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Premier League 2018-19 review: innovations needed for next season

Welcome to review of the 2018-19 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

Let players remove their shirts in celebration

Where awkward moments in 2018-19 are concerned it is hard to beat the moment when a visibly reluctant Lee Probert booked Leicester winger Demarai Gray for removing his shirt in celebrating their winner at Cardiff. It was Leicester’s first game since the tragic death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and emotions were understandably high; Probert took a certain amount of heat on phone-ins and social media afterwards but the reality was that he had to do things by the book. But why did he need to be in that position in the first place? You and I might wonder why a player’s first instinct upon scoring an important goal might be to take their shirt off, but then you and I have probably never experienced that particular rush of adrenaline and have no idea how we might react. There is just no need for the punishment: it is Victorian, prudish and yet another chip away at any element of spontaneity around the sport. The time has come to get rid of it and eradicate the potential for future embarrassment when it is entirely unnecessary.

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Cap the number of players employed by one club

Chelsea face a transfer ban this summer, so what a relief they have so many players from whom to select in-house. They had over 40 players out on loan at the last count and, with well over 20 more young players on professional contracts as well as the 25-strong Premier League squad, you would expect they have enough bodies with which to get by. There is something grotesque about clubs employing close to 100 players and, while they are the most frequently-cited example of stockpiling, Chelsea are far from the only ones. It is time to cap the number of professional footballers a club can own, breaking open a bottleneck that is making many below the top few far too reliant on temporary hand-me-downs who are – in most cases – merely being fattened up for profit. Fifty across first-team squads and the academies would seem a perfectly generous maximum, allowing bigger clubs to send out the best of their youngsters and giving those lower down the chain the breathing space to develop their own. It also means the Premier League could …

… Allow a fourth substitute

This is already permitted during extra-time of the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League games, and rollout to the Premier League would be a logical progression. For one thing, it would allow young players a greater chance of pitch time – if a club was well ahead with 20 minutes left, for example – and could lessen the need to send so many out on loan. It would also help managers juggle their resources and give key players more of a breather, with burnout an ongoing concern given the intensity of the modern-day schedule and the games themselves. Being able to change up more than a third of the players on the pitch during a competitive 90-minute game has its downsides but could, in theory at least, alleviate issues that are growing in severity elsewhere.

Quick guide

Premier League reviews of the 2018-19 season

Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
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Widen goalline technology to the rest of the pitch

Goalline technology has been a roaring success, to the extent that it may well have decided this season’s title race. It is an example of how innovations of this nature can be applied seamlessly; for one thing, it is far quicker and less clunky than any current form of VAR. So why not roll it out more fully to other areas of the pitch? Controversies over whether the ball has crossed the byline or touchline are relatively rare but do happen – witness Ajax’s third goal in their Champions League win at Real Madrid – and cannot always be cleared up to complete satisfaction by reruns from various camera angles. Referees might not take kindly to their wrists vibrating every time the ball leaves the field of play but, if the facility to eliminate doubt instantly is there, it may as well be maximised.

Matthew Lowton just fails to deny Sergio Agüero on the goalline during Manchester City’s win at Burnley.

Matthew Lowton just fails to deny Sergio Agüero on the goalline during Manchester City’s win at Burnley. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mandatory 10-minute PA blackout before kick-off

This idea comes with tongue in cheek as it will never be allowed to happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if supporters were left to build their own atmosphere in the buildup to a game rather than being screamed at by a PA announcer or being bombarded with the same dreary array of ear-splitting songs? Here is a solution: in the 10 minutes before the teams emerge, the sound is turned off and fans are given the facility to whip up some noise themselves. At most clubs they remain capable of it without being instructed to gape at – to give the example of one excruciating current fad – a light show or similar. Once the teams have emerged, on come the speakers again and club anthems can be played if the hosts so wish. It is a pipe dream and totally unenforceable, but so much of what passes for the matchday experience these days lacks either common sense or any kind of feel for what football ought to be.

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