The Gartside Plan
Exciting news from the glamorous world of Bolton Wanderers, where chairman Phil Gartside is worried about the influence of foreign chairmen in the Premier League. His solution to things getting out of hand is for the FA to better protect British owners, a salary cap for clubs and an exciting two-tier Premier League of 18 teams each.
This is where he loses me slightly. Aside from the basic contradiction in terms inherent in the concept of a “Premier League 2″, I can’t help feel that Gartside leaves a lot unsaid. Would each Premier League carry the same weight? Would there be a play-off? Would every second game be in Bahrain? I’m assuming that Bolton Wanderers would be in Premier League 1 under this framework, but that’s all I’m certain about.
Well, that and the fact I hate this plan with vehemence. His other suggestion – that there would be no relegation from (and therefore no promotion into) Premier League 2 – is the clarion call of the Premier League football club owner at the moment. His argument that all three relegated clubs are always promoted straight back again under the current system is simply not backed up by the facts and also neatly sidesteps the fact that just a handful of seasons ago, his own club were one of those natty yo-yoing interlopers. It’s like an immigrant who comes to the UK and, upon being granted residence and citizenship, joins the BNP. Now I’m in, let’s keep the rest of the grubby buggers well away from me.
The problem with Gartside’s plan is that it seemingly does not appreciate the irony in trying to guard against elites owning Premier League clubs whilst at the same time denying anybody else the chance of ever becoming one. Foreign ownership of Premier League clubs is a concern, as we will find out just the second one of the sugar daddies loses interest and a great old club somewhere goes to the wall. But I don’t see how a the creation of a 36-team top flight where even the worst teams are guaranteed permanent residence is going to put off new buyers from coming and playing a game of Real Life Championship Manager.
To be fair to Phil Gartside, I have decided to outline what I think should be the structure of the English League, so he too can shoot me down in flames. Five divisions, named the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Divisions, with promotion and relegation to and from each. 18 clubs in the First, Second and Third Divisions, 20 in the Fourth and Fifth. The non-league structure to be left as it is, it being the only part of the organised game currently in England which can be anything like trusted to look after itself properly. The League Cup to become an under-23 competition. All prospective club chairman have to pass the Gregg’s Fit and Proper Person test by speed-eating pasties, sausage rolls and steak slices. Phil Gartside to be given a crown and a throne, and carried round the perimeter of the pitch at each Bolton home game, whilst the ball boys (are they called this now? Mid-game Ball Replacement Operatives?) wave palm leaves.
That ought to do it.