Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Premier League II

I could not put it better myself, really. Everton really must be having a 'mare with David Moyes is now getting all Satire-waving about the "inevitable" coming of "Premier League 2".

On the most basic argument, any additional top league in English football featuring the Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers would put an end to the long serving tradition of British football. As a kind of "thank you" to inventing the modern game, the four Home Nations are awarded four separate seats on the FIFA and UEFA top tables; England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Okay, we're not quite unique in this, France has a separate international team within its borders, but I won't give away this pub quiz answer today....

For Celtic and Rangers to become permanent, full members of the otherwise English Premier League, the whole future set up of the national and international game would change forever. UEFA and FIFA have made it quite clear that a separate English international football team would not exist were the Old Firm to become members of any national football division. Remember the fuss regarding Cardiff winning the FA Cup not being able to take part in European cup competitions? Think about that writ large.

If the idea of a joint Anglo-Scottish football team doesn't jump out at you (oh imagine the pubs before kick-off...), what about the future of the lower leagues? The amount of money trickling down to even League 1 and League 2 levels is not torrenting down in great waves; an increasing number of Conference and non-league sides are up against the financial wall including Hyde, Farsley Celtic, and Chester. The possibility of having a "walled garden" outside of which survive a withering clutch of barely solvent league teams is nothing short of offensive.

"Mighty" Anderlecht are about discussing the "Atlantic League" theory in case a British "Premier League 2" falls flat. If the notion of pan-European league fills you with a logistical shiver down the spine, you may not be the only ones. But the future of British football, which is far more than sepia-tinged nostalgia for half-time pies and giant killing, relies on the four Home Nations having leagues of their own. Cross-border leagues do not exist in any other country in the world; for clear and unique reasons, the United Kingdom does not suit the notion of a grouped league football format.

Healthy and economically strong our football teams are not (Spurs aside, and there are rather dodgy non-politically correct suggestions for why...). Bringing English and Scottish leagues together in any form would merely produce an incredibly exclusive clutch of world-famous franchises kept away from the motley crews (and indeed, Crewe) below. As a fan of football, and of the lower league game specifically, the prospect does not thrill me with joy at all.


Longwayround said...

I take it that France's other national football team isn't in UEFA.

Is it, by any chance, in CONMEBOL?

Martin said...

Having a two-tier Premier League would divide television revenue between 36 clubs rather than 20, and considering only two of those would be Scottish teams, 14 English clubs would be better off, increasing competitiveness at the higher end. That would leave 14 less football league teams to share the football league TV revenue, leaving the other 58 clubs slightly better off.

Rangers and Celtic playing in England would not end the Scottish League, in the same way that the Welsh League exists without Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham, Newport and Merthyr et al. Indeed, other teams would have a shot at the title that would generate some much needed interest in Scotland's 40 other league clubs.

There is precedent for clubs playing in other countries' leagues all over the world. Ignoring the aforementioned Welsh clubs, Berwick Rangers play in Scotland, Derry play in the Irish Republic, and Gretna played in the Unibond League for most of their existence. Monaco play in France, every club in Liechtenstein plays in Austria, San Marino FC play in Italy, Andorra FC play in Spain, Toronto play in the MLS, Wellington play in Australia... I could go on forever. The only way that clubs from smaller nations will ever be able to compete with the financial monopoly of the big clubs is to play in their leagues, or form cross-country leagues.

An Atlantic league may sound good on paper, but a league spanning Scotland, Portugal, Belgium and Holland would lack personality from a lack of shared culture. On the other hand, the Old Firm would be a massive draw at every game they played in England.

The reason that football in Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent Scotland is of such a poor standard is because the English league has completely overshadowed these leagues and consumed their potential markets. The only way clubs from those leagues will ever become strong is by either joining the English league or the creation of a British or UK league system.

Finally, Liechtenstein maintains its national football team in spite of not having its own national league. If such a small nation is allowed this courtesy, surely the Home Nations should be granted the same?

And as for having extra power in the upper corridors of FIFA and UEFA, having 4 out of the 8 seats on the International Football Association board... why do two Islands deserve 50% of the vote in a global game? The modern game might have originated in Britain, but it was refined elsewhere, and turned into dozens of varied and contrasting styles.

The Old Firm leaving Scotland will improve the competitiveness of that league, and fill the ground two times more a season at every English club they play. Smaller teams will get massive windfalls from drawing them in the cups. Who exactly loses?

Dan said...

@Martin - the four UK football associations each get a seat on the international board simply because football was 'invented' in the UK, and there is widespread recognition around the world that in order to preserve the essential essence of the rules of the game, it is only right that the country that invented the game has a significant input into any future rule changes. Seems fair to me.

Liam said...

Martin - there's a lot of stuff in your post I would like to discuss later on. You've made a very good case on this issue, so when I next have time I will follow up this post with some input from your comment!

It does look as though the issue has been kicked, if you will, into some long grass!

Martin said...

Dan - I accept that football in the modern sense originated in Britain, notwithstanding older and more ancient ball games, and of course recognition for that is deserved. But is it deserved to the point where the Home Nations can collectively veto any and all rule changes in a global game that crosses cultural boundaries? It strikes me as a sad remnant of British Empire attitudes that we know best for everybody.

If the UK held, say, 25% of the vote rather than 50%, they would only have to persuade one other voting member to agree with them to prevent any rule changes. Are we so out of touch or incapable of articulating our ideas that we couldn't convince one single other member that a rule change would not be for the best? I would hope not, but as has been pointed out elsewhere, the four Home Nations FAs are hardly the most able decision makers.