Lately there has been a lot of talk about turning the Premier League into a “closed shop”, and about the Elite Player Performance Programme, which could hurt smaller clubs.
Duncan Alexander is Britain’s leading football statistician; The head of UK editorial & media at Opta (and a Wycombe Wanderers supporter) painted a grim picture of the future on his Twitter account: “Welcome to the future”, he wrote: “Regional, part-time lower leagues with teams full of loaned youth players from PL clubs and no promotion”.
It sounds as if he is not pleased with that future, but the idea of having 20 or 40 top teams (in two top leagues), spread across the country and supported by their near-by communities – isn’t all bad.
Small clubs will still have a meaning in this brave new world – to be “farm teams”.
Regional leagues will be filled with teams from local towns and villages, with the local lads all working and hoping to qualify for the “big team”.
These teams can live from local sponsors and would thrive depending on their connections to local communities. The more connected a team will be to its community, the better, more successful in the regional league it will be.
The big professional leagues would get the world interested, and with proper American regulation (like salary caps and revenue sharing) could become a huge commercial success – much more than today. European regulation like “solidarity payments” can lead to prosperity of grass-roots football.
Historical teams like Notts County won’t disappear, but change function. They will find themselves protected from big foreign money, becoming more communal, while finally putting an end to the delusional suffering of hopelessly trying to reach the Premier League.
Teams could still be promoted and relegated, but like in the U.S they will have to prove their worth before entering the league. Teams who have done badly over a period time – will lose their professional status.
In short, a clear distinction between professional and amateur football is better for the sport.
By the way, there are only 36 professional clubs in Germany (population of 80 million). England (population of 51 million) has a whopping total of 92 professional clubs. It’s not bad for German football, is it?