I wasn’t really tuned into the EPPP vote. But, having read about it, perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that people are surprised about it.
Those at the very top of the game don’t need this, of course. Theirs is just a big cash race. Player development is a fool’s game; it takes too long and is far too risky. The next 14 Premier League clubs, however, are so laden with debt and are such brittle businesses; anything that skews the game in their favour, protecting them from external competition, has got to be a good thing. It’s not so much a question of buying success, or even being greedy, it’s just a question of survival.
Do the rest of us suffer? In a sense, if we use the top of the Premier League as our reference point for success. But the quality gap is insurmountable anyway. As a rule of thumb, it’ll cost half a billion pounds to touch the top of the Premier League. To be a successful Premier League club, we would have to corrupt ourselves, change our identity.
So, why do we use it as a reference point? The more detached that the Premier League becomes, in a sense, the better it is for us. OK, we’ll never threaten the very top of the game, but so what? Once the Premier League money-race finally divorces itself from the rest of the sport, either through EPPP or by removing promotion or some other nefarious means, then the rest of the sport can readjust and carry on in a healthier – more competitive – state.
The success of football’s business model over the last century has been in its overall competition, not in the success of any individual club. Since the Premier League has come into being, it’s been open warfare, destroy one club in order to make another. Manchester City’s thrashing of Manchester United on Sunday was a pretty hollow victory because it only proved what we already know – money gives you success. We don’t need football to prove that. In that context, football is a complete waste of time.
Do you know the difference between a nationalist and a patriot? A nationalist loves his country and hates all others. A patriot loves his country, but doesn’t hate all others. The Premier League are the nationalists of football – they want to destroy others. The rest of us are the patriots. I don’t want to win promotion by changing the rules to ensure we destroy everyone else, I want to win by being the best at football in the division.
Saturday’s defeat to Gillingham was, of course, galling. And we slipped to 7th as a result. A season in a competitive league is an epic story fraught with peril and potential disaster, but equally, it’s full of hope and excitement. Crawley aside, League 2 is a truly competitive division based on sporting endeavor. I’d much rather League 2 uncertainty than Premiership hegemony. Of course, we all crave certainty, we would love to know that we’ll go up. But if we did, we’d be much poorer for it. Bring on the rollercoaster.