Over the weekend, plans were revealed by Liverpool and Manchester United to completely change football, in the biggest revolution since the breakaway of the Premier League in 1992. But what is it actually all about and how would it affect us and other lower league clubs?
Arguably the most inoffensive idea in the proposal is the abolition of the League Cup and Community Shield. Realistically, the removal of these competitions wouldn’t have the biggest impact on football. EFL clubs are unlikely to win the League Cup and the Community Shield is a glorified friendly. One sweetener for the deal is that the EFL would receive 25% of the Premier League’s annual TV earnings, as well as clubs receiving £250 million up front as a Coronavirus Bailout. Additionally, away tickets would be fixed at £20 which would theoretically stop clubs from taking advantage of loyal fanbases such as ourselves. The final benefit to EFL clubs is that there would be an effort made to return to safe standing, presumably in a sensible and protective way. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Here’s where the plans get a bit controversial. Firstly, the Premier League would be reduced to an eighteen-team league, with a playoff between sixteenth in the Premier League and third, fourth and fifth in the Championship to decide relegation or promotion. This in itself has a sense of irony, as these plans have been portrayed as an attempt to bridge the gap between the elite and the EFL. How can the distance be reduced? Certainly not by reducing the number of teams in the top-flight. This would just pack the schedule in an already extremely congested season in the Football League. Another hugely problematic factor of this deal is the notion that the nine clubs who have been in the league the longest, the “Top Six” and Southampton, West Ham and Everton, would have total control over the running of the league. This means that only six elite clubs would be needed to win a vote, which obviously go against the democratic nature of the league.
This stinks of the big clubs taking advantage of an awful situation, by kind of blackmailing these cash-strapped clubs. They’re essentially saying they can have their Coronavirus bailout money, as long as they vote against the future of the game as a whole. The vast financial figures may seem like a good trade-off, particularly for middling clubs with no Premier League ambitions, but it would be sacrificing long-term prospects for short-term windfall.
However, there is of course a benefit in some way. The injection of cash would rescue a large number of clubs from liquidation due to the pandemic, which is understandably a priority for desperate clubs such as Bolton, who have declared their support for the scheme. This is also because they won’t be expecting to bounce back any time soon so the changes to the Premier League won’t affect them.
On the other hand, the upper tier of EFL clubs including Brentford, Swansea and other budding Premier League teams would be likely to both benefit and suffer from the impacts. They’d receive the money from the elite, which would boost their chances of promotion in the short term. However, due to the reduction to eighteen teams as well as one less Championship playoff spot, their chances of getting to the promised land would be negated.
Overall, the benefits of the plan do not outweigh the overwhelming negatives that will undoubtedly see the big clubs get bigger. In a world suffocated by capitalism and greed, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s very disappointing to see the same attitudes crossing over into our footballing world. When people are losing jobs daily, shouldn’t the cream of the crop be more considerate of those in need, rather than exploiting them for their own interests?