English Football

Premier model not the answer, but what’s the solution?

RadfordThe English Premier, we are told, is the envy of the rest of the world. Funnily enough, English clubs have been conspicuous once more by their absence in the latter stages of the two European competitions this month. As Game of the People has reported on a number of occasions, the English Premier is certainly the best MARKETED league in Europe, but it may not be the best on the field of play.

Increasingly, football fans are wondering if hype is getting the better of the EPL. And with the English national league seemingly doing little for the development of young players, people are recognising that talent for the national team is being choked off.

Carolyn Radford, Chief Executive Officer of Mansfield Town, believes a more equal distribution of top talent will not only create a more competitive EPL, but will also feed the England team. In an interview with Touchline TV, Radford cites the example of Chelsea’s Patrick Bamford as a case of youth not being given opportunity and merely being sent on loan to clubs lower down the ladder. In Bamford’s case, he is scoring goals at Middlesbrough, not Chelsea.

The lack of competitiveness in the English Premier manifests itself in the form of a near static top four in the Premier era, adds Radford. Prior to this season, the top four over the previous 10 seasons comprised just seven clubs, with just three champion clubs.

How does this compare to past decades? Between 1992-93 and 2003-04, for example, 10 clubs occupied the top four places, with just three champions. In the 1980s, 13 clubs enjoyed a top four berth, with four title winners and in the 1970s, it was 15 teams and six champions. Go back further and the 1960s yielded 15 top four clubs and eight champions.

Radford’s interview, while bold in calling for a more democratic game, offers little in the way of a remedy. Bringing youth to the fore is one thing, and undoubtedly deserves its chance, but with the English game so inter-connected with European leagues and managers rarely lasting the term of their contracts – and therefore never looking beyond quick fixes – the train has already left the station. What has effectively happened over the past decade is that, like so many things in Britain, the erosion of national identity has also affected football clubs. The top Premier clubs are not English, they are international concerns – teams of hired guns drawn from all over Europe, indeed the world.

As an example, over the past five years Chelsea have signed players from around 50 senior clubs. Of those, only 10 have been signed from Premier clubs. They have been drawn from Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands among others.

Can it change? People like Radford hope so, but the only way it is likely to shift from a flawed model is through a disaster happening. That could be bankruptcy, World Cup failure, TV money drying up or supporter action (an unlikely scenario). It makes no sense that teams like Chelsea have youth teams full of overseas players. It is not good for the national team to have no raw material to play with. The question is, “who runs football these days?”. The answer is to be found somewhere between Russia, the Middle East, Asia and the corporate boardrooms of sportswear manufacturers in Europe.

Touchline TV’s interview with Carolyn Radford, which is well worth a look, can be found here

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