Despite being one of the richest and popular leagues on the planet, the English Premier League seems to view itself with comparative loathing compared to its transatlantic cousins the NFL, NBA and MLB over here. Specifically in that non-quantifiable currency – excitement.
Their latest wheeze – a playoff between the teams finishing from fourth to seventh at the end of the season with the winner taking the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying spot is less moribund but as unnecessary and damaging to the integrity of the league as their plans for the 39th game somewhere around the world.
There is already an ongoing competition to see who gets the fourth place spot. It’s called the Premier League and each team plays each other 38 times and whoever finishes with the fourth best record over at that time finishes in fourth. See how that works?
By throwing it open to teams that proved they weren’t good enough over the course of a season, it undermines their own competition to provide some artificial “excitement” at the end of an already long and laborious campaign. Throw in cup matches, European dates and postponements and replays and you will see the season ending in June – how is that going to work in a World Cup or European Championship season?
Despite the fact that we are already rewarding mediocrity by awarding a prize for finishing fourth, this constant juvenile need for approval and even more money is very disheartening. In the biggest financial downturn since the great depression and a week in which no fewer than three professional clubs, one in the Premiership itself, went to court to beg for more time to pay their taxes, the time should be ripe for football to have a long hard look at itself and restructure its finances accordingly.
A maximum squad size including home-grown players, a Europe-wide salary cap and agreement not to pay more than 50 percent of turnover on wages would be a good start with transgressions on all punishable by points deductions (the only way you could possibly hurt Chelsea or Manchester City for example). With so many clubs teetering on the edge, there are only a finite number of Sheiks and Americans to go around and all are interested in only one thing – profit – and when they get bored of their new toy, then what? Portsmouth are about to find out and while it is disgraceful that the league and authorities have sat idly by and let any Tom, Dick or Abdul with a large chequebook come marching in and taking over the club, maybe one or two going pop might scare the rest of the horses back into the barn.
Oh and by the way – give the fourth Champions League place to the FA Cup Winners. At least they’ve won something.
Guy Bailey is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.