

They seem to make sense, and as long as the new proposals don’t include Diana Ross taking penalties or the widening of any goals, they should be seriously considered. — VNS

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