Why do we accept the hierarchy of football clubs?

architecture design floor football

Another post on some on football-related questions. The first one can be found here.

When Liverpool have a decent player, it seems inevitable that they will move to Real Madrid (Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and most regrettably Xabi Alonso),  Barcelona (Luis Suarez, Philipe Coutinho) or perhaps now Manchester City (Raheem Sterling).

Why are some clubs allowed to be so entitled and collectively allow this hierarchy to be embedded in our collective psyche? Why do we anoint a “Top 6” in the Premier League like it is a fixed thing?

It seems odd to me that we collectively accept that Morecambe Town or even Southampton will never reach the top of the pile.

Indeed, all the systems and structures around the game almost ensure that this will always be the case. We accentuate and further embed the hierarchy with a financial system that pays more the higher you finish. We allow marketing to ensure that the biggest clubs have access to the most fans and so the most money. We then link access to talent to wealth such that only a few clubs can afford the best players and smaller clubs cannot hold on to anyone with promise. We create “seedings” and “automatic qualifications” to ensure the biggest teams stay in tournaments until the end.

Even regulations perpetuate the elite:  Financial Fair Play stops the possibility of “financial doping”, the last remaining hope of challenging the hierarchy. Manchester City- or Chelsea-like spending is much harder now than it ever was.

Competition is ever decreasing. Most clubs know roughly where they will finish next season. Only 6 clubs truly have an aspiration to win the Premier League. Leicester’s incredible once-in-a-generation title win a couple of years ago was a considered a 5,000/1 shot (in a twenty team league) back then and the odds for a triumph of a newly promoted team are even wider now than they were then.

Globalisation means that European competition is dominated by the same few clubs that win leagues in England, Spain, Germany and France (interesting chart about halfway down this page if you’re interested.

Surely we should reverse this to stem the tide of ever decreasing competitiveness in the sport? Will there not come a point where people will switch off if there is no chance their team will win the league? Or will we just end up with each of us supporting one of the Big Six?

Even the ultra-capitalistic Americans have a socialist sporting system.

Then again, what is football but a mirror on society: the wealthier getting wealthier and the poor getting poorer. The wealthy then engaging in “charity” (my own club recently allowed all of the proceeds from a friendly with a local team much lower down the division to be kept by that club as a gesture) as if that makes the system ok.

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1 Comment

  1. Its like ‘trickle-down soccernomics’! Whilst the moral compass of the system is firmly pointed towards capitalism, the inequality will always remain. The system will always point to the marketplace as being the ultimate arbiter of price, as it is supposedly ‘fair’. But as you say, the inequality is perpetuated by the system, with each club understanding its position in the food chain and players working their way up to the bigger clubs.

    All the while competition is ruined (apart from the Big 6) and the tie to a football club becomes less heartstrings…and more pursestrings.

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