Sunday, 30 November 2008

MOTD 2 MOTD 0 or why the Premier League needs a rethink

I watched both Saturday and Sunday night's Match Of The Days and amid the one-too-many action replays and so-what analysis, it dawned on me: what a load of bloody rubbish most of the Premier League is becoming!
And it was so apparent this week with none of the big four playing till Sunday.

Adrian Chiles' MOTD2 led with two of the most enticing fixtures of the season, Chelsea against Arsenal and the Manchester derby, Robinho v. Ronaldo. Neither disappointed. The brilliant van Persie put Blues to the sword in minutes, and Ronnie's Red Card for handballing a corner only builds his myth as one of football's great entertainers!

But Gary Lineker's Saturday Obligation hobbled on for hours starring Villa's latest goalless failure to break the top three by beating a London suburb and Boro and Newcastle's local difficulty so dull I doubt it'll even make their local backpages. As for Sunderland, Roy Keane looked as lost Mark Thatcher on a Matzo Ramble, making Bolton look far better than they are.

The falling standard below about sixth place is rather like watching an ageing fat man who can't keep his expanding waistline inside the straining belt of his trousers. In other words, the lean quality is concentrated more and more to the top of the league with gravity taking care of the flabby bits after years of neglect.

Clubs lower down are employing journeymen and have-a-go managers making a virtue of their also-ran incompetence - purely because it's badged as Premier League.

No wonder attendances are down. It's not just the recession. The entertainment's not worth the entrance fee.

We can all jump round the room lauding marvellous Hull City's Premier League sortees - but their draw at Stoke was a catalogue of route one, long throws, gamesmanship and a stadium full of Championship fans who know the party can't last.

It's crap and seasoned-watchers aren't fooled.

Once upon a time when money and power wasn't concentrated to the perennial Champions League qualifiers, the riches of the new league filtered through so that even Middlesbrough got to sign Ravanelli and Juninho, Shearer fulfilled his boyhood dream of playing for Newcastle and Fulham signed van der Sar.

None of that happens these days. The Premier League's summit is a protectionist racket - and the only thing that stops it from being a cartel is that the standard is so universally ordinary at the wrong end that even newly promoted clubs can stay up. In other words, anyone of the bottom eight could be relegated.

The Premier League came about after years of in-fighting and attempts at reorganization, and it worked spectacularly.

But now, it's in need of re-invigoration if it's to continue its progress:

1) Distribution of Champions League revenue would do the trick.
2) Personally, I think the 39th game would be brilliant for interest both here and worldwide
3) a draft system where the best European teenagers don't always end up at The Emirates.

A pro-active rethink is needed - otherwise the Premier League's star may fall.


  1. Fully of interesting points and passionately argued. The FA Cup and League Cup thew up interesting surprises last season but the Premier League is becoming ever more predictable. The top is protected and the remainder very largely banal. Your proposals are certainly fresh and original but sadly unlikely to be realised. Great blog, Jonny.

  2. MOTD2 gets the tasty prospects which Sky chooses to televise so there are more local derbies and top of the table clashes. Also, in comparison with Saturday's MOTD, MOTD2 is shorter, snappier and fronted by a genuine broadcaster as opposed to an ex-footballer turned painfully bland presenter. Also, you're right on the money about the dross that makes up the majority of the premier league.

  3. I think you summed it up pretty accurately Jonny. I would just like to add how sad it is to see so few Englishmen playing in the premier league. So much money is spent on bringing youth through the academies. Are their chances going to come or is middle eastern investment going to rule the roost. I think there should be some law stating that each club should play at least five Brits each game. Being a Man City fan I think it highly unlikely. Any thoughts guys?

  4. Thanks Anonymous. Manchester City are the kings of youth right now and how refreshing that their academy of English kids beat off Chelsea's tween millionaires to lift the cup last season. As I stated in a previous entry tipping Arsenal and Villa to be the main beneficiaries of the credit crunch in years to come, aspirationals like City, Spurs and Everton would be wise to invest in youth because in the currency of talent, their stock will rise. Less money circulating round the game will ensure it. We still need top foreign talent in the game as it raises the bar and maintains interest. Our PL would be poorer without Ronnie, Robinho and Anelka but stronger mixed up with talented youngsters like Ireland, Ashley Young and Gareth Bale.

  5. I agree with most of what you say, but I really can’t see the 39th game being a success. It’s precisely because everything else you say is true that it wouldn’t work out. Here are my reasons:

    1.) Manchester Utd and Liverpool will draw in huge crowds in many parts of the world. Arsenal and Chelsea don’t have such huge followings, but they’d probably generate enough interest to justify a match abroad. Beyond that the interest is pretty minimal. Let’s take some of last weekend’s Premier League matches for example: Will crowds in Bangkok rush to buy tickets for Stoke V Hull? Or Wigan V West Brom in Johannesburg? It’s hard enough persuading people from Wigan to part with their money most of the time for the reasons you describe- what chances have such unglamorous fixtures got of succeeding in other parts of the world?

    2.) The whole purpose of a league is that every team plays each other home and away ONCE during the course of a season. It’s more-or-less a level playing field (you can’t do much about injuries and suspensions, or lack of squad depth, however). If your team lost the league because your 39th game was played against a tougher team than the side that won it, how would you feel? How can this possibly be made fair? Football is so subjective anyway- this would inevitably lead to legal wrangling.

    I am just about old enough to remember a time before the Premier League, and it wasn’t entirely pleasant. I remember ITV not starting their coverage until November, and them not showing a regular Saturday night highlights programme, even though they had the rights to do so. A Mr Greg Dyke also signed a contract with the “big 5” clubs of the time, agreeing to focus most of the coverage on them, which inevitably irritated the rest of the league.

    When the Premier League first started, it seemed colourful, innovative and exciting. The shine started to go at around the turn of the millennium and it’s got steadily worse since then. This “win ugly” mentality that exists with so many clubs in the bottom half is a huge turn-off, to the extent where I often find myself enjoying lower-league football far more.

  6. Hey, Jonny, nice blog. In Holland, we see Adrian Chiles on The One Show and laugh alot at him. He is most ugly for sure but supposedly he likes his co-presenters and they say he leaves his wife to bang Christine Blinkley good. It is so funny to watch him keep touching her arm supposedly by accident on The One Show? What a naughty ugly boy! On MOTD2, that co-presenter, Lee Dixon, must be very hot under the collar for sure!! Haha!


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