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The Fat Cats
The Fat Cats

Hooray for the Smaller Teams!

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 26/05/2009

PUTTING aside our regional differences with Scunthorpe and Hull it was an excellent weekend for the smaller clubs in the final days of the season. Leeds, Newcastle, Sheff Utd, MK Dons and even "little" Shrewsbury all fell foul to smaller clubs.

In particular the more the bigger clubs feel the cost of relegation from the Premiership the better, in my view. The Premiership was created by the big clubs so that they could keep more of the TV Revenue and it has now become so big that the cost of getting relegated from it can cripple teams for years to come. As the basic premise of the existence of the Premiership is greed I have no sympathy for any of its fallen giants or those who would regard is as their natural home.

Arguably the only true beneficiaries of the Premiership are the players and the Big Four. The players benefit because they receive more money. In effect all that extra TV money simply ends up in the pockets of the players no matter how large the sums agreed with our commercial television companies. The Big Four benefit because the English teams now dominate Europe as well as our own domestic game.

In the meantime the rest of football, and the majority of fans (with over 50% of fans in this country who attend games supporting non-Premiership teams) suffer with all that money that used to come to them going to the players instead. League Two saw four teams with points deductions for going to administration this season, another (Chester) have already entered administration, and Darlington went very close to going out of business. Other clubs including ourselves have struggled to pay off debts, and very few clubs at all in the football league do anything other than just about get by. The situation is likely to get even worse in the season to come.

This is of course at a time when football has never been more popular, crowds continue to rise, and yet our clubs still struggle to stay in existence.

Is the "benefit" of attracting top foreign players over here and our Big Four consequently doing well in the doubly misnamed Champions League, worth the demise of teams like Darlington? Although many of us enjoy watching Premiership games, did we really enjoy it less than we did back in the 80's when ITV used to show Division One games as it then was on a Sunday? Our teams were not as good in Europe at the time, and hooliganism was more of a problem back then, but was it honestly less enjoyable for the armchair supporter? I think not. It was certainly more interesting back then as the game wasn't dominated between a small number of teams like it is now - and both the battle for the title and the cup final were normally between different sides every year. I am sick of deciding whether I hate Man Utd or Chelsea least before settling down to watch the latest battle between the two corporate giants - if I can even be bothered to watch the game that is.

Now we have the situation where only four teams can conceivably win the title. When I was growing up Derby, Ipswich, Spurs, Forest, Villa, West Brom, Leeds and Everton all had spells at the peak of the game. Now it's unimaginable. So the Premiership is in fact worse for every supporter except those of the Big Four!

There is only two solutions to the cost of relegation from the Premiership. The first would be to stop it altogether, as has happened in Rugby League. This would be unthinkable and would hopefully cause mass riots if it happened in our sport. The second is to return to a 92-club Football League and have a more equable distribution of wealth amongst all of its members.

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