The effect that home internationals can have on rival fans is still powerful today, the recent Scotland-England friendly being testimony to this. The buzz surrounding that particular game gave observers a chance to reminisce over past encounters. Each match has the ability to add to the depth of devotion that is already high amongst supporters.
Sadly, such fixtures do not come by as often these days. We only need to look to the world of rugby to see the fervour that is generated each year when England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales face-off against each other as part of the six nations. Surely, it’s time to reinstate a home internationals tournament in the football calendar?
A set of universal laws with regard to international games was drawn up between the participating countries in 1882, and this paved the way for the first Home Championship in the 1883-84 season. The competition was played annually – except for during the World Wars – and survived for a hundred years until the 1983-84 term. Hooliganism, fixture congestion, lower attendances, England’s desire to play other teams and troubles in Northern Ireland were among the reasons for the demise.
However, these days there is less hooliganism and crowd attendances are higher. Such a competition now could renew the rivalries for the current generation of fans. Younger players may use it as a chance to shine at international level. The competitive factor may give teams an edge that friendlies would not.
Fixture congestion is still a concern that may hamper the re-emergence of the tournament. Also, if one or more of the home countries qualifies for the World Cup or European Championship, such talk of a revival is hampered further still.
But there may be a solution: a home nations’ tournament could take place once every two years over the course of the domestic season. Competitive matches could replace some friendlies. Rivalries will be kept alive, there will be no extra fixtures and there will be plenty of opportunity to play other teams.
Ongoing talks, careful planning and appropriate marketing could all help to make this a success.