Scrapping Premier League Relegation: Do You Want Yankball? Because That’s What You’ll Get!

Chris Wright

18th, October 2011


By Chris Wright

Are these two guilty of fowl play?

As you’ve no doubt heard, according to the head of the League Managers Association, a few of the Premier League’s foreign owners have been agitating for the concept of relegation from the top flight to be scrapped in favour of an uber-conservative system that keeps all 20 clubs (though which 20 that would be is anybody’s guess) and their respective bank accounts safe and sound – snug as a bug in a proverbial rug.

The fear is that, as more and more wealthy foreigners choose to piss swathes of their cash away in and around the boardrooms of the Premier League, eventually the number of owners backing this kind of reform may become sufficient for their votes to start forcing changes through – in so far as 14 clubs must vote in favour of any new reforms, with the current total of foreign owners now hovering around 10.

Of course, the wont to banish promotion and relegation isn’t an exclusive trait of foreign ownership – Bolton’s Phil Gartside ploughed a similar furrow not so long ago – and indeed many of the current non-British financiers have laughed off the idea, but it’s safe to say that the LMA have been getting a little antsy over the last couple of days.

“What are we going to do on the final day of every season Bobby? What are we GOING TO DO?”

It’s been staunchly opposed by several managers and chairman already (Dave Whelan threatened to pull Wigan out of the Premier League <insert your own jokes here>) but, from what I’ve gathered, the FA retain the power to veto all changes anyway so the likelihood of relegation being jettisoned any time soon are almost zilch.

That said, personally speaking, I’d like to know why the proposal is being given any credence whatsoever.

I just feel like I must be missing something here as it sounds utterly absurd to my untrained ears. Granted, the Premier League has been ‘all about the money’ in one capacity or another for a good long while now, but removing the threat of relegation or the promise of promotion at the end of every season would just serve to immediately neuter and sanitise the last of any semblance of sporting competition remaining in England’s top flight.

Do you want Yankball? Because that’s what you’ll bloody well get!

Which, all-in-all, sounds like the very definition of a footballing ‘dick move’ to me. The league structure ‘as is’, complete with relegation, is a truly glorious thing that serves to provide genuine excitement (even for non-interested parties and neutrals) at the arse-end of every single campaign and, what’s more, allows hundreds of clubs from all around the country play football professionally, semi-professionally and, more importantly, competitively on a weekly and seasonal basis.

Lose that vital element and you’re left saddled with little more than a perennially boring, anodyne commercial venture (I’m talking even more so than football is currently) with a vague sporting facade.

A sport where nobody goes anywhere, a sport without ‘new boys’ and ‘fallen giants’, a sport utterly void of jeopardy and with absolutely nothing to play for other than the next £multi-million stadium sponsorship deal in the next franchised city and a shiny new Audi on the drive of every first-team player every year, a ‘sport’ like – dare I say it? – American bloody Football.

It doesn’t even bear thinking about, does it?

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  1. Robin says:

    its obviously Venkys that are pushing this idea. I’m ashamed to be a Rovers fan, but we all know who it is. Pathetic.

  2. Ollie says:

    Robin has it really taken this incident to make you ashamed to be a Rovers fan?

  3. Tom says:

    I like American football! But seriously whoever proposes this idea should have their club taken away from them with no compensation. It’s clearly a bad idea and I hope it goes away never to rear it’s ugly head again.

    But yeah, if you were the Blackburn chairman, you’d want relegation scrapped now wouldn’t you. As well as maybe scrapping accurate passing, appropriate tactics and team spirit, cos it’s just not fair that other teams get to use them if Blackburn can’t.

  4. Montesquieu says:

    Just shows how little they know about the sport doesn’t it.

  5. Markell says:


    You make a bad parallel between American football and proper football. In American football, there is no concept of promotion and relegation. There is no tier below the National Football League; all you have is college football, where the best “amateur” football players go to universities and play for their varsity intercollegiate teams. The team that wins the National Championship in college football does not go up to the NFL, and the team that finishes last does not drop down; this you already know. However, the concept has never existed- the difference between the NFL and college ball being that NFL players are all paid professionals, and that only a few incredibly talented but morally bankrupt individuals are paid to play in college. Yankball would be more properly analyzed as not lacking in promotion and relegation, but more like the old rugby league/union schism, whereas one code paid their players and the other did not, and this issue of pay is why relegation and promotion is an alien one in American football. Sorry, but your analogy has to be dismissed out of hand.

    What you WOULD be more akin to, were relegations and promotions scrapped, would be the American Baseball system. In American baseball the same 32 teams play in the Major League every year. A tier below exists the AAA level, then the AA level, and then various A class teams-collectively, these are known as the Minor leagues. All players in the majors and the minors get paid, but no clubs can shuttle between sets, the minors are a feeder tank for the majors.. Sound like anything you guys have across the pond? A slight difference is that the minor league teams are affiliated with a major league one; once an amateur player is selected by, say, the New York Mets, he could be sent to one of their feeder clubs in Kingsport, Brooklyn, Savannah, St. Lucie, Binghamton, or Buffalo to polish his game. While he is at one of these clubs, he is still property of his parent club, similar to the loan system, and can be called up to the parent team at any time. Due to these comparisons, this is a better portayal of what might happen if this ludicrous idea passes muster. I know you English are quick to disparage our code (one Mancunian I know calls it “gay rugby”) but this time your disdain is misplaced.

    • Chris says:

      @Markell: What I’m saying is that American Football could have a second/third tier of smaller, aspirational pro teams (by appropriating the college sides, etc) thus introducing a hitherto absent element of mobility, fluidity and even expansion into the pro game though, granted, that would mean a complete, expensive and time-consuming overhaul of the current system. Something that just isn’t going to happen.

      As is, the same big cities host the big teams and the smaller towns and cities go without – and that’s never going to change as the pecking order is more or less stagnant.

      That said, it’s not the future of American Football that I’m concerned about here. Without trying to be inflamatory, the NFL can go down the pan as far as I’m concerned.

  6. Stewart says:

    I suppose what we’re talking about here is people who watch football only to watch the biggest clubs with the most money and the best players play each other lots of times. No, I’m not talking about the SPL, I’m talking about the people who wander into bars that have sky on and watch any big club that happens to be on. Bars pay a lot of money to screen sky, much more than normal punters, so it all starts to make sense.

  7. Redskywalker says:

    We all know this is the most ridiculous notion possible and the ramifications that would partner it. Personally I hope Blackburn are rock bottom at the end of the season and Venkys lose a ton of money with it.

    Btw, is that THE Ollie commenting above??

  8. big mean bunny says:

    The NFL has links with the Canadian league and Arena football and has the failed Europe league. They have high school football which is their version of non league in many ways in the way it has a signifcant amount of importance to small towns/areas (see Friday night lights)

  9. high as a kuyt says:

    as an american i would absolutely love to see the concept of relegation/promotion adopted into some of our professional leagues out here. the nfl is probably out of the question because as markell pointed out there isnt really a tiered system for american football (unless you count the ufl or cfl). however, if they adopted it for baseball, hockey, basketball, even for the mls it would bring a whole new dynamic to the leagues and perhaps gain them more attention (more so for the nba, nhl or mls than the mlb though.

  10. COYS says:

    as a Tottenham fan from NYC I must admit this idea is absurd and ridiculous.

  11. COYS says:


    these english guys take every opportunity to bash America and Americans for known reasons to you and me.

    they will never admit why they hate so much but we know why.

  12. Chris says:

    No fallen giants in the NFL? Clearly you aren’t a Washington Redskins fan, not that there are many of us around (even in the DC area).

    I think you should give the post season a good hard look before you dismiss it as no fun and a poor showing. It isn’t like La Liga where two MAYBE three teams fight for the first spot or the EPL where 5 teams battle it out. Very, VERY, talented but relatively “poor” teams make it through playoffs and even to the Super Bowl, while teams that are financially loaded, the Skins for example, haven’t won a ring since ’91 and haven’t made a playoff since ’07 – all of this despite the fact that they are one of the richest franchises in the world and have the staunch backing of some truly die hard fans.

    Whoah, I am venting (and on an EPL site!)…

  13. Papi says:

    No way this would ever happen.

    I think what really caught my eye is how badly Ollie scorches Robin. Made me lol, it did.

  14. […] the original post here: Scrapping Premier League Relegation: Do You Want Yankball … Related Posts:English Premier League: Foreign Owners Want End of Relegation – […]

  15. Markell says:

    Understood, mate. I just felt like it was an unfair/unnecesary correlation because if its hypothetical, conjectorial nature, mate.

    As a fan of ALL codes of football (ecxept Aussie… fuck is that shit… Anyone care to explain?) your words are like manna from heaven. You’re preaching to the choir. Relegation adds excetmend and purpose, and I WISH we had it here…

  16. Jared says:

    As someone stated above, the more apt comparison would be the baseball leagues in the States. There has been a minor league system going back to the early 1900’s (therefore, throughout the history of the sport), but without a doubt there are areas of the country that lack a natural, local following – implementing a relegation system would solve that, though it would likely cause a fracturing of larger leagues, thus eliminating any reason for doing it at all. Here’s how it would likely play out:

    Let’s say, for example, that minor league clubs were overnight made an independent entity and next season each team (starting from single A through the MLB) were to advance to the next league for the next season (similar to the F.A.). All of a sudden, those clubs would lose their money structure that was provided for under the minor league system. The smallest clubs (who play in geographic regions already), would struggle to accomodate to national travel, which would encourage splitting into smaller leagues, such as a Southern League, a West Coast League, etc.

    The United States just isn’t geographically engineered for a “national baseball league” and unless a lot of money was pumped into the smallest clubs, there’s no way it would work in the short term, which sucks because there are honestly some clubs in the MLB that need the relegation treatment. It works in England/Wales because the league’s “area” is roughly half the size of California.

  17. jon says:


    I know you are more concerned about the future of the EPL than that of the NFL and I too don’t care about the NFL nearly as much as I do about soccer (or baseball), but I have to disagree with your statements about American football.

    “A sport where nobody goes anywhere, a sport without ‘new boys’ and ‘fallen giants’, a sport utterly void of jeopardy and with absolutely nothing to play for”

    “a hitherto absent element of mobility, fluidity and even expansion into the pro game”

    You’re a Forest fan and I’m a Miami Dolphins fan and we’re pretty similar. Both teams were marginal clubs taken over by amazing coaches, Clough and Shula (both personal idols), and enjoyed periods of wild success. While Forest was conquering Europe and collecting League Cups during Clough’s 18 year reign, the Dolphins had a couple of Super Bowl victories, a perfect season in 72, and the best overall winning percentage of all American sports franchises during Shula’s 25 year reign. Then both coaches left (in the Dolphins case a hall of fame quarterback did too) and since then things haven’t been the same with Forest bouncing around between divisions and the Dolphins hovering between mediocrity and just-plain-awful. And this season it’s really bad; your team is near the relegation zone down to league 1 while my team has the worst record in the NFL.

    But this is where our stories differ (and where I find your statements about the NFL incorrect) because the ability of our teams to ever re-enter the upper echelon of teams in their respective leagues is completely different. In the current English football climate, it seems unlikely that Forest will be able to mount an EPL title challenge or even gain European qualification for quite some time, if ever, without the help of a foreign billionaire owner. The same could be said about most European teams. In general, Tottenham won’t win the EPL, Sevilla won’t win La Liga, and Udinese won’t win Serie A. The just don’t have the money or resources to challenge the richer clubs in their respective leagues. Sounds static to me.

    The Dolphins on the other hand could be good in two to three years. If we end the season with the worst record, gain the #1 pick in the draft, and select the wonderkid of all wonderkids who is the Andrew Luck, the Dolphins could finally have a good quarterback since Dan Marino retired more than a decade ago. And with some additional draft picks and shrewd personnel moves, we could see ourselves returning to the playoffs on a consistent basis. Sounds fluid to me.

    In the last decade, there are plenty of examples of ‘new boys’: Patriots, Colts, Rams, and Lions (this season) and ‘fallen giants’: Cowboys, Bills, 49ers, Raiders, and Colts (this season). On a single, given year the parity of the NFL and EPL is comparable. And in a 5 yr period there are consistently good teams and there are consistently bad teams. But those teams change over time because the weak are rewarded in the draft while the strong are punished. The draft introduces fluidity and mobility throughout the entire league while promotion/relegation introduces fluidity and mobility to only the bottom half. Each and every single team in the NFL has a realistic chance of eventually making it to the playoffs, which once there, winning it all just comes down to chance. The Patriots went from perennial basement dwellers to an out and out dynasty this past decade (see Tom Brady). Only a few teams in English football have realistic chances of eventually making it to even the Europa League. So to say American football is a sport without ‘new boys’ and ‘fallen giants’ and with a hitherto absent element of mobility and fluidity is just plain wrong. And if “Yankball” is considered a rigid sport, I don’t even know what to consider Scottish football to be.

    As for the abolishment the promotion/relegation system, it’s just a desperate attempt by Blackburn to protect an investment that they aren’t managing well enough at the moment.

    Here’s to Forest and the Dolphins returning to their former glory days.

  18. Kopite says:

    It should be noted that top division of women’s football in England (WSL) is currently ran on the franchise system. Clubs applied for a place and currently there is no promotion and relagation.

    If promotion and relegation was to be removed from the Premier League, the league would probably choose a combination of the elite teams and teams with large stadiums and fanbases. Would Blackburn Rovers make the cut? If they did not the club would be crippled and Venkeys humiliated.

    Of course, this will not happen.

  19. Fat Nakago says:

    No one has mentioned MLS.

    ((But then again, I suppose, why would they….hho1/2k)

    Relegation and promotion in American soccer would be great for the sport. It’s the element missing in America…that the rest of the world has in it’s favour.

    The problem, of course is that MLS is modeled after the NFL where all the teams are in essence franchises granted by the league.

    The New England Revolution or the Vancouver Whitecaps could finish dead-ass last ((one of them will)) but the Carolina RailHawks of the NASL will not be going up to take their place. And the Atlanta Silverbacks, as dismal as they are and were, will not be dropping down to the USl Pro to be replaced by the Orlando City SC.

    So whatever twat EPL owner who seriously wants to abolish relegation, well…maybe he should sell his team to someone who truly appreciates the game, and use his proceeds to buy an NFL franchise. THat is, if the NFL will have him, which I seriously doubt.

  20. Bear says:

    I agree with a lot of comments being said about the state of MLS as a warning sign to ridding the Premiership of relegation and promotion from the lower tiers, but I have tried fighting that issue for a while to no avail. The main problem in the MLS is that there is not enough loyalty and steady cash flow to support clubs, whether in MLS or the lower USL divisions, so poor-performing clubs can most definitely not afford to be relegated while clubs like the Railhawks don’t have the money to work within the MLS.

    Football in America just does not bring in the money that other American sports do, and consequently they are not able to revamp their system until they can be assured that the smaller USL clubs can truly hack it in the upper league.

    All in all, the state of the global economy renders these issues even more absurd nowadays, as everyone is losing money but sport owners refuse to do so. Maybe if more players followed the trend set by that Spanish bloke who gave up his salary in protest…

  21. Tinez says:

    There is always one American, amongst the majority of completely rational Americans trying to make a point, who takes this posts as some kind of shot across the bows on their way of life. Get a grip.

    The second safe-guard against this happening is TV companies. Removing the relegation and promotion race would remove, completely, the interest of the majority of football supporters in this country who don’t support 1 of the 20 teams in the premier league. This would discard the most entertaining games in the whole of the English football calendar, the championship playoffs. It would remove the massively interesting end of season relegation clashes. It would most certainly create a massive resentment against English football not just in England, by the fans of teams in lower divisions, but across Europe. There would never again be the stories associated with Wigan and Swansea, who from the grip of the abyss, have returned back into the promised land.

  22. Jeremy says:

    well um haha imagine it were to be implemented lets say the season after next.. that would be the most entertaining season ever. but what if a team… lets say Arsenal were to get relegated in the penaltumate season before this rule(not that they would)what would happen then?? all that history for nothing, and you can’t really tell the team just above them to go down a division forever just because they have a better history. if this shite rule becomes a reality there will be a civil war.

  23. prick says:

    @KOYS – these english guys simply dislike you, nothing more. so i wouldn’t worry about them. try the REST OF THE FUCKING WORLD who absolutely hate your filthy american guts for a size!

  24. MR. T says:


  25. murry1975 says:

    The Dolphins made me cry .

  26. Tinez says:


  27. chimpo says:

    @tinez- i dont know the stats but i would hazard a guess that given the popularity of man u, chelsea, liverpool and arsenal nationwide that over 50% of fans in the UK support a prem team. certainly worldwide- they would generally supprot one of those- and that’s where the real money is

    @Mr T- do you like lamp?

    to everyone else- is this really a surprise- the americanisation (and thats not meant in a derogatory sense) of the game has been happening for years- starting with sky’s coverage to the exorbitant tv rights packages.

    I wonder if its just the way of the world and that its an inevitability.

  28. Adam says:

    The Bolton Globetrotters, The Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester United’s, Stoke City Arse Pirates, and the Chelsea Bluecocks would like you to come watch Yankball. Who’s gonna win the uefa yankbowl this year? Maybe it’ll be like that brilliant time the Miami Dolphins qualified for the playoffs but then lost to that team. Exciting stuff

  29. jj says:

    Good debate but again i take the view that comparing a stagnant league system to the nfl is inaccurate. The NFL, in my view, is the most competitive sporting system in the world. Yes the teams are fixed, but in any given season there is drama and excitement. The “draft” and team rooster system ensure that. The NFL is league where talent is known and players have to be on top of their game or they simply wont have a team. The performances of the teams are never stagnant. Today the colts, who have dominated other teams for years are at the bottom of the standings and wont even make the play offs. And its the play off system and superbowl that are the equivalent of promotion and relegation for the NFL.
    The better comparison would have been the scottish premiere leaugue where two teams (Rangers and Celtic) have fought to be champions ever since I was a little boy (and I’m in my 30’s now). I dont even know the names of the other teams in that league. That is scotball.

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