February 2010

All The Fun Of The Unfair

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 guy@yankarecoming.com.

Guy Bailey

  • I was going to write… It’s not that simple. It’s all about money. The top four are the top four, because somewhere along the way they got lucky and happened upon some money. With this money the bought a good coach and some good players. With these good players they beat the lower teams, putting them higher in the table. They get the Champions League spots, the fans, and from that money to buy even better players. The lower teams can not attract or pay the better players, so they stay the lower teams. This is all good, but don’t you absolutely hate seeing Man. U, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal year after year after year. Wouldn’t it be nice to maybe see a Fulham or an Everton in the top 4? I’m not saying just randomly reward a random mid-table team and demote a top four one, but give them chance to earn some money and fight their way up…. Then I realized “oh wait that’s the F.A. Cup.”

  • Adam V

    You can’t debase that which is already debased – the idea that the fourth-place team in the league makes it to the “Champions League” is nonsense. With the sheer amount of player burn out and schedule congestion, the Champions League needs to be paired down. Doing so might also give new life to the Europa League.

  • Hey at least our teams only move locations during mid-year to avoid financial difficulty, rather than ceasing operations altogether (see Portsmouth). I would think that the league would want to have all the teams in for the final few weeks, unless Portsmouth is already scheduled for home and home matches with Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool, in which case, nevermind-they’ll take the forfeits, the $$, and send Portsmouth back to relegation, if they can afford to stay in the Championship.