Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The English Football (Soccer) Season Ends

Everything is sorted for next year!

As I have tried to explain in a previous post, the English Football Association (FA) rewards the top teams of each division with promotion to the next higher league, and punishes the worst teams in a division with relegation to the next lower league.

This promotion/relegation scheme means millions of dollars in revenue for the affected teams. Which means that unlike sports in the United States, there is actually something worth playing for!

In the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, etc., you purchase a franchise and you are guaranteed to be in that league forever. You will reap undeserved and unearned benefits forever. You can field a lousy team forever and if the fans refuse to come to watch your crappy product (even forever), then the league will reward you year after year with your "fair" share of the television revenue. Forever.

The top league in England is the Premier League (EPL). The EPL consists of the best twenty soccer teams in England. At the end of the season, the top four teams are rewarded with guaranteed berths in a competition that crowns the champion of all of Europe. The fifth, sixth and seventh place teams are guaranteed berths in the UEFA Cup tournament, which is the next most prestigious European award. The bottom three teams (18th - 20th place) are relegated down to the Coca-Cola Championship (which is the second tier league).

At the same time, the top three teams from the Coca-Cola Championship are promoted to the EPL, and the bottom three teams are relegated to League One (which is the third tier league). The top three teams from League One are promoted to the Championship and the bottom four are relegated to League Two. The top four teams in League Two are promoted to League One and the bottom two teams in League Two are relegated down to the Non-League.

So . . . there is a lot of reason to not only finish in the top of your league, but to finish out of the bottom of your league! There is always something to play for!

Not so in United States sports leagues.

In the United States, your team can suck in perpetuity and the owners are under no obligation to fix things. But, if you told News Corporation that the Dodgers would be sent to AAA if they came in last, you would probably find a new level of intensity in baseball.

Sadly, American sports will always be top-heavy with playoffs that render their long, tedious seasons meaningless; and bottom-heavy with crap teams enjoying the corporate socialism promoted by corporate conservatives coast-to-coast.

There is really little incentive for most US teams to actually win anything, because they will profit handsomely for losing.

The results of this years English season are as follows:

Manchester United are the EPL champions. Congratulations to the Red Devils.

They will participate in next year's UEFA Champions League and will be joined by Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal.

Tottenham, Everton, and Bolton will participate in next year's UEFA Cup.

Sadly, Sheffield United, Charlton, and Watford will be relegated. The controversy in this year's relegation battle is that West Ham, who finished in fifteenth place, was caught cheating but was not punished with a points deduction (the most common form of penalty); so, they are allowed to remain in the EPL, though they do not deserve it.

Sunderland, Birmingham, and Derby (all teams that have played in the EPL previously) will be promoted to the top flight, while Southend, Luton, and sadly the self-destructing and once-powerful Leeds will be relegated down to League One.

Scunthorpe, Bristol City, and Blackpool will climb into the Coca-Cola Championship (one step below the top league) while Chesterfield, Bradford, Rotherham, and Brentford drop to League Two.

Walsall, Hartlepool, Swindon, and Bristol Rovers climb from League Two to League One while Boston Utd and Torquay drop out of league play, and Dag & Red and Morecambe move into League Two.

These changes represent reward and heartache for millions of sports fans in England.

It's not just "wait til next year" for the losers, it's a battle for survival as a going concern with a reduced income as punishment for faring poorly in the league from which you have been relegated. The difference in guaranteed income between the EPL and the Championship is sixty-five million pounds (roughly $125,000,000). You read correctly! That's a lot of money in any currency, in any sport, in any nation! Relegated teams will have to sell-off their best players and begin a rebuilding process that could take years before a successful promotion.

It's a fascinating paradigm for sports leagues and it happens that way all over the world.

Imagine the entertainment value of a baseball owner spending millions of dollars on talent and finding himself in AAA preparing to battle the Pawtucket Red Sox or the Toledo Mud Hens. Just one of those interviews would be worth the millions it might cost to restructure U.S. sports leagues.

Alas, it will never happen. American team owners demand to be guaranteed a profit and fans and taxpayers will be forced to prop-up the farce forever.

Still, it won't belong before soccer starts-up again in Europe and some real competition, in a real free-market will bring real entertainment to the airwaves.

Until that time: Go Red Bulls!

Dick Mac Recommends:

UEFA Champions League 2006-2007
Electronic Arts


Anonymous said...

I always love reading what you write about sports because you are passionate about it and it doesn't seem to fit the other things that you are passionate about- politics, music, art, etc.
That being said there are a few interesting wrinkles in ownership in the US. That is- the Toledo Mud Hens and the Green Bay Packers - both of whom are owned by their fans.
I visited my uncle this weekend and he mentioned that there is a very successful soccer star who is (at least part) Jewish. Is this true? As a child, all we ever had in the hebrew school books were Mark Spitz and Sandy Koufax. Please advise.
Hope all is well with you.

DM said...

Thank you, Adam!

I think there must be at least one Jewish soccer star.

Certainly Maccabi Haifa, and all the other teams in the Israeli Premier League, must field a Jew or two!

Haifa, along with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, usually enjoy spots in the UEFA Cup competition (because, as you know, Israel is part of Europe).

manuel said...

I'm glad I found your blog post, Dick, but I felt I had to point out that playoffs have invaded the English game as well. The 3rd promotion place into the Premier League isn't given to the 3rd-placed team, but rather awarded to the winner of the promotion playoffs (between the teams that finished 3rd through 6th). Similar playoff setups exist in the rest of the Football League, and have for roughly the past 20 years.

Still, I think I would enjoy American leagues more if they ran promotion/relegation. There are some teams out there, baseball jumps to mind, where the owners are raking in the cash by spending as little as possible on the team.

I occasionally spend my free time drawing up ways in which American leagues could be restructured to accomodate the promotion/relegation system.

DM said...

Yes, Manuel, playoffs have struck England, but they have not eliminated the idea that winning the league is still winning the league and cannot be taken away!

I would love to see your US sports realignment schemes. i do the same thing. Baseball seems so simple to do because they already have different levels of leagues, but ther eis no way someone like Bud Selig or George Steinbrenner would agree to the notion that they might end-up in AAA!

Can you imagine!