Bournemouth v Watford Doesn’t Cut It For Premier League
If the Premier League is to continue to grow at the incredible rate it has over the past 20 years, there is a simple truth that has to be faced by Richard Scudamore and the 20 constituent members of the league.
It currently stinks the place out and something needs to be done.
Let me take my annoyed Claret and Blue tinted glasses off for a moment as I’ll come back to Aston Villa’s part later. But the league is only going to go truly global if the biggest and best clubs lock horns every week, play in front of packed stadia, great old rivalries filled with colour, tradition and noise.
So where does ownership come into this? Well it’s simple.
The Championship and below is a graveyard for some of the clubs that the Premier League need to not only survive but grow, and trust me, the league wants to reach every corner of the world with supporters groups of millions getting their fix of the greatest show on earth every week. And with respect to clubs who have played most of their football history in the bottom 2 leagues, this can’t happen.
What are you talking about Stan, don’t you love Bournemouth this season, Wigan’s FA Cup of a couple of years ago and the tempting prospect of Salford City playing Man United in the top league some day, don’t you?
Yes I do.
But a league of cheaply bought smaller clubs with low overheads and 11,000 seater stadiums are not going to grow the league.
I’d even go further and say that since the Champions League has essentially locked in a group of 4 clubs making huge money, forcing the traditionally big clubs just below to overspend, embrace reckless ownership, and almost bankrupt themselves is going to mean the biggest and best will be in the football league graveyard for years to come.
This by any measure cannot be good for English football. The big clubs sustain the rest, not the other way round. So we need to protect them whilst maintaining the competitive balance.
Richard Scudamore knows this but always talks of the “meritocracy” of the Premier League rather than any real protection for the grand old clubs who have paid their dues for not 5 or 10 years but in many cases 100.
So what can we do?
Well the league needs to have strict ownership criteria and make owning a big club not the preserve of egotistical billionaires who practice the economics of boom and bust, but who must adhere to strict rules and regulations which guarantee medium to long term stability.
They must give huge fan bases a say in their club and hey presto guarantee us a situation where smaller clubs who practice financial stability can dream of entering the Premier League while protecting and enhancing the central planks of what made the league in the first place- namely big clubs, big supporter bases, big atmospheres and competition.
We need Leeds United, the 2 Sheffield clubs, East Anglian derbies, Black Country and Tyne-Wear derbies not only to add traditional spice, rivalry and colour to the Premier League but also to maintain a competitive balance at the top. The only way at the moment of breaking into the top 4 or realistically being successful is to either find a billionaire to overspend and go perilously close to extinction.
That is unacceptable and trust me, in future years it will only mean one thing.
Four or five clubs that can compete, with even smaller clubs entering the Premier League happy to make up the numbers.
The absolute antithesis of competition.
Before we say “what about Leicester, Bournemouth, Southampton, Swansea etc”, they all nearly had to go to the wall and find a different way of operating before their success came. That’s the kind of way I’m trying to champion in this column, but where is the support for clubs who’ve paid their dues and built the very foundations of English football who have huge overheads, predator suitors who want to “flip” them quickly for profit? There is none.
Newcastle United, Sunderland, Villa, Leeds, Wolves, Forest, Ipswich, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton, Preston, Burnley, Birmingham etc., they have all had varying degrees of woeful ownership over the years and the reason is simple.
They are a target for charlatans, schemers and reckless chancers because of their size.
So let’s give them the legal protection they deserve and protect them from reckless ownership.
Let’s make the term ‘fit for purpose’ actually mean something. That way they can run properly, spend properly, safe from the Cellinos of this world. And they can be competitive.
Because Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and co need proper competition rather than the annual procession.
Because it means clubs won’t go prostituting themselves to the latest oligarch or despot as their only way of competing.
Because for Scudamore the money man, the till simply will not ring as loudly for Bournemouth v Watford as it would for Leeds v Newcastle for long. And he knows this.
So to make smaller clubs who practise sensible growth and development welcome as well as huge clubs who grow the explosion of the league, we need strong rules and regulations otherwise the Championship in 20 years time will be a graveyard of the most successful clubs, open to idiots who want to buy them on the cheap.
We need stricter rules to protect those clubs who built the league we now all enjoy. Not for the sake of it, because it makes financial and competitive sense for all clubs.