Monday, 11 August 2008

Boring Boring Premiership

It takes a monumental amount of intense self-control to restrain my inner grumpy old man when it comes to the English Premier League. As a fan that supports a team in the lower echelons of the Football League I am fully aware of the ever increasing gulf between the elite and the peasantry in our beautiful game and endeavour to turn a blind eye to the gluttonous activities of the privileged.

However, sometimes I read a headline that shatters that discipline and unleashes the anger within.

Yesterday I saw such a headline; Chelsea are negotiating with AC Milan about buying Kaka for an astonishing £78 million (here it is). £78 MILLION!!!!!.

Please excuse the rant below but I find such a post is very therapeutic.

£78 million is an incredible and obscene amount of money and is a typical example of why the game in England, as exciting as it is perceived worldwide, is basically being destroyed by greed, greed and more greed.

Foreigners with their billions are pumping outrageous amounts of money into the game, as are television companies desperate to see the world’s best players plying their trade on English soil. Some say this is a good thing. I say that it stinks.

Since the inception of the Premiership, the gulf between the big clubs and the rest of the league has increased at an almost exponential rate. Desperate to jump on the bandwagon, other clubs have spent money they don’t have in order to keep players and crashed into oblivion. Promotion and relegation is now a joke.

Let’s take a look at the situation:

In League One and League Two we have small teams, such as Walsall, Port Vale, Stockport County who are permanently stuck in those two divisions with little hope of escape. The three clubs I mention have flirted with a little success in the Championship (or equivalent) in recent years but have ended up back where some say they belong. At the foot of League Two this season we have three clubs who are massively in trouble; Luton Town, Bournemouth and Rotherham United all starting the season with a huge negative deficit. Luton Town stand absolutely no chance this season with a whopping -30 points as a start. Rotherham United and Bournemouth will battle it out not to get relegated alongside Luton Town, having had 17 points removed before the big kick off. For those three clubs the season is over before it has begun. What would £78 million do for them?

The Championship is multi-tiered. You can look at the table and immediately predict who will struggle and who will be vying for promotion. There are teams in that division who one would say have a great history. The problem is that they will never again match the achievements of the past. Nottingham Forest will never again win the European Cup (or “Champions League" as it has become known – if it is for “Champions” then why do the teams finishing second, third and fourth qualify?). Look at Derby County? League Champions in the 1970’s but now just over thirty years later, relegated from the top division with virtually no points having suffered defeat after embarrassing defeat in the Premiership last season.

Finally, let’s talk about the “glorious” Premiership. It is almost laughable. In the seventies and eighties the league was exciting. How many different clubs fought for the coveted title? In the seventies, we had Derby County slugging it out with Leeds United, QPR finishing second in 1975, Nottingham Forest winning the title in 1978, Aston Villa winning in 1981 with Ipswich Town finishing second in both 1981 and 1982. Watford second in 1983, Everton champions in 1984 and 1986. Not any more. None of those teams, with the possible exception of Aston Villa, will get anywhere close – probably ever again.

The Premiership now is boring and will continue to be so. Take a look at the teams who will be competing this year; the final table is almost totally predictable. Let me have a stab:

First we have the “big four” who will battle it out for the top four spots (as they will next season and the season after that)

(1) Manchester United
(2) Chelsea
(3) Liverpool
(4) Arsenal

After that we have the teams with a lot less money but still enough to buy certain big players:

(5) Manchester City
(6) Tottenham Hotspur
(7) Everton
(8) Newcastle United
(9) Aston Villa
(10) Portsmouth

Next we have the also-rans who will flirt with the top half of the table but will almost certainly flirt more with relegation:

(11) West Ham United
(12) Blackburn Rovers
(13) Bolton Wanderers
(14) Middlesborough
(15) Sunderland
(16) Fulham

And finally, let’s not forget the whipping boys. I feel particularly sorry for Hull City and Stoke City who will be put the sword in the most savage fashion (just as Derby County were last season).

(17) Wigan Athletic
(18) West Bromwich Albion
(19) Stoke City
(20) Hull City

You will notice that the three promoted teams will be relegated. I ask myself what the point is. Hull City fans in particular will be delighted that they are in the highest division for the first time. But will they be happy at Christmas when they are bottom having conceded at least six goals to the top ten teams? I doubt it. Their only hope is that teams like Manchester United field weakened teams against them. Why bother?

Read this post in May next year and see how wildly different it is. I’ll be surprised if it is to be honest.

Teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea do have real fans. They also have a vast number of fake fans who support the team so that they can take a share in the success of the club. True football fans are suffering at all levels. Season tickets in the Premiership are so costly now, that real fans, the ones who have supported the clubs for decades, are being squeezed out of the game. I spoke to a Chelsea fan who used to be a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge in the eighties and nineties but now cannot afford to pay the exorbitant price and so stays away. A good friend of mine who is a Manchester United season ticket holder is contemplating giving it up next season because the price hikes over the last couple of seasons have been totally unreasonable. This guy has been a season ticket holder since the mid seventies and lives and breathes Manchester United. This is the kind of fan that is needed in the game.

When I first moved to Manchester I used to be able to go to Old Trafford and pay on the gate half an hour before kick off. I could pop to Maine Road and see Manchester City, turning up at the ground ten minutes before kick off. That is now impossible. My youngest son is a Manchester United fan but I doubt whether he will ever get a season ticket in his life.

True fans aside, the fake fans really wind me up. I am laughed at, and mocked because I support a small club like Walsall, usually by fake Manchester United fans who live well outside the area and who have never been to Manchester let alone Old Trafford. They watch their team on Sky and then claim to be fans. I have been to Old Trafford far more times than these people, most of whom could barely name squad members from the seventies and eighties. I can – and I’m not even a fan. I am picking on Manchester United here but it is the same for the rest of the big four and some of the pretenders to the throne.

The Premiership will be boring this season. The results will be easy to predict, apart perhaps from those between teams in the four groups I have mentioned above. For real excitement, people need to move down to the football league where teams are more evenly matched. Those clubs need the support far more than the prima donnas in the Premiership. To be honest I wouldn't care if the big four and their equivalents in Europe all left and formed the European League that those greedy clubs so desperately want. English football would improve dramatically.

And don’t get me started on Cristiano Ronaldo and the supposed slavery in Premiership football – I’ll be posting all day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(16) Fulham, are you kidding me. They will be relegated this year. Mark my words. The game is not longer a millionaires game it is a billionaires game. You can't buy a team now unless you are worth a billion. I agree that it is predicable. But Barclay's is the best league in the world TO WATCH. I can't bring myself to bitch about salaries since they are going to pay what they can afford. If the other teams can't afford it then got to Russia and get yourself a billionaire owner. There really isn't any other option if you want to be top 10 these days. Any time money is go to be made then it is going to get ugly.

I can only assume you are not a United fan. Maybe a City fan? I have not read your blog enough to figure it out but I will.

Interested in a fantasy league? You only missed the first week so I am sure you can make it up. I am in a league with 3 other people. One in Ireland and the other in the US like myself. Let me know and I will send you the group id and code.

Cheers and GO GUNNERS!