So I was flicking about the internet earlier today and noticed this piece of work from Fox Soccer's Jamie Trecker - http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/premierleague/story/barclays-season-preview-2011-12-promotion-relegation-going-away-080211 - About why promotion and relegation should be abolished, and we should adopt the American model where effectively there are no losers.
I couldn't help but feel it was an awful piece of work, and while getting shot of relegation might be fantastic for a team such as ourselves who have suffered at it's hands on multiple occasions, in the grander scheme of things, relegation and promotion are vital to any league.
Fox Soccer's comments section only allows 800 characters, and I needed much more than that. So have a read of his article above, then my retort below. You decide who makes the best points...
I'll start off with the disclaimer that I fully respect that this is your opinion, and you are paid to provide them. If you fully believe in the points raised, then that's absolutely fine, but I can't help but read and feel the urge to respond.
From right off the bat, it's nothing like having the winners of the College Bowl series replace the Cleveland Browns or the Carolina Panthers or any other terrible NFL team (apologies to fans of those teams). This unfair comparison seems to be born out of exactly why you don't appear to understand the importance of promotion and relegation in football (I will be calling it that from here on in as an Englishman).
If anything, promotion and relegation are important to provide hope for fans, not only that but it is the fairest way or rewarding teams for doing well, and punishing (for lack of a better word) the teams who perform badly. This is something insanely missing from the American sports model you promote as the best in the world – Had a terrible year? Don’t worry, here’s the top choice in the draft – and so on.
Moving swiftly on, relegation does not function like a lottery as you mention without ever backing up. There’s no random chance that you’ll be relegated, you’ll be relegated because over the course of the season you’ve played terribly, and as a result garnered the lowest points total.
As for it rewarding a spending binge by a team in the lower leagues, again this is an ill-informed viewpoint. If this was the case we’d have never seen a Blackpool, a Swansea or a Norwich in the Premier League – all of whom lived well within their means, and gained promotion by playing better than the teams around them.
"Clubs are now being forced to choose between building a stadium or buying players" - again, I’ll cite the earlier example of Swansea who have managed to achieve both, and gain promotion. Not to mention the likes of Manchester City, Sunderland, Brighton, Arsenal, and Bolton – All of whom have moved stadiums in the last 20 years or so, and enjoyed a growth period since then.
It’s narrow-minded to suggest it’s simply a case of either/or. With good management, scouting and players, the amount of money spent is irrelevant.
We’ll move on to the next point however – The "Wildly Successful American Leagues" – Now don’t get me wrong, in guessing I’d say the NFL & MLB may well be bigger cash cow’s than the Premier League, but such is the containment of the sport within North America, the wildly successful claim seems invalid. As far as being a global entity, football will always win the day.
It is also interesting you bring up the recent relegation of River Plate, whilst praising the formation of a new ‘fixed’ league in Argentina. The timing of the AFA to create this new league is quite fortunate for River wouldn’t you say? Just as one of the country’s biggest teams are relegated for playing badly over the course of a season, they’re handed a reprieve. Many a cynic and South American correspondent would offer the alternative, which is the AFA panicking at the potential loss of a top name team for a season, and have unfairly given them this lifeline. Had this relegation been Godoy Cruz or Atletic Rafaela would there have been a similarly hasty rearrangement of the leagues? I’ve got my doubts.
Moving further down the article, we arrive at what is arguably, the worst point, and sums up the message you appear to be conveying – don’t bother trying – or as you put it a "dirty little secret" where smaller teams cannot make it.
Whilst I agree in point that for example Norwich, aren’t going to be bothering the likes of Manchester United any time soon, you paint the football fan as an armchair idiot, not having any idea of realism. Fans of promoted teams know they aren’t going to challenge immediately, nor even challenge in the first few years of being in the Premier League, but with sustaining at a Premier League level is a success in itself - a success which breeds more success, and a platform to build. I’ll cite the example here of my beloved Sunderland here – we spent years as a yo-yo team going back and forth between The Championship and the Premier League. Now, after five years of sustained Premier League football, there is an eye on a European place, perhaps not this year, but the one after. It’s about steady improvement. This is the point, where if you were ever going to compare to the "wildly successful" American model, you should have. We can safely say right now for example that in 2012, Everton are not going to win the Premier League, and the Buffalo Bills are not going to win the Superbowl. With steady success and an increasingly better seasons however, Everton could well achieve a top five place, and the Bills might make the play-offs.
As we come to the end of this ill-thought out article, you suggest that more time should be spent investing in youth as opposed to spending on "overseas long shots" with "facilities falling into disrepair" – yet another stunning lack of research and another claim not backed up. Whilst some teams do take a chance on an overseas player here and there, many also develop youth at a tremendous rate. We can easily point to the likes of Manchester United’s prominent youth development system, whilst other teams such as Everton, West Ham and to a lesser extent Arsenal and Liverpool all have sterling reputations for developing youth. Hell, even Sunderland who achieved a tenth place finish played at West Ham United last season with no less than 8 academy products in the match day squad. If you look around every squad in the league, there are many who have graduated through the youth systems to the first team.
As said, some teams will sign an overseas player, but this is not always a "long shot" but often born of necessity. It’s well known the overseas market provides a greater value for money, which is why teams will look there for talent if what’s coming through the academy isn’t up to scratch yet. The best players will always play, regardless of nationality or age. Some would even say that seeking an overseas player is cutting their cloth accordingly, something you denounced as impossible to do earlier in the article.
We finish with the proposed European Super League, which you claim is coming "sooner rather than later" – I seem to have missed this development Mr Trecker. Meetings have gone on for decades about a proposed European Super League, which has yet to materialise. The main negatives being the expenditure for fans, and the negative effects it will have on the Champions League where so much money is tied up.
So we come to our conclusion. Promotion and relegation is essential to football. Throughout everything it provides hope for a smaller team (one you suggest should simply give up). Perhaps you should speak to a fan of Norwich, Swansea or QPR this year to see if they are pleased at being in the Premier League, or a fan of Preston, Scunthorpe or Hartlepool if they’d like to see their clubs have a shot at the big boys. While you’re there ask them if they seek immediate success in the league or are they realists. I know where my money is.
I also know I’ll look forward to the penultimate game of the season where Norwich are fighting for their lives in the Premier League, as opposed to watching Cleveland & Buffalo play out a turgid game, to decide who’s the worst in the "wildly successful" American model, which ultimately rewards failure, and is if anything a circle-jerk.
"Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" - Keywords: everyone and opportunity. This is your dream, Mr Trecker.