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Phil Gartside's Two-Tiered Premier League Proposal: Is It a Good Thing?

Bobby ChewContributor IMay 5, 2009

Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside, an influential member of the Football Association board, has put together a blueprint that is being circulated among key figures within the game.

Gartside’s blueprint proposes two Premier League divisions, each with 18 teams, promotion and relegation for two clubs between the divisions, and relegation from the second division to the Football League.

A winter break and also the possibility of two Scottish clubs to join Premier League Two are among the recommendations of the document.

At first glance, this is clearly an attempt to preserve Premiership status and the associated financial benefits for clubs outside of the "Big Four." Let's face it, any club other than the Big Four, run the risk of being relegated. This revamp of the Premier League system will definitely cushion the blow of relegation, both financially and football-wise.

I can think of three reasons why this proposal should be accepted:

1. Increased Revenue

According to the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, the Premier League reported £1.5b in revenues for the 2006/2007 season and was estimated to reach £1.9b for 2007/2008 season. In contrast, the Championship clubs (conceivably those eligible for "Premier League Two" status) reported only three percent growth in revenue, to £329m for 2006/2007.

More worrying is that wage increases within Championship clubs are at 14 percent, which would indicate a net loss for most clubs in the league. This disparity must be addressed, otherwise more clubs will go bankrupt, in the same way as Southampton, Leeds, and Luton.

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It must be remembered that football clubs existed initially as a social club and have deep roots in British society. The amount of clubs going into administration (about 17 so far) is alarming and should be addressed.

With a two-tier Premier League, more clubs could be a part of the gravy train, thereby reaping the financial rewards to build a sustainable future for themselves.

Clubs would also benefit from the increased TV revenue that would come with the expansion from 20 to 36 teams. This bootstrap effect will also pull up the revenue earning power of the so-called Championship clubs, putting them in a much stronger financial position, and eliminating the chasm in financial muscle over time.

2. Increased CompetitionBreaking the Big Four Monopoly

This is a no brainer. With the increased riches (okay, the Big Four will get richer) clubs will be able to build a capable squad.

The intent, over some years, is for clubs like Cardiff and Birmingham City to compete with the bigger clubs. Yo-yo teams like WBA and Sunderland will have the time and finances to develop and build talent, while supplementing the team with the right experienced, quality signings to enable these teams to compete effectively with the bigger clubs.

The arrivals, albeit controversial, of Rangers and Celtic will no doubt provide added star quality and intensify the competition within this new proposed blueprint.

Even the Scottish Premier League will flourish as the likes of Hearts, Aberdeen, and Dundee United could experience Champions League action and profit from it. 

The gap in quality between the Big Four and the other clubs will be reduced over time, resulting in a more vibrant and exciting Premier League.

3. No More Fixture Congestion

With a proposed 18 teams rather than 20, there will be a reduction of four matches a season, about a month's rest.

Whinging managers who blame their team's poor form on fixture congestion will not be able to do so anymore.

This reduction in fixtures might persuade other managers to shift their thoughts and efforts in forging an extended run in domestic cup and/or UEFA Cup competition. The indirect effect of this two-tiered Premier League will be the same dominance in the UEFA Cup as is currently prevalent in the Champions League.

In conclusion, I firmly believe this blueprint will benefit English and Scottish football.

The question is, would at least 14 Premier League clubs see things the same way as I did?

One thing's for sure, I would miss the always exciting, always busy Christmas fixtures, which typically separate the title challengers from the mid-table dwellers.

Still, British football will benefit from this move and we, the football fans, will continue to enjoy the best league in the world.

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