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Premiership Season Virtually Over As a Competition

By John NicholsonI am an optimist by nature. To me the glass is always half full, and even if it’s half empty, I will have enjoyed drinking it. I don’t buy into the pervading culture of cynicism that is so fashionable in some circles. Books such as “Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?” play to the worst aspects of human nature; everything is crap until proved otherwise.The way I look at things is, you might as well have a good time while you can, and get the most of life because it might be the only chance you get. Who knows, you might be a dung beetle next time round, or worse still, a Tory politician. So, as Jim Morrison once said, “you’ve got to get your kicks before the whole shithouse comes down”. However, if you get your kicks by supporting a Premiership club, this is increasingly hard to do because the season is virtually over as a competition already and much excitement has been extinguished.It used to be said that you need 40 points to guarantee survival, but now, with the standard of the Premiership dropping and the superiority of the top two or three growing, this may be the first season that 30 points is enough to survive and almost certainly 33 points will be adequate. This isn’t a blip; it’s been going this way for the last 5 years. 35 would have kept you up last season, 34 the year before that.And let’s be clear about this, it is a terrible situation. The much vaunted “Best League In The World” is becoming a desultory, meaningless haul through 38 games, at least a third of which have no meaning.As this trend continues, most seasons will be ‘dead’ after just over half the season has passed. It’s mid January and we already know that Watford and Charlton are down. The Premiership as a competitive competition is rapidly losing credibility when around a third of the sides are effectively disenfranchised from the competition as early as mid January. Clubs who can’t win anything but can’t lose anything.For clubs already on around 27-30 points they’re almost certain to stay up but will struggle to get a European place without a massive improvement of form. Even if that happened, only a small percentage of fans are interested in UEFA cup football until the knock out stages. Blackburn, like Boro before them have been half empty for their games this year.In other words, a UEFA cup game is not perceived by a majority of fans of most clubs as of sufficient interest to warrant turning up, and so presumably see the achievement of a high enough league position to qualify for it is as not worth the effort either.Increasingly, once survival is all but guaranteed for a club, the rest of their season is a meaningless exercise and of course, this means fans will stay away in greater numbers because the games becomes little more than training matches with nothing riding on the result.How long will it be before the games authorities realize that without a more even playing field and a greater degree of outcome possibilities to the league, it will very quickly become devalued, debased and defunct?John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.

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  1. BlindJak

    January 18, 2007 at 10:57 am

    It’s noticeable that with rise in income in football there has been erosion in genuine competition. Promoted clubs such as Watford usually don’t stand a chance of staying up against teams who have been on the gravy train for 3+ years as the players they have are not the same calibre as ‘established’ teams. It generally takes bad management (Charlton) for an established team to ‘allow’ a promoted team to stay up. There are some exceptions but they are far out weighed by the rule.

    Also competition has declined at the top. The budgets of those teams regularly in the CL enables them to continually qualify for the cash rich competition perpetuating the situation and making it very difficult for other teams to break into the big four and offer genuine competition.

    Without teams being able to compete financially it’s been noticeable that the points totals for the league winners has also grown as the relegation mark drops.

  2. riocharlie

    January 18, 2007 at 7:02 am

    It will not nor should not happen. Not only do the big 4 compete in the epl they also compete in europe, and limiting slaries in any fashion would put them so far behond the 8 ball in that competition that.

  3. timmy

    January 17, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I defintely agree that a more level playing field should be required in the epl. The entire premiership cannot compete with ManU and Chelsea financially on both the players they can afford, and their ability to merchandise. I would’nt say that a salary cap is necessary, but examine each of the 3 major sports in the States. There is some apparatus or proxy to maintain equal standing amongst the teams. I’m not saying simply this because I’m from there, but rather I feel that we do a good job at keeping a level playing field. Although…the NFL’s playing field is wayy too level and has been described as “perpetual puditry.” So the epl should avoid that.

  4. fsquid

    January 17, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Top notch article.

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