Lucas looks at what positives the Premiership can take from American sport, in addition to taking American dollars.
One of the biggest problems facing the Premier League, obviously, is the ever-widening financial gap between the â€œbig clubsâ€ and the â€œsmall clubs.â€ With no structure to stop the free-spending of a team like Chelsea, a team like Charlton, say, in a similar location geographically but miles away economically winds up being left alone at the bottom of the table while the big kids run away and hide in the Champions League. The idea, then, is to stop this from happening. And maybe the best way to do it, sadly, is to follow some parts of the American model.
In American sports, parity reigns. In Major League Baseball, the Detroit Tigers, three years removed from finishing with the second worst record in league history, finished as title runners-up, beating the New York Yankees and their $200 million payroll along the way. In the National Football League, the league runner-up has built a tradition of not making the playoffs in the next season, and in the National Basketball Association the New York Knicks, who have spent more money than anyone in basketball, ever, are a league laughingstock.
Contrast this with the Premier League, with four winners since its inception, where a lasagna fiasco denied Tottenham a possible breaking of the stronghold at the top four, and where a club with one of Europeâ€™s best overall records (Liverpool) hasnâ€™t been able to win a f**king thing domestically in nineteen years.
You cannot say that it is alright for the status quo to remain- you can not say that the league is alright, because to me it looks about ten years from falling completely down the abyss. How long can the fans of the â€œotherâ€ sixteen teams take season after season of mediocrity, knowing that any glimmer of real success, from an Everton in 2005 or maybe a Bolton this season, will be inevitably crushed by teams with more spending power than they could ever possibly accrue?
And so, this leads me, admittedly long-windedly, to my point. To survive as anything more than a spectacle, the Premiership needs to take on pieces of the American model. I donâ€™t want franchises, I donâ€™t want teams moving around, and of course I donâ€™t want a ridiculous closed-system league. Iâ€™m thinking more along the lines of a basic salary cap (or maybe some limits on player salaries), and some restrictions to create a bit of spending parity.
Not total, thus incredibly boring, parity but something a lot better than what we have now. Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool will still be the most competitively appealing teams to play for, but at least money will be a smaller part of the equation.
Major League Baseball has, to great effect, instituted a system of revenue sharing, whereby the shitty teams, wait for it, get money from the big teams. Would it be so bad for Chelsea to kick a little bit of money over to Watford, in the interest of fair play? Would it destroy the game if Sheffield United were able to purchase someone to, you know, play the game effectively?
Any player, with the system as it is now, has no real interest in staying with a smaller team for anything excepting loyalty, and you canâ€™t realistically blame a guy for taking five times his current salary to play on a better team. We see this with Michael Carrick (yes, Tottenham are a comparatively small club) and Wayne Rooney (same for Everton) buggering off to Manchester United, and of course everyone worthwhile whoâ€™s come up from West Ham in the last ten years.
Surely West Ham fans would you rather see Joe Cole coming down the left wing as opposed to Matt Etherington? Wouldnâ€™t the talented Ferdinand brother be more useful than that twat Anton? Or how about that same Michael Carrick, still at West Ham. The good people who root for Everton, Iâ€™m sure, would rather play Rooney up front than whoever the hell they have up there, and, though this is about three months early, Iâ€™m sure Darren Bent from Charlton is going to look good in Spurs’ colours next season.
The obvious counterpoint to all of this, of course, is that with the amount of TV money coming in next season, the playing field will be leveled out a bit. But doesnâ€™t more money just, you know, help the big teams as much as the small teams? It’s the relative positions that are important – if all the teams up their bids by a few million pounds it helps no one. Iâ€™m sure most of the smaller teams arenâ€™t in the best positions financially, and Iâ€™ve got to assume that that money is going to be going towards clearance of debt, or the board membersâ€™ pockets, as opposed to the team sheet.
So basically, maybe a salary cap, maybe some revenue sharing, maybe some fairness. Or maybe the small teams can continue to get shat on by the rest of the league.
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