Date:Saturday May 5 2007
The article's writer, Ciaran Baynes, raises a number of good points about the benefits of reducing the size of the Premier League.
Amongst these are the theories that competitive games within the Premiership will be improved, there will be more success for English teams in Europe and competitions would be won by the best teams, not the most tired.
However, there are always two sides to every argument, and these are Vital Brum's editor's views:
1. Nobody else but the 'Big Four' are going to take the top four spots.
No matter how much fans of other Premiership clubs are going to fantasise about this, without truly seismic changes in the organisation of these four clubs (such as complete financial collapse or the formation of the European Super League), these four are going to occupy the top spots for the forseeable future, with only the crumbs of a UEFA Cup spot or safety from relegation available for everyone else.
2. Those in Europe are always going to have substantially more money to spend, and larger squads. They are therefore more likely to stay in that position. The rest scrap amongst themselves for their magic 40 points and the avoidance of relegation. By necessity and sometimes fear, play is defensive for most teams with many not having the confidence or resources to play expansively.
3. A smaller Premiership is going to condense the available money still further - and sadly, those that believe there would be more money to distribute amongst the lower leagues are sadly deluded. Major sponsors simply do not have the interest in anything but what they perceive to be the 'cream of the crop' - despite the fact that the Championship this season has far surpassed anything that the Premiership can produce in terms of excitement and unpredictability!
4. How on earth would the Championship cope with another two, or worse, four teams? They are currently playing a punishing schedule of 46 games, with up to 49 for playoff contenders, without inclusion in any other competitions, where they already play an extra round. This is with (in general) far smaller squads.
An equal argument could also be made for reducing the size of the Championship to determine whether it is truly the best teams gain automatic promotion from there, or merely the least tired.
Therefore, is the answer to subdivide the Premiership and the Championship, creating a 'Premier 2' League containing another, say, 16 teams? The proviso here would have to be that this second tier would get a reasonable bite of the sponsorship cherry and not simply become another poor relation.
As things stand with the massive increase in money for the Premiership from next season - and matching large increases in parachute payments for the relegated teams, there stands a real chance of the Premiership becoming a virtually closed shop of about 25 teams, a few of whom yo-yo in and out of it on a fairly regular basis, with any of the other Championship hopefuls excluded almost for ever, unless their ownership circumstances change dramatically.
Although there are definitely arguments for a winter break in the English Premiership, there are many fans who question the number of pointless international friendlies that disrupt the season on a regular basis and also add to the workload of players who already have a lot of fixtures to fulfil.
Although the chances of a smaller Premier League are presently low, this is an argument that could go on.
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