The influx of foreign investment into the EPL has been widely discussed on this blog by several authors. I am also currently teaching a class that is a comparison of domestic (North America in my case) and international sport environments. One of the biggest structural differences which we have between North American and European leagues is the concept of “promotion and relegation” used in Europe. That is, European leagues tend to demote a few of the bottom teams to a lower league, and replace them with the top teams from the that lower league. In this, the European leagues can be considered “Open” leagues where the composition of franchises changes from year to the next, while the North American leagues are “Closed” (or static) leagues where the teams do not change, except in the rare case of expansion or contraction.
It seems a lot of the foreign investors in the Premier League are not happy with this current structure, and want to get rid of promotion and relegation. This is quite understandable, as buying a Premier League club is not cheap, and these investors are buying these clubs because of their association with the Premier League. If they were to get rid of promotion and relegation, this would mean that they would have a lot more safety and certainty in protecting their investment. Who close are we to this becoming a big issue? I think pretty close, as League Manager’s Association leader has said:
“There are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League. If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen.”
That’s right, a few more people and they may be invested in changing the system to mimic the closed systems of North America. I am against this, as a closed league would take a lot of interest out of the bottom of the table battles for relegation, which hold fan interest in even some of the poorer teams in a league. There are lots of implications here, this would change the competitive balance in the league, potentially across several leagues, and it could mean that teams at the bottom of the Premier League could field weak teams with low payroll, and continue to collect the big revenue from Premier League media contracts. In this, I am against a change in the system.
In other news, Mark Titus, writer for Grantland, has said they should realign college football in a big superconference that uses the promotion and relegation system. Simply, he wants college football teams put into divisions which are tiered levels, and then have them able to move up and down between divisions using promotion and relegation. Personally, I don’t think college football fans or North American audiences are too receptive to this type of system, and that it would have a hard time being implemented and succeeding. Possibly one of the biggest issues would be scheduling and traveling, as a superconference could have Alabama playing Boise St. one week, and then Wisconsin the next. That would be a tough travel schedule. That said, I do like that the promotion and relegation systems are entering the mind of the North American sport fans and media. It is a system that is not perfect (neither is the static/closed leagues), but it does have some advantages that are worth meriting a look.
H/T to IJSF blogger Brian Soebbing for sending me the Grantland link.