The Sweeper: Premier League Restructuring Considered

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The headline story in this piece on the Premier League’s consideration of Bolton chairman Phil Gartside’s proposals for restructuring the league focuses on the nix put on the idea of Rangers and Celtic joining the Premier League, with that immediately ruled out now and forever. This is no surprise, as it would be a huge headache in so many ways (upsetting tradition, UEFA and FIFA in one blow).  I really hope we simply hear no more of this for some time, but I’m sure it’ll be raised soon enough.

More interesting was news that the Premier League are taking the rest of Gartside’s proposals seriously: “The other relevant ideas contained within Bolton’s paper will now be taken forward as part of the wider strategic review being undertaken by the Premier League since November 2008 with the aim of providing recommendations before December 2010.’”

This includes Gartside’s proposal of a two-tier Premier League of 18 clubs each, which has been revised from its original closed-shop plan to include some very limited promotion and relegation with the rest of the football pyramid. As Martin Samuel points out, “It would no longer matter how poor your team became, how hopeless your leadership, because you could never go down. It would turn English club football from a merit system to a franchise system overnight.”

Gartside is right to be concerned about the increasing gap between the Premier League elite and the rest of the league, and it’s no surprise that it’s a chairman of one of these clubs is pushing the idea, given Bolton’s massive debts: a second tier that received more of the revenue than relegated clubs get now via parachute payments would certainly help a club like his.

Yet this would only widen the gap between what would be a new, closed elite and the rest. David Conn suggests a broader approach might be needed for the riches of the game to be distributed more evenly throughout the league system: “Others might propose that the solution to the huge financial chasm between the world’s richest league and the venerable Football League below it is, as it has been for 17 years, to re-unite them, and redistribute money more evenly throughout the system.”

Supporters of clubs outside the top few in England can but dream. . .

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