Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Great Sport, A Boring League

At The Daily Hurt, we focus mainly on the basketball world, but with the Olympics over and the NBA season still a good two months away, we're going to cast an eye over some of the other sports and leagues around the world, some of which have already started their 2008-09 season.

Today, we're going to have a look at football.

Depending on where you were brought up, football is soccer or soccer is soccer. Get it ? Whatever you call it, I'm talking about the sport David Beckham plays. For the purposes of this blog, we'll refer to it as football.

Football truly is the only "World" game. From Africa to Asia to Europe and the America's, no other sport unites the entire planet like it.

One of the most popular football leagues in the world is England's Premier League.

It's easy to see why. You only need to mention "Manchester United" to almost anyone to evoke either an angry snarl or a pumped fist. You either love 'em or hate 'em.

That's the way it usually happens when one team wins all the time. Long periods of dominance leads to jealousy but also boredom, especially when the team dominating has resources and tools which other teams have no access to.

And when it comes to success, Man Utd is in a class of its own.

Since English football adapted the "Premier League" in 1992, Man U have won the title 10 times in 16 seasons. That's a lot of winning and an enviable record. Only three other teams (Arsenal, Chelsea & Blackburn) have won the league, one of them (Blackburn in '95) only once.

The "Premier League" should be renamed the "Elitist League".

It rewards the rich teams, while the poorer ones have to feed off scraps. The richer teams also have no interest in levelling out the playing field either. And, as there is no salary cap, the gulf between the teams will only become greater.

Just as Man U have few challengers on the pitch, they have just as few off it, financially. Chelsea has a billionaire Russian owner and Liverpool do alright, but apart from that, it's really only Arsenal and Newcastle that has what could be considered 'wealth'.

Let's look at Chelsea for example. Prior to 2003 when Roman Abramovich brought his roubles to West London, they were already considered a team reasonably well off. They weren't in Man U's class, but they weren't pauper's either.

Abramovich has pumped more than half-a-billion quid into the team and they have since won the premiership twice and been runners up twice in five years. In other words, you can buy success if you're rich enough. If not, tough.

What's the point of that ? What hope do the teams who have to make do on the more traditional means of income such as gate receipts and shirt sales have to compete ?

The competition for the title is dead boring, yet whenever Man U win it, they talk about how great an achievement it has been.

It's sad because throughout the premiership season, there is always some spectacular goals and games, that is without question. But the problem is, that no matter how exciting these games are, most of the teams are playing for survival, without any realistic hope of winning the actual title.

Just ask fans of Middlesborough, Tottenham or Aston Villa. The most passionate will no doubt delude themselves into thinking that their time will come, but it won't. Ever. An FA Cup is the best they can aim for.

The only hope they have is that a billionaire somewhere in the world will decide to pump their money into one of these clubs. But, if any billionaire felt investing into one of those teams was a good investment, then they wouldn't be a billionaire in the first place, if you catch my drift.

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