Phil Gartside Scores the Own Goal, Again

David GoreCorrespondent IApril 21, 2009

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 06:  Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United and team mate Ryan Giggs (L) show off the Premier League and Champions League trophies to their fans prior to the Pre Season Friendly match between Manchester United and Juventus at Old Trafford on August 6, 2008 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

On Oct. 23 last year, I responded to statements by Phil Gartside, the Bolton Wanderers chief, on his novel ideas for the restructuring of the English league system.

At the time, the talk fell quiet, and I believed—or rather hoped—that the issue was dead.

Turns out it isn't.

He's now intending to put that issue to his fellow FA board members, requiring just 13 of the 19 votes in order to change the entire future history of the most successful and wealthy league system in world football (including leagues below the Premier League, when compared to foreign equivalents).

So as recycling is the way to save the Earth, I thought I'd do my part to save football by re-publishing an article many of you might have missed. Enjoy.


What usually happens when the Football Association is questioned is they hide under a duvet and wait until the next big issue arises, when they can make a fool of themselves again.

So I'd like to thank Mr. Phil Gartside for once again bringing to the fore the overall incompetence of the FA board members by spouting utterly deranged rubbish in the press.

Gartside, the chairman of Bolton Wanderers and a director at Wembley as well as being an FA board member, has astutely identified a problem in the English game (one that we already knew existed and his organization has done nothing to curb) involving the rise in foreign ownership and billionaire investment that is turning the game into something of a farce.

All well and good so far. But then he goes and spoils it all by saying something silly like, "split the league in two."

"SuperPhil" reckons the Premier League would be a lot more competitive if we were to cut it in half. He proposes a two-tier league with a total of 36 teams. This, SuperPhil claims, will make it easier for the England squad as well as aiding the integration of a winter break.

He hasn't yet spotted that all his proposal actually says is that we lower the number of top-flight teams to 18. But it gets better.

He then suggests the FA stop relegating teams from this "Premier League Two" to the Championship, meaning the 36 teams would never be replaced. Gartside says this is because:

"We have already got to the situation where the three clubs that go down from the Premier League are usually the three that come up, although a couple of others might sneak in."

Clearly, those "couple of others" are Wigan, Hull City, Stoke City, Sunderland, and Reading, none of whom had been in the top flight for decades. When Birmingham City were promoted, they hadn't been in the top tier for 16 years. Derby County had been out of the Premier League for five years before their promotion. 

Of the three teams relegated the season before last (Sheffield United, Charlton Athletic, Watford), not one was promoted last year.

So really, all in all, is Phil Gartside a bumbling fool who's threatening to annihilate the spirit of English league football? Or is he a criminal genius working to bring the FA down from within by sucking out any last lingering shred of public faith in their grand ideals?

I'm hoping he's the latter, because surely no one can be THAT sincerely stupid.