The End of Relegation?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record; foreign investment is slowly killing our beautiful game.
Yesterday there was a report on the good ol’ BBC (which you can read here) that mentioned that discussions were taking place between owners of British football clubs about the possibility of removing relegation and promotion from our domestic leagues. What we’re talking about here is the death of football as we know it. No more, no less.
The word on the street is that several of the foreign owners have mooted scrapping relegation as a possible means of protecting their investments here. Now, before I jump into a lengthy bitchfest, let’s get one thing straight; I (and a vast majority of football supporters across the country) couldn’t give the tiniest iota of a shit that a bunch of rich foreign blokes have invested money in our domestic game.
We’ve got one of, if not the, most exciting leagues on the planet. It’s not surprising that some wealthy investors have earmarked it as a potential place to throw some money around. You have to question the wisdom in investing in such a variable sport, but that’s the nature of the beast and that variation is what makes English Football top of the class.
I can’t see this dastardly plan ever coming to fruition. Relegation and promotion are the cornerstones of a division system that has stood the test of time and flourished. Imagining the sport without the competitive carrot of promotion is very hard to do. It would destroy the Championship and League’s One & Two in one fell swoop. Yes, they would continue, but in a much more limited capacity.
Though rather than just trash it as an idea, lets look at it properly for a minute.
For starters, how do we choose which teams get to be in the new Stagnant English Premier League. Is it a case of musical chairs? When the music stops do the teams in the top flight at that moment get to stay? If so that’s good news for Blackburn, Wigan, Norwich, West Brom and Swansea – but it sucks if you support Birmingham, West Ham, Leeds or, god forbid, either of the Sheffield teams.
So how about we have the teams with the highest average attendances? Surely they’re the teams that deserve to sit at football’s top table. That means in with Derby, West Ham, Southampton and Nottingham Forest and out with QPR, Wigan and Swansea. There’s even League One teams with better average attendances than QPR – so surely they shouldn’t be in the new look Zero Relegation EPL?
Ok, what about we go for the most successful clubs from English league history? Sure the usual suspects are still there, but so are Derby, Forest and Sheffield United at the expense of teams like Stoke, Wigan and QPR.
Let’s just presume that the teams currently in the top flight are the ones that would find themselves as permanent residents of the Premier League. Lucky you Wigan, lucky you Blackburn, lucky you Swansea. To the rest of you clubs, notably those from the Championship – you can fuck off. We’d like to thank you for your long and devoted contribution to the English game, but we’ve got some money from America, Russia, the Middle East and the Far East and, frankly, we don’t need you any more.
There’s a collection of quality football clubs that, if the changes were ever to take place, would never again taste the big time: Derby, Forest, both Sheffield teams, Leeds, Middlesborough, West Ham, Birmingham and Palace – all on the scrap heap, each an example of a bygone era when clubs would rise and fall based on individual merit.
So what happens next? Well, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. We have the major leagues and the minor leagues; a system from which there is no escape. It doesn’t matter how well you play Leeds, you’re stuck where you are. It doesn’t matter if you continue to be perpetually shit, Wigan, you get to keep your seat at the top table.
What’s the big problem (I hear one or two of you calling from the back)? Who gives a shit about a load of old has-been clubs from the lower leagues? Well, I do and I bet so do plenty of other supporters. I seriously doubt that I’m the only one who considers it essential that relegation and promotion remain intact in the modern game. After all, what’s more exciting; the league title that is usually sewn up a week or more before the end of the season and is between two teams rolling in money, or a relegation scrap between five or six teams all fighting for the right to stay in the big time, the final outcome unknown until the end of the last game of the season?!
I’ve got a soft spot for Norwich City, so given the new system, right now they’d be sorted. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Norwich get relegated this year and next season they implement the proposed changes. What happens to Norwich now they’ve slipped back down to the second tier? An eternity of mediocrity, that’s what!
Suddenly there is nothing to play for, no possibility of Premier League football for supporters to hope and dream about and/or to angst over. Yes there is still a migration of players from small to big clubs, that will never stop, but the clubs themselves will never get the chance to compete at the top level again. Don’t worry, the players will be fine; the cream will always rise to the top. So who exactly is it that’s going to feel the effects of these potential changes most acutely? Well, the group that are going to get royally screwed if this nightmare becomes a reality are…… drum roll please….. yes you guessed it; the supporters.
Yes, working man – that means you. Once again you’re being exploited by a handful of billionaires, because you’ve got something that they want – loyalty to your club (or brand as they’d call it). A dozen or so rich individuals have graced the big boys with the presence of their extensive bank accounts and they’d like to say to you, the loyal supporter of the lower league team: fuckyou very much for everything, get your coat on your way out. Grew up in Middlesborough? Fuckyou very much, how about you leave us alone to make some more money. Been a loyal Derby supporter all your life? Fuckyou very much and enjoy the Minor Leagues. Love West Ham? That’s right…. Fuckyou very much and thanks for 1966.
Why the hell is this even being considered? Who’s bright idea is this? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s coming from those rich bastards coming over here and throwing their cash around our favourite sport. You might have distracted some people with your fancy yachts and your opulent mansions but you can’t pull one over the eyes of this cheeky mofo. Nobody asked you to come here spend millions on OUR football clubs. You did, that’s fine, but don’t try and shift the goal posts know that you’ve got your grubby little mitts onto something that we Brits hold very close to our hearts; our football clubs. Let me repeat the sentiment spelled out earlier; nobody gives a shit about you or your money, so don’t think that having invested in OUR national game it gives you permission to change the things about the sport that don’t benefit you. If you didn’t like our best moves when we first met then why’d you get into bed with us? Could it be that you’re a bunch of greedy, money grabbing whores?! But I digress…..
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely naive. I realise that the foreign investors have brought some good things to the game: The overall quality of teams from all divisions has improved quite a bit, the Premier League is now a global brand with fans across the planet and they’ve added a dash of glamour to proceedings. But, as contributions go, are they enough to justify the wholesale changes being talked about at the moment?
I know these are just preliminary discussions, but the fact that they’re even happening should be worrying enough. I would like to think that the FA has big enough balls to stand up to this potential initiative (though I wouldn’t bet on it). Even if they do, they’re going to need our support to make sure that this never happens. We’re a pubic hair away from completely selling out everything that has made English football the most watched domestic league on the planet? Why? For no better reason than to protect the investments of a few rich wankers who signed up to the format willingly.
If you don’t like the way we run things over here, then don’t spend your money on our game. It really is that simple.