The Roker Ramble: Remove Relegation, Remove Competition

The Roker Ramble concerns life away from the club. A breath of fresh air if you will.

What is it with this countries "big clubs"? It’s almost as if the perks that come from having multi million pounds worth of backing aren’t enough and the owners seem to get bored with their lot and chase a bigger slice of the commercial pie. Yes Liverpool, I’m looking at you and your bright idea of a breakaway TV rights deal. Thankfully even the likes of Manchester United seem opposed to this proposal even though, in my eyes, should such a suggestion be put in place they would stand to benefit from the new deal far more than Liverpool would. So just as my blood pressure was returning to normal following that hair brain scheme news broke yesterday that some clubs are debating the benefits of relegation and plan to scrap it all together!

 

You’ve gone too far this time football!

Richard Bevan, the LMA Chief Executive, broke the news yesterday that a number of the Premier League’s foreign owners are looking in to the possibility of scrapping the punishment of, basically, being crap. This is clearly an obvious attempt from these super rich investors from safeguarding the assets which their weekend play toy has become. The most worrying element to come from the news is the fact that it would only take four or five more owners to get onboard and the pipedream could become reality.

For me, in recent seasons, especially with the title race becoming more and more one sided, the relegation battle has become almost as much of a spectacle and is capable of throwing up fixtures and results that not only surprise but will entertain. Sure the relegation candidates that the bookies highlight each summer may not have the Wayne Rooneys or the Sergio Aguero’s of this world but what they do have is a number of commited and, in their own right, talented footballers that are just deserving of their share of the limelight.

 

At the end of the day, in May, three of these relegation candidates, or a surprise package ala Newcastle just a few years back, will face the drop and their Premier League place will be taken by the promoted sides from the Championship. What right do the super rich owners of the Arsenals, Aston Villas, Manchester Uniteds, hell even Sunderland have to deny a club from the divisions below the right to dream that one day their club could pit themselves against the best players on the globe?

 

You just have to look at the impact that Blackpool had on the league last season. Yes, it could be argued that the "romantic" angle of "plucky old Blackpool" who were a "breath of fresh air" was done to death by Sky and their media cohorts and that at times Ian Holloway was treated like the King's Jester but if you look passed the glossy Hollywood angle put on the coverage they received, it was all true. Yes, they succumbed to relegation in the end but even if they never reach the dizzy heights of the top flight again their fans will always have the memories of some famous victories and the cash injection helped to secure the relative long term future of the club itself.

 

This move from the foreign owners is no doubt a result of the growing American influence on the Premier League. These men come from a world of sports franchises and had probably never heard of the word "relegation" before setting foot in England. Stepping in to their Armani loafers I can completely see where they are coming from because they are safeguarding their investment but maybe I am naive in my belief in fair play and equality for all teams, even though it could easily be argued that the vast majority of teams in the lower leagues can never really realistically sustain a Premier League place.

 

We cannot allow the aspect of English football that makes it such an attractive league for fans around the world - competition. Sure when West Brom roll up to Old Trafford no-one will give them a chance. The media, the pundits, even the majority of sane Baggies fans will all predict a comfortable home win for the Champions. But what if? What if Shane Long capitalises on a mistake from Rio Ferdinand? What if Darren Fletcher slices an attempted clearance from a corner into the back of his own net? It is the "what if's", as unlikely as the may be, that allow fans of English football clubs to dream, it is what makes the FA Cup so popular. It would be a travesty if such dreams were taken away from clubs on the fringes of the Premier League.

 

Luckily it seems, for now at least, that the chances of such a pitch being accepted are slim and the LMA can prevent such a vote due to the recent parliamentary inquiry into football governance which recommended a licensing based system for clubs.

 

Maybe as a Sunderland fan I should not be so quick to dismiss plans to scrap relegation, I mean lets be honest, given our love of flirting with the drop it may be in our best interests for the risk to be removed. Then again knowing SAFC we would probably be relegated the season before the plans were to be put in place!

 

So what do you make of the whole relegation fiasco? Would it kill off any element of competition within the English game? What would there be for the likes of SAFC to play for? Are the owners of clubs within their rights to protect their investment? We want to hear your opinion too, so chime in in the comments below.

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