World Football: Costs Of Relegation Have Never Been Higher

Alex StampCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2008

This season is arguably one of the most open and even Premiership seasons that there has ever been. Witness the case of Bolton Wanderers who a few weeks ago were in the relegation zone, yet now are looking at pushing on into the top ten, following a successful run of victories.

Relegation is never nice for any club, and indeed has always been an expensive experience for any club that has been relegated from the Premier League. If you look closely throughout the Championship and the lower leagues you see that relegation from the Premier League has claimed its fair share of victims, and now it really can be said that the costs of relegation have never been higher.

This week, Southampton, relegated from the Premiership three seasons ago, announced a financial loss of £4.9 million-in spite of making £12 million in player sales. They now face the prospect of having to sell most of their better players, including the likes of Adam Lallana and Andrew Surman in order to remain afloat financially.

For Southampton this truly is a fall from grace, and it is a sorry tale of financial mismanagement and a failure to completely come to terms with the economics of life outside the Premiership.

This is particularly poignant as as recently as December 2003 Southampton were riding high in fourth place in the Premier League, and also appeared in the FA Cup Final in 2003, losing out to Arsenal courtesy of a Robert Pires’ goal.

For their fans that must now seem a world away from the current state of uncertainty, economic struggle and possible relegation to League One.

Unfortunately, Southampton are not alone in this regard.

Not much further up the league, Charlton Athletic find themselves in a similar predicament. Saddled with large debts, their playing squad decimated by enforced sales, they are another club who not too long ago were overachieving in the Premiership, but with the departure of club legend Alan Curbishley the club fell into decline.

Now, like Southampton, they must face up to the reality that their club is in dire straits and facing an uphill battle in order to pull themselves out of their current situation.

These two are severe cases of clubs currently struggling to cope with the divorce from Premiership TV money. The worrying thing for these clubs is the time that recovery from this predicament can take.

A look around their own league, and indeed the league below perhaps illustrates this point. Clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United are all clubs which at some time time in the past have been among the biggest clubs in Britain, indeed if you look at Nottingham Forest-they are twice European Champions.

Yet for much of the past decade, these clubs have found themselves marooned in the lower leagues, having undergone the financial turmoils which both Charlton and Southampton are going through now. That these clubs have yet to recover, speaks volumes for the impact that relegation can have.

Exacerbating this problem further is the current economic climate, which is sure to deter any potential investors from attempting to save an ailing football club packed with debts.

Also, with the yawning financial divide between the Premiership and the lower leagues growing ever vaster, it is now beyond the reach of most of these clubs to compete with the teams in the relegation zone in the Premier League, let alone those in mid-table.

They need only look at the case of Derby County last year, who came up and embarrassingly went straight back down after a feeble attempt to compete in the Premiership.

The fact is that, for the teams in the Premiership relegation zone, the costs of relegation have never been higher. Just ask Charlton and Southampton fans, the latest to face the grim realities that are an part and parcel of life outside the Premiership.