The FA Community Shield, football's lost 'trophy', gained a new relevance on Sunday. And Dan Levene wants to see a lot more of it in future.
As Chelsea's Pedro marched off to the sidelines, Antonio Conte's concern was largely irrelevant. The Spaniard will be able to feature in Chelsea's opening Premier League fixture, because the FA Community Shield isn't even a real game. That's why Victor Moses, on a ban following his red card in the FA Cup final, was able to start again at Wembley.
The combination of that fudge, two largely out of sorts Premier League teams, and the bizarre nature of the experimental penalty shootout which decided the fixture, has done much to devalue the game we are required to call football's annual 'curtain raiser'.
But there was something different about this year's Wembley showpiece. Something very special. As the choir sang out the strains of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' it was difficult to resist the emotion of the moment.
This was the FA Community Shield reborn: for all; for good; for Grenfell.
Chelsea players observe a minutes silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire before the match
Image credit: Reuters
Seldom in recent years has a domestic event so utterly swept up the national feeling as the tower block fire which killed at least 80 people, with a wish to help, to support, to prevent it ever happening again. And all of a sudden Chelsea, Arsenal and The FA had come up with a great idea.
The amount of money donated from Sunday's FA Community Shield to the Grenfell Fund is beyond heartening. Decisions will have to be taken, at some stage, on how to deploy a fund that is now so rich, that its aims must fall far wider than those directly affected by this terrible disaster.
Helping people in the poorest parts of west London out of poverty; improving public facilities; a modern form of alms for those on a far wider geographical spread who need the help? Someone else's call. But football – largely led by the public feeling picked-up by Chelsea and Arsenal – got it completely right here. And so the logical next question involves how we ensure this gesture isn't just a one-off.
Most will agree the FA Community Shield has become an empty vessel, in terms of its value in domestic football. It needs greater relevance if it is to survive.
The regrettable spectre of Game 39, the 'Premier League' fixture list that was to provide ultimate disrespect to the matchgoing fan, rightly passed without much mourning – but its spirit lingers. There will one day be games of domestic significance played out on a foreign field, and if you're looking for one to cast that way, then the FA Community Shield is clearly the one to punt.
It isn't difficult to see this game played in Beijing, or New York, or Bangkok, or Sydney. But this weekend we saw a way that new future might be realised: the Chelsea and Arsenal model, with proceeds not bound for an anonymous FA 'community' fund, but for a charity with truly universal support.
Arsenal players celebrate winning the penalty shootout
Image credit: Reuters
All we need to do is decide that the entire receipts for such a game should go to a single, external charity offering real care or relief to people desperately in need of help. That would significantly differ from the somewhat opaque distribution from the renamed Community Shield.
Imagine the goodwill that would surround this fixture, were the FA to pledge the entire 2018 receipts to Bradley Lowery Foundation, which continues to raise funds for children with cancer, after the tragic death of the boy who stole all of football's hearts.
Do all this, and perhaps we could even ditch the widely disliked 'FA Community Shield' branding for something more fitting: 'The Charity Shield' has a certain ring to it. And let's make a key part of our season opening a popular event, which provides real benefit to those who need it, and gives a focal point for the good work done within our national sport.