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Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Monday, 19 May 2008
The Premiership: the Most Boring League in the World
Topic: English Premiership

The British press was freaking out last week about the end of the Premiership season. They were calling it the most exciting season in years, the closest Premiership race ever, etc. And, in a way, it was - it was only the fourth time in the history of the Premiership that the title came down to the final day. Here's the thing: I can't understand why I'm supposed to care about any of that.

I'm not a Chelsea fan or a Man U fan. I also don't cheer for Arsenal or Liverpool. Actually, I feel that any American who cheers for any of those four teams better have a damn good reason for doing so - there had better be some sort of family connection or other very good explanation. In the case of Chelsea, it's okay if you became a Chelsea fan before Roman Abromavich bought the team (Grant Wahl did this). But, barring those exceptions, for an American to pick any of those four teams as "their" team is blatant frontrunning.

I probably went too far in the other direction: I cheer for Fulham. I chose Fulham for obvious reasons: they're the team with the Americans. And now they're my team forever. I'm not changing. As I mentioned in the previous post, I will stay with this marriage no matter how bad it gets.

So, obviously, my attention last week was with my team. And it was a great week; they won and, against all odds stayed up. Which means that Fulham's 2009 relegation-avoidance campaign will be broadcast in the US. Hooray?

Here's the thing: because I don't cheer for one of the big four, my team will never, EVER win the title. Never. I could live to be 100, and Fulham will never win the Premiership. They're already 0 for 129 years, and their highest finish ever is - drum roll please - ninth. Cheering for Fulham is different than cheering for any American team in that I don't know exactly what the ultimate goal is. In the US, the ultimate goal is always to win a championship. For Fulham, and many teams like them, the goal is...what...? Avoiding relegation again? So, 17th place is a victory?

Fulham aren't the only team in this position - not by a long shot. Pretty much any team in the Premiership outside of the big four can't aspire to more than a UEFA cup spot, and a few can maybe hope for a place in the Champions League (where they will be promptly dispatched by a G-14 team). Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, and a few others might consider themselves title contenders, but they're kidding themselves: they are not close to even sniffing the title. Realistically, they are competing for fifth place.

I would be willing to bet that no team outside of the Big Four will win the Premiership in the next 20 years (unless a team undergoes some sort of Chelsea-esque financial infusion). Already, only four teams have ever won the Premiership in its 16 year history. The one break from Big Four dominance came when Blackburn won in 1995, and that's looking like more and more of a fluke. In the past 13 years, it's been only Chelsea, Arsenal, and Man U. The Big Four have finished in the top four spots for the last three years. And every year that they earn more Champions League money only widens the gap between the Big Four and the rest of the league.

If I haven't started caring about the Red Sox or Yankees after all these years, then I'm not likely to start caring about the Big Four, either. I care about my team. And my team is never involved in the title race, nor will they ever be unless something changes. I think that some people in England are starting to realize that the lack of parity is a growing problem; as money becomes more prevalent in soccer, the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams becomes more apparent on the field. This might - one day - lead England to adopt a very American solution: the dreaded salary cap.

Of course, there won't be a salary cap any time soon. The very fact that the US pioneered the idea probably pushes it back by at least two decades. So, in the meantime, the Premiership is basically a four team league, or maybe even a two-team league. And that's not very exciting to me. Don't get me wrong - I'll keep following the Premiership, but I'll be following the bottom of the league, where my team plays. The top of the table is just boring to me.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 4:40 PM EDT
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