The EPL: Has It Been Good or Bad for Football?

Barney CorkhillSenior Writer IDecember 17, 2008

It has been called the most exciting, the most unpredictable, and simply the best league in the world. But has the Premier League been good or bad for football?

Since its inception in 1992, football in England has grown in popularity an enormous amount. With more and more matches available to more and more people, the support and global significance of the game has erupted.

Before this elite league came into being, the First Division was the top league in English football. This had nowhere near the financial rewards of today's Premier League.

Now, you may now be thinking that making football more accessible to everyday people, as the EPL has done, is a good thing, and you'd be right. But with every upside, there is a downside.

Think of some of the most common criticisms of today's English game.

Managers aren't given enough time. Players are out of touch with the fans. They're in it for the money, not the love of the game.

All of these are caused, in part, by the Premier League.

More specifically, all those problems are caused by the money the Premier League generates. Managers aren't given enough time because chairmen can't afford to give them more time.

Take the recent example of Paul Ince. Twenty years ago, when it was still the First Division, Ince would have been given perhaps the whole season to try and turn it around. Relegation may have caused him to lose his job, but even that wasn't a given.

To prove this point, an almost identical scenario to this took place at Newcastle 20 years ago.

They finished the 1987/88 season in eighth place, and lost their manager at the end of that season. A new manager came in that summer but his first season in charge was not good. Newcastle finished the season rock-bottom of the table, yet the manager, Jim Smith, was not sacked after six months. In fact, he stayed in charge until 1991.

What harm can this do? Well, imagine if a young Alex Ferguson were coming into the game now. Would he be given four trophyless years without being given the boot? I highly doubt it. These premature, yet necessary sackings, then, could be seeing future great managers not being given the time to shine.

Clubs, however, can't afford to take the risk anymore as the cost of relegation is too great, or the cost of failing to get into the Champions League is more than the club can handle.

Money has also caused the players who strive to get results for their managers lose touch with the fans.

It used to be that a star player would walk into a pub after a match and have a few drinks with the fans. Can you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo doing that now? Players are now seldom allowed a drink, let alone have one with fans, such is the need for them to be in perfect condition all the time.

How can the working class fans, the ones who are often most passionate about the beautiful game, relate to someone on £150,000 a week, particularly when that player is moaning at the treatment he gets.

Accompanying the Premier League since the start has been Sky TV, which has helped the ever-growing football fanbase.

Yet despite there being many positives to seeing your team play at the touch of a button, there are also many negatives.

With the clubs always pushing for more money, and charging up to and beyond £60 for a ticket to see the game, the aforementioned working class fans are going to be more inclined to pay the £20 a month to watch it on Sky.

Sure, it isn't the same, but some people just can't afford it, which kills the atmosphere in the stadiums. Even Anfield, and more particularly the Kop, is a shadow of its former intimidating self.

Of course, the TV rights bring in the factor that is both hero and villain in football—money. It is the hero to all those who make a substantial living out of the game, but a villain to those who wish to see it return to the game it once was, rather than the business it has become.

In May of this year, a swing of a 38-year-old's boot netted his club £60 million. That player was Dean Windass, scoring the winner in the Championship playoff final for Hull City.

That is the reward to those who are successful, and the loss to those who aren't. Whoever gets relegated this season will see a huge loss in funds, mainly from lack of TV coverage, and whoever is promoted will see their bank balance considerably boosted.

The likelihood of that team making major strides towards the title in their first or second season in the top flight, however, is extremely small, whereas it used to be a lot more common. Brian Clough did it with two different clubs.

The Premier League has made football in England less competitive. Only one of four clubs will win the title for the next decade or so.

But has it been a blessing or a curse for football? Well, for the players it has brought in, the excitement it provides, and the unpredictable nature of every week, it has been, in my mind, a substantial blessing.

After all, it's the best league in the world!