Barely a week goes by when some football bigwig can resist blurting out some vague comment about the structure of the Premier League – or rather, how it could and might change in the future. A round of interviews usually follows with a few too-public chairmen (I’m thinking of football royalty like Bolton’s Phil Gartside or Wigan’s David Whelan), and eventually, nothing changes at all.
But this week’s news from the League Manager’s Association (LMA) that several club owners are in favour of abolishing relegation could be a different story. It comes direct from the LMA boss, Chris Bevan, who fears that if fourteen owners grouped together they could force through changes to the way the current league system works, and even scrap relegation completely.
It’s easy to see why people like Rao brothers, who own Blackburn Rovers, could be in favour of such plans. Relegation to the Championship is a costly business: TV revenues plummet and attendances tend to dwindle. You lose your best players. Perhaps worst of all, you face the daunting task of having to win back the favour of the fans – harder still when you live in India.
With Blackburn sitting 20th in the league table, their owners in particular would find it hard to resist supporting changes which potentially could guard an asset they spent in excess of £50m on late last year.
Such changes, however, would be a disaster for the top division. The relegation scramble is a central part of the way the league operates and seems to get more nail-biting every season. Indeed the whole system of promotion and relegation is what props up the English football league ladder. It is what makes the bottom fifteen teams in the Premier League competitive. I support Middlesbrough, and had to endure relegation three seasons ago. After two tough seasons in the second flight we finally appear to be heading in the right direction.
We’re all secretly dreaming of hosting United and Liverpool next season, and it would be tragic if that were ever to change.