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Premier League Door To Slam Shut?

Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside has been in the news recently with his proposals for changes to the Premier League structure.

His suggestion that Celtic and Rangers are invited to join the party has already been rejected, fourteen clubs deciding that this part of the proposal was neither desirable or viable. Sensible, you may think, with the worry that it may affect the status of the national teams of England and Scotland within FIFA.

But if you look closer, it may be just self-interest that led a majority of PL chairmen to turn away the two most successful but financially pressured Scottish clubs. It's perhaps understandable that they want to protect their own position, but there's a warning light flashing there for all Championship clubs with an aspiration to make it into the 'promised land'.

Gartside proposes a two-tier Premier League structure of 18 teams per division, with the subtle suggestion that all this is required because the gap between the Champsionship and the Premier League is widening at an alarming rate. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Not to me. Let's read on a little. Gartside says that addressing 'the polarisation of clubs and the increasing revenue differentials will be the major strategic issue for the Premier League over coming years' and also that a 'fear factor' was 'beginning to emerge among Premier League clubs outside the top few'.

OK, lets rephrase that. Phil is scared. His club is in debt and if Bolton drop down, they might be lost for ever, because they won't have the revenue to service their debt, even if all the players are sold, because the player worth won't cover that debt.

We read on further. Gartside originally suggested there would be no promotion and relegation (can you see where this is going?) but his new plan is believed to include limited scope for relegation and promotion of those teams who are not originally one of the selected 36 PL clubs. We have no details yet of what criteria clubs would have to satisfy to achieve promotion, even if they topped the League below the new Premiership. This scares me.

Would a club be denied promotion if (as proclaimed by the New PL) its ground was 'too small'? We would hope Wednesday would be OK in this respect having the 12th biggest ground in England.

Would a club be denied promotion if its 'fan base' wasn't big enough? Again, we would hope we're OK, but what if the New PL said 'OK, there are two teams in Sheffield and only one of them can be in the Premiership'. Hmm. Our friends across town might not be too happy about that either.

Would a club be denied promotion if its away support wasn't big enough, or of the away end of its own ground couldn't contain enough fans of the big clubs?

Or would a club be denied promotion if its debt was too large, despite several of the sainted top flight already being in hock with sums greater than the GDP of small African countries? I begin to worry.

Take Burnley, for example. Would a club like that make it in to the Premier League under Gartside's new proposals? Turf Moor is a venerable old stadium with a fine tradition, but it is only the 43rd biggest ground in England, with an average home crowd of around 13000 in its last Championship season (and that in a successful year) and it's pretty close to Bolton (and indeed Manchester).. tell us, would that be good enough, Phil?

Can we be comforted by the fact that all this requires not only the approval of those in the Premier League but the FA too? That doesn't comfort me one iota, since the FA can regularly be relied on to do the wrong thing.

The Premier League clubs will tell us that they distribute TV revenue very fairly and we should count ourselves lucky.

But a two-tier Premier League with restricted promotion and relegation? Top flight football in this country could be about to change into a closed shop. Not content with ripping the heart and soul out of football with commercial considerations at every turn, some chairmen, Phil Gartside now prominent amongst them, now want to destroy the game as we know it.

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The Journalist

Writer: Auckland Owl Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday November 16 2009

Time: 11:35PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
It's total elitism..... There is no way the PL should be allowed to radically change the league system so much. If that happened, what would the incentive be to try and win the championship? True, we should be safe on most counts (ground size, etc.), but I don't think it'll be allowed to happen. A two-tier PL yes, even with the Jocks in it, but let's have the same promotion/relegation criteria for EVERY division. Yes, it would effectively mean there would be 5 divisions instead of 4, but what's wrong with that?
US Owl
Report Abuse
16/11/2009 23:44:00

Leave it as it is, if the sweatys want to join, let them join in the non league (they shouldnt be allowed to) its a 4 tier pro league, anyone can get to the top, with cash.
Report Abuse
17/11/2009 02:49:00

If you read on past the second paragraph, I'm not concerned about Celtic or Rangers. The issue is the Premier League and the FA could vote to have restricted promotion and relegation. It could happen that a team finishes top of what is now the Championship, and is denied admission to the PL.
Auckland Owl
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17/11/2009 05:45:00

Gartside doesnt half talk some bobbar, can't see any of this happening if it does i'm done with football, promotion and relegation is what its all about, what gives a Bolton chairman the right to dictate whos good enough to enter his league. In this system we'd be at the lower entry level for PL2 so who decides who gets in to start with? its all nonsense. As for Celtic and Rangers if they want to join English leagues stick em in league 2 they have no divine right to just waltz into Prem either, both of em would struggle to win our league anyway
Report Abuse
17/11/2009 14:56:00

Its quite simple clubs have to learn just as we have that you need to live by your means, they should be looking at stopping clubs racking up these huge debts, if that means the likes of bolton get relegated so be it, its better for a club to be relegated than disappear all together. Ive said for a while now, EU law prevents the FA from putting a wage cap however they could turn round and say you cannot spend more than 90% of you total income after tax on player wages, failure to do this would lead to sanctions, what they be fines, not being able to buy players, etc doesnt matter too much as long as its a sufficient sanction to stop clubs doing it. This way yes the likes of manure will go ahead however wage bills like at chelsea that are unsustainable without outside money would be a thing of the past.
Report Abuse
18/11/2009 00:14:00

trustout, there might not BE any relegation if Gartside's ideas are approved. He's not dictating it, wesp, he's offering it as a solution to the likes of Hull, Portsmouth and his own club to enable them stay on in the PL and hang on to all the cash. If a majority of the PL clubs like his idea, the FA would find it hard to reject the proposal.. where does that leave those who don't make it in to the elite 36?
Auckland Owl
Report Abuse
18/11/2009 06:02:00


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