Neither up nor down

January 1, 2000

The title does sound a little like a song that we used to sing when we were children.

When the Grand Old Duke of York was up he was most certainly up and likewise down when he was down. It was only when he was half way up that he was neither up nor down.

The same applies to football, not only in the professional game but right down through the pyramid. Promotion and relegation is the very bedrock upon which our game is based. There were rumblings, and only rumblings, when the chairman of Bolton Wanderers wanted to propose that the Premier League should become a closed shop. It seemed to me ironic at the time, since Bolton had spent a good many seasons in the lower leagues following their glory days in the old First Division in the 1950’s

 When Bolton were causing a stir over the issue, pretty much all clubs were still led by a Board of Directors with the interests of their clubs and, football, at heart of their local community. The vast majority of clubs outside of the Premier League remain like this today as, indeed, does Bristol Rovers. The Premier League clubs have not formally discussed any such move since Bolton’s Phil Cartside proposed his two tiered structure two years ago, an idea which was soon dismissed.

A number of websites, including BBC Sport and FourFourTwo, having been running with the story about Premier League Clubs foreign owners wanting to scrap relegation in much in the same way as Bolton had mooted. The issue had been brought to the fore by the League Managers Association chief Richard Bevan who says that, in his opinion, several foreign owned Premier League clubs want to scrap relegation.

Bevan fears that if more clubs are sold to foreign investors they may have enough votes to force changes. However, the Premier League say relegation and promotion are part of its rules and add to the league’s strength. Bevan hopes that a Parliamentary inquiry into football governance would also help prevent the proposal.

“We’re very keen that the report is successful in helping the Football Association introduce a licensing programme for clubs,” he said. “There are a number of overseas owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League. If we have four or five more new owners, it could happen.”

For the record there are currently nine Premier League clubs with overseas owners and a tenth, Arsenal has Stan Kroenke as a majority shareholder. Nearly half of the Premier League’s 20 clubs are under foreign ownership, with rules stipulating that if changes are to be made to the format, 14 clubs must vote in favour of any new reforms. For Premier League promotion and relegation to be abolished, two thirds of the league’s clubs would have to vote in favour of the move. The league’s rules say Football Association permission would also be required.

The BBC Sport site has been quick to seize on the views of Wigan’s Dave Whelan. Dave is from the old school of top flight chairman who prop up their club’s position for the love of it. He has stated he would pull Wigan out of the Premier League if promotion and relegation were scrapped.

“If it was to happen I would resign Wigan from the Premier League and go back and play in the Football League,” the Wigan chairman told talkSPORT. Strong words and strong principles for sure; well said Dave, and he goes on:

“It’s a worrying thought that if we get 14 or 15 foreign owners [in the Premier League], they come up with some mad idea and it gets voted through.

“It’s got to be competitive, every club has got to have that ambition to get to th Premier League, that’s why our league is si good. It’s an appalling suggestion. It wouli ruin and kill English football.”

Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson has also said he is opposed to the idea: ” I don’t see where the end product comes in. There are at least eight teams in the Championship at the moment with great history.” Sir Alex described the idea as ‘suicide.’

Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp says scrapping relegation would be ‘scandalous’ Redknapp says; “What is the league about’ When the play offs were introduced in the Championship and in the First and Second divisions, people said we don’t want them, but they have been a fantastic thing.

“It is competition, teams trying to stay up. What is more exciting than the last day of the season when teams are looking to stay up and win the championship? You have to have promotion and relegation.”

Thanks Harry, and so say all of us.



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