VSnext to the start of this season. What do you see? Make the results chaotic – Manchester City leaving five, Manchester United in six, Liverpool leaving seven, Everton and Aston Villa at the top of the table, Chelsea making 3-3 their default result – engenders a thrill of excitement over the ‘unpredictability of it. all? Or have you seen the two Manchester clubs in the bottom half of the table after last weekend, and Tottenham and Chelsea seventh and eighth, and worry that this could hurt the income streams of teams favored by the global public? ?
This is by no means a normal season. No reigning champion has left seven since 1953. No team outside the so-called Big Six had led the league with five games played from Portsmouth in 2006. After last weekend, the Premier League averaged 3.58 goals per game. Since World War II, there have only been two seasons that ended with an average higher than that, and none since 1960-61.
While this plays out in the foreground, in the background, the plot continues with the super clubs to earn themselves an even greater share of the game’s revenue than they are already enjoying. After Project Big Picture – essentially an attempt by the wealthier to get rich by promising short-term benefits to clubs in the smaller league; a strategy that has become familiar beyond football over the past five years – came the latest rumble on a European Premier League. He can be thin in the details, he can recycle old ideas, it can be a fairly transparent negotiating tactic in the discussions of the Champions League overhaul in 2024-25, but it still represents the greed that dominates thought. super clubs.
And that should be for everyone, especially as the Premier League demonstrates how much fun it can be when top-flight hegemony is, at least temporarily, not guaranteed. Or should at the very least make us think about what we want sport to be. The answer to this may not be as obvious as it might seem at first glance to those of us who are raised on English provincial terraces.
Take, for example, the Indian Premier League of Cricket. IPL is an unquestionably brilliant competition, the best against the best, the extraordinary level of competition motivating innovation and excellence. Even played without a crowd in the UAE, as is the case this season, there is a palpable glamor. If I’m near a TV at 3 p.m., it continues. But I look at it in a different way from the way I look at football. Because I used to live in Dharamsala, I theoretically prefer Kings XI Punjab – and I have probably over the years been more sensitive to Piyush Chawla and Manan Vohra as a result – but basically I’m just trying to watch amazing cricket.
I don’t have a clear day to day idea of the position of the IPL table, I have no clear idea of why the Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore is considered a great rivalry, I could not compile a list of past winners and I certainly have no meaningful thoughts on the impact of IPL on the Ranji Trophy, India’s traditional top class national competition. This is probably how many fans around the world consume the Premier League or the Champions League.
In this sense, although the IPL is an openly commercial entity, my appreciation of current sport is purer than in football, where my perceptions and reactions are conditioned by a life of accumulated prejudices, on clubs, players, managers and the cities they represent.
But as Pep Guardiola noted, that sense of being represented is essential. In a world where the motivation for profit shapes everything from healthcare to education to the law, it may be unreasonable to expect anyone who considers what could be best for him football. -even.
Let’s do this for a moment. There seems to be a spectrum: spreading talent relatively evenly across as wide a range of clubs as possible or focusing it on a handful to bring the sport to the highest possible level.
As football moved from first to second, an obvious problem arose. What the IPL has about football – in Italy, Germany, France and Spain and, increasingly, England – lacks a sense of competition. Any of the eight franchises can earn it (although Kings XI still haven’t). A high percentage of games are tense and hard fought; the closest European football is that of the last stages of the Champions League. There is never the equivalent of, say, Manchester City playing at Watford where the only real question was what the margin of victory would be.
If, as seems likely, the restructuring of the Champions League increases the income of super-clubs and thus gives them even more advantage, it will tilt an already uneven playing field even further. The excess is already so grotesque that players of Mesut Özil’s caliber are unable to secure a game and Ferran Soriano demands that B teams be admitted to the pyramid just so he has a place to park City’s reserves.
Something must change. For Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid, continuing to gobble up domestic titles is extremely pointless. Even they seem to have had enough. The Premier League turmoil is unlikely to last and the rich seem insatiable.
So what is the solution? Maybe it’s, reluctantly, just to let the foodies go, to let them take the risk (and that’s a risk: with four of the eight IPL franchises qualifying for the playoffs, most games matter. ‘in a way that 12th vs. 14th out of 18 – team league with restricted relegation, the latest European super league proposal, would not). And if the result is spectacular football, enjoy it, be content that the team that represents us exists (if they survive the pandemic) in a fairer competition in which Tuesday’s game in Rochdale makes sense even s ‘it probably won’t be very good.
The likely compromise, keeping the elite in the main competition but making them even richer, even more powerful, seems the worst of all worlds.