Football FanCast columnist Scott McCarthy reflects on Stan Collymore’s proposed Premier League reform.
So, Stan Collymore reckons the best way to improve the Premier League would be to scrap promotion and relegation and have only the 20-25 clubs who have been the biggest and most successful clubs in the history of English football competing in it.
For a man who thought he could firstly act and then rap, it shows just how stupid a suggestion the one that he put to Mirror readers this Monday is when you can easily say that it is up there with the most ludicrous things to emanate from Stan the Man’s mind.
Collymore believes that teams such as Newcastle United and Leeds United should be competing at the top level regardless of their failures on the pitch, while sides who have worked hard to get to the top flight of English football on merit should be rewarded for their success by being consigned to the Football League forever as, according to Collymore, “fans around the world want to see the huge games – not clashes involving clubs like Barnsley, Watford or Hull.”
His reasoning’s for such a bold statement make interesting reading – “My main grievance is the reason why the likes of Wigan, Hull and Reading have got into the Premier League.
For the most part it is due to wealthy benefactors who have bought into them because they are cheap investments.” Conversely, the reason that the likes of Newcastle and Leeds find themselves slumming it out in the lower leagues is because of bad ownership – in Leeds’ case overspending well beyond their means, and at Newcastle just the general circus that is the Mike Ashley regime. In Collymore’s Premier League then, it would appear that you can be as badly a run club as possible, and you will never be punished for it by the threat of dropping down a league, or in the case of Leeds, two.
Collymore cites America’s professional sports leagues as an example of where no relegation and promotion is in fact a positive as it allows clubs to attack without the fear of relegation. Unfortunately, he has made a massive oversight in this part of argument by completely dismissing the importance of the draft system employed in the USA. An extremely simplistic version of it is that to ensure the league is competitive; the worst teams get the pick of the best young players. This ensures a more level playing field with success and failure being more cyclic thanks to the best players not going to the best teams. Can you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction if he was told that he couldn’t sign Cristiano Ronaldo as he had been picked by Portsmouth to ensure the division was more competitive?
The way the draft system operates means it would never work in England. In a relegation-less Premiership, the big four would continue to be the big four, and with the guarantee of a place in the league regardless of where a team such as Blackburn Rovers finish, where is the incentive to win games if you can’t win the league and that is all there is worth playing for? The season would become a procession, with the only real six-pointers involving the top four sides, which if anything will devalue the Premier League.
Collymore’s list of clubs worthy of a place in his Premier League also makes a mockery of the idea. Portsmouth are on there (who, incidentally, you could argue were bankrolled into the current Premiership on the same lines as Reading), with two league titles and two FA Cup wins to their name, while Huddersfield Town miss out, despite being only one of three clubs in the history of English football to have won the title three times in a row. Sheffield United and their one title that came as recently as 1898 are included, while Preston North End’s unbeaten league season and two titles are also consigned to a life in the football league.
While Collymore’s idea may please the money men with the guaranteed income of a Premier League season every year no matter how poor their team is on the pitch, it will once again come at the expense of those who make the game – the fans. Supporters of Premier League sides outside of the big four will have to face up to the prospect of just pottering along in the league with nothing to play for and the same fixtures season after the season. If the casual fan wants competitive football, where virtually every game means something whether it be a crucial win for promotion, a draw at a play-off rival or avoiding defeat on the last day of the season to stave off relegation; if they want to see David upsetting Goliath (they’ll be no Burnley to beat Manchester United after all) and if they want to see the latest Brian Clough taking the latest Derby County or Nottingham Forest from the gutter to the stars, then the Premier League won’t be the place to watch – and if it wasn’t worth watching, then it certainly won’t be the best league in the world.