There is a lot wrong with the Premier League. Extortionate ticket prices and unreasonable kick-off times make a weekend jaunt to the match or an awayday on the train with some friends unaffordable and impractical for an increasing number of fans, and sadly it is not something that looks like changing anytime soon.
It is especially sad when we consider the fact that so many authentic supporters who invest so much time into following their teams are ignored, alienated and essentially excluded from experiencing first hand what is the best football league in the world.
The Bundesliga can boast greater administrative fairness and inclusivity; with low ticket prices, safe standing areas and sale of alcohol in stadia. German clubs have admirably adopted the novel approach of treating their fans as human beings, rather than as mere generators of money.
The Spanish league, meanwhile, is home to the greatest players on the planet; although the vast majority of teams in La Liga would hardly stand out in the Premier League. The two definitive superclubs of Spain, if not the world – Real Madrid and Barcelona – are where most world-class footballers end up at one time or another, and one could argue that the arch enemies currently possess the greatest combined strikeforce that the game has ever seen.
However, by reducing football to its purest, most simple form – a means of entertainment – the Premier League comes out on top. For all their galacticos, homegrown superstars and multi-million pound blockbuster buys, the colossal might of Real Madrid and Barcelona have rendered La Liga a dull duopoly, with the odd flicker of excitement (such as last season’s title-winning Atletico Madrid side) soon extinguished by the might of the Merengues or the Blaugrana.
The situation is similar in Germany, and whilst the rise of Borussia Dortmund in recent years at least gave Bayern Munich some competition, the annual pillage of poor Jurgen Klopp’s prized possessions – usually at the hands of their Bavarian rivals – means that German football from now on will likely be denied the luxury of even a two-horse race.
This is not to say that the Premier League is the paragon of equality and unpredictability, because it is far from being so. Manchester United’s recent demise means that the league is now left with only two teams who can realistically win the title. However of the three other candidates for the world’s best league – La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A – the Premier League, in purely footballing terms, is the most egalitarian, unpredictable, and most importantly, fun.
A thrilling eight-goal game in which a newly promoted side beats the most decorated team in the history of the league – which the home fans at the King Power Stadium last weekend will not forget in a hurry – would be unthinkable in Spain or Germany, and would be greeted with a grimace by the defensive connoisseurs of Italian football.
In England the underdog always seems more likely to produce an upset than its continental equivalent; a Stoke City victory at the Etihad Stadium or a Swansea City triumph at the Theatre of Dreams is not greeted with the same degree of shock as a home defeat for Real Madrid or Bayern Munich against lowly opposition, which can often prompt talks of a crisis.
A brief visit to the local bookmakers suggests that the experts of likelihood are inclined to agree with this claim. Odds for a home victory for Barcelona against Granada this weekend, for example, stand at 1/8, whilst a victory for Chelsea against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge yield longer odds of 2/9. Though Villa have enjoyed a good start to the season, they – like Granada – were pre-season relegation candidates, whilst Chelsea and Barcelona are both favourites to win their respective leagues.
The simple fact is that there is more of a level playing field in the Premier League than in the leagues of Spain, Germany and Italy. That Liverpool can climb from 7th to the brink of the title in one season, Manchester United can go from champs to chumps in the same space of time and Southampton can enjoy a meteoric rise from the third tier to second spot in the top flight which they currently occupy shows that life in the Premier League is never dull.
Whilst the Bundesliga may enjoy a superior goals per game average and La Liga may see a more dazzling array of individual tricks on show, fans of Premier League sides worry the most about their team’s chances of winning, safe and satisfied in the knowledge that a defeat may be on the cards. Football is entertainment, entertainment is excitement and unpredictability, and the Premier League does it best. If you still need convincing, a certain Sergio Aguero goal on a sunny May afternoon three years ago may change your mind.
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