This week the Premier League rejected a proposal by the Bolton chairman to include Celtic and Rangers in a two-tiered Premier League with the Guardian saying that 14 clubs voted against it.
There are two ideas here that want to handle separately. First is the Celtic and Rangers problem. Clearly, they have outgrown the SPL and its financial limitation, chiefly television rights fees. From their perspective, I can completely understand their attempt to go anywhere in search of the cash to match their clearly lofty ambitions. But, from the Premier League’s perspective, it doesn’t make all that much sense to introduce one of the world’s most poisonous, distasteful, and violent rivalries to a league and a country that has worked extremely hard over the last 20 years to reduce hooliganism. Bringing in Celtic and Rangers fans with their clear and recent histories of sectarianism and outright violence (Rangers fans marauding through Manchester a few years ago comes to mind) does English soccer no good whatsoever. While Rangers fans have probably been guiltier of violence lately, Celtic fans singing songs of IRA “heroism” present just as much of a problem from a PR perspective. They’re both guilty.
All that being said, the more I think the Premiership would do really well to add a second tier and end performance-based relegation after that second tier. Meaning, you can get relegated from “Premiership 1” to “Premiership 2” but you cannot get punted out of the second tier based on performance alone. To see that happen, a club would have to have financial irregularities (bankruptcy/receivership) or some kind of other malfeasance. A two tiered uber-Premiership would give clubs relegated from the top one – as Bolton might see happen some season soon – a softer financial landing. It would also provide an ability to gather greater TV figures by ensuring that all of the British Isles’ (you heard right) large market are included. Here was a quick sketch I did a few weeks back using this year’s Premier League as a starting point.
Premier League 1
West Ham United
Premier League 2
Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
West Bromwich Albion
Not accepted into new league: Crystal Palace, Doncaster, Barnsley.
This new league structure would incorporate clubs but all from two of Britain’s 20 largest cities with only Edinburgh and Belfast missing out.
You probably have noticed three new additions at the top of Premier League 2. The first is Leeds United. Yup, they’re poor now, but you’re not going to leave Britain’s fifth largest metro area out of the structure. The second addition is a hypothetical Dublin FC, playing at new Lansdowne Road in the Irish capital. Finally, there is the truly a creative idea which is Glasgow FC – completely new club based at Hampden Park that is free of sectarianism and founded with key missions of providing a safe, sectarianism-free fan experience and developing the Scottish player. Let Celtic and Rangers fight it out in their own parochial, sectarian cesspool. The future, and the entertaining non-crap soccer, will be elsewhere in Glasgow.
I have rather arbitrarily whacked Crystal Palace, Doncaster and Barnsley from the new league. I did this because they were the smallest clubs from the two urban regions (London & Manchester) with the most clubs.
About the only club/city I would like to see in this league, that I haven’t been able to slot in is Southampton, Edinburgh and maybe Belfast. Regardless, I suspect the future of English soccer lies in a two-tiered Premier League that will look something like this one. With all the largest TV markets included, TV rights will continue to rise and with the risk of catastrophic relegation reduced through better division of TV money, club values increase across the two divisions.
Within these two divisions, you could get creative with promotion and relegation as well. How about guaranteeing promotion and relegation to the winner of PL2 and the bottom club of PL1 while sending the other four clubs at the top of PL2 and the bottom of PL1 into a playoff with each other? You could just throw all six clubs into a little round-robin if you wanted, but that risks the season running too close to international tournament-time in the summer. Anyway, you can play with pro/rel formats forever.
What do you think?