After a year like no other in life and for football, just what does the end of 2020 and this decade mean for the future?
With this in mind, London Football Scene blew all it’s non-existent budget to send Sam Watts into the future to find out, focusing on the opening day of the 2042-43 Premier League South season and the clash between Brentford and Watford….
The year is 2042 and I’m outside the Brentford Community Stadium on the opening Sunday of the season where they have finally installed four corner pubs in homage to the Bees’ former ground Griffin Park.
Unfortunately, due to continued Covid-19 restrictions, the West Stand is in Tier 2 and the East Stand in Tier 3.
It means The Princess Royal and The New Inn have been able to serve pints before and after kick-off alongside a substantial meal of Scotch Eggs but The Griffin and The Brook have been forced to remain shut other than for takeaway meals.
And, despite the fact a portion of Brentford’s home fans are allowed to attend the game, artificial crowd noise is now mandatory throughout all Premier League games.
There is also the controversial new Automated Refereeing Support Engine (ARSE) which is a replacement of the on-field referee and linesman – ARSE will be the eyes on the pitch and will be controlled by the Fourth Official.
Any disputes with the new technology are to be resolved with the similarly controversial VAR which remains a thorny issue among many fans and pundits alike.
There is also much change in the football league pyramid, with just 44 clubs remaining following the financial ruin that coronavirus and BREXIT caused.
Teams are now divided equally between the Premier League North and Premier League South to minimise the impact of travel between coronavirus tiers with the top seven from each going into the Play-Offs at the end of the regular season to become Premier League champions.
Last season saw well-run fan-owned AFC Wimbledon become champions in what was the lowest goals tally in the history of the modern game.
The campaign saw 47% of all goals disallowed for offside while penalties had an average retake rate of 4.6 per spot-kick due to player or goalkeeper encroachment.
Notably, players also continue to take the knee ahead of kick-off in the fight against racial discrimination and injustice.
Despite this, the Football Association have sadly still not taken significant action against racism with the only noticeable development a 7% increase of players developing osteoarthrosis.
Brentford 0-0 Watford: Bees stripped of six goals to draw
The match itself saw Brentford held to a goalless draw after six goals were chalked off by technology.
The Bees thought they had the lead after five minutes when Myles Deeney slotted home against his Dad’s former club.
But VAR’s new x-ray vision adjudged the tip of his left big toenail to be in an offside position with that decision being an ominous sign of things to come.
The interval couldn’t come soon enough for the weary fans after the home side missed two penalties, both re-taken three times due to 59-year-old veteran Ben Foster’s fractional encroachment.
A quality 46th minute strike became null and void after the fourth official failed to switch the Automated Refereeing Support Engine on for the second half.
Restarting, Brentford penetrated the Hornet’s defence mustering up 21 shots on target and finally scoring a perfectly legal goal on 76 minutes.
However, this was also rendered invalid three minutes later with VAR’s new ball insight technology which deemed the ball only contained 91% air. The ball was replaced.
There was even more late drama as one of Brentford’s 25 substitutes poked home in the last minute – only for it to be disallowed by the pay-per-view audience watching at home.
According to their interactive right to vote on game decisions via a premium package ‘Red Button’ service, 52% deemed there was an infringement in the build-up.
The marginal result caused uproar throughout the footballing world with such divisions never seen before.
Social media fuelled argument after counter argument as well harbouring anger, resentment and hatred with the entire result of the game being thrown into doubt.
The beautiful game has become an ugly farce – if only we knew in 2020 when we made the bold declaration ‘at least it can’t get any worse’ – it has!
Artificial intelligence has become the cornerstone for decision-making and football has become a playground for technology.
We miss Mike Dean, at Old Trafford, in the 96th minute, getting it wrong. Ah. They were the ‘good old days’….