English Premiership: What Could the League Import from Their American Owners?
Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, has aired concerns that some league owners are keen to see the end of promotion and relegation.
His claims are based on conversations that he believes have taken place amongst some American and Asian team owners.
It could well be that Bevan’s warnings are informed speculation, based on his knowledge of American sports and the franchise model that is applied to their different sporting codes.
Professional sports in America is about a limited number of teams competing in restricted leagues. The thought of seeing their teams suffer a losing run and being punished by being exited from the Premiership, is anathema to American sports investors.
Relegation and promotion are an obvious part of the history of English football. In many years, the Premiership champions are decided weeks before the season ends. Whereas the quest for survival— who will be vanquished and who can return—is not confirmed until the final round.
Is it worthwhile examining what other concepts the Americans owners may consider introducing to the English game? Richard Bevan could be a busy man blocking out all of these initiatives.
(1) Draft system
Rather than having multimillion pound purchases, transfer windows and loan arrangements, the majority of player acquisition would be administered through a centralised process.
In American sports, the draft normally involves the allocation of players who have recently left the college sports arena. Teams who ended bottom in the previous season have first access to leading players entering the draft. It is a system that allows the fair and transparent acquisition of players.
The model might help with the allocation of players seeking Bosman transfers. It could also help unsettled players such as Carlos Tevez, who instead of staying with Manchester City could put his fate in the system to see where he ends up. Where the system could work best is providing a shop window to players who have graduated from different academies, but whose host clubs no longer want their services.
The draft model has been successful in ensuring more competitive leagues. When it comes to player acquisition the draft system helps move the focus from financial resources to a more equitable distribution of talent. The history of the NFL shows how the draft system makes it difficult for franchises to build monopolies over championship wins.
The other aspect of the draft system is that larger clubs can purchase better spots from the lesser ranked clubs. Sometimes clubs actually trade players to move from 20th in to first or second in the purchasing list.
For example Manchester United could purchase a spot from a lesser rated team to gain access to a highly regarded player. The draft system therefore serves as an income reallocation model.
(2) Limiting player rosters
All clubs would be required to register their squads at the start of the season. All clubs would have the same number of squad members.
(3) Salary caps
There would be a maximum salary bill across the Premiership. This and the limited player rosters could restrict the ability of richer clubs to acquire all the talent.
This prevents teams, like Manchester City, from stacking their teams. It’s great how the Citizens have bought such fantastic talent to the league, but it’s also a shame that a lot of their stars get limited game time.
(4) Mobility of teams
Manchester United could be acquired and shifted closer to its fan base in London. Although this was tried with Wimbledon moving to Milton Keynes, not sure if the Dons would consider this the best move they ever made.
For many foreigners the NFL is as much about the cheerleaders as it is the sport, no?
(6) Crazy franchise names
Names like United, City, Rovers, Athletic would be banned and replaced with Asteroids, Blaggers, Crushers, Destroyers, etc. No two teams would be allowed the same nickname.
(7) Player gear
Rather than silky tops and shorts, players would wear mesh tops and long pants.
Goalies would need to wear helmets and pads. This picks up on the initiative originally started by Petr Cech and his headgear.
Rings would replace medals. For example, the Queen (or one of her relatives) would allocate rings to the winners of the FA or League cups.
The winners of the title wouldn’t be the English champions but the World Champions. The FA cup will be the Superball.
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