A huge concern for many Premier League clubs at the moment is financial security- an increasing number of cautionary tales from Portsmouth to Coventry hint at the disasters that await cubs who live beyond their means.
Yet in the Premier League it appears increasingly difficult to achieve the perfect balance between financial and footballing success. Clubs such as Cardiff have spent gross sums -upwards of £50million -in order to even compete with those around them. Norwich spent over £26million this summer and currently sit in 16th position, deeply embroiled in a relegation scrap.
Should they go down, the accumulated costs of transfer fees, wages, utilities and overheads will weigh heavily and quite possibly veto any chance of a quick return. It is no coincidence that, in recent seasons, clubs such as Middlesborough, Bolton, Birmingham and Reading have all been relegated and since become mid-table Championship sides. Worse fates have befallen the likes of Wolves and Portsmouth, who are still tumbling down the English footballing pyramid.
The biggest problem when a Premier League club looks up the table is that no incentive exists to encourage ambition- the likes of Newcastle, Wigan, Birmingham and Swansea have all chased the glory of European football with disastrous results.
Birmingham and Wigan were relegated in the same year as they won a Cup- the next year, Birmingham failed to win promotion back to the Premier League and have since faded almost completely from the top end. Wigan are facing a similar quandary this year, with European football draining their resources and threatening their promotion bid severely.
Even for clubs still in the Premier League, the consequences of Europa League qualification seem too dire to contemplate. Newcastle were lucky to survive last season after cup distractions proved too much for the squad to handle. Swansea are facing similar problems this year, and is clearly no coincidence that Liverpool are riding high in 4th position without the distractions of Europe. And their reward could be Champions League football, where the monetary gains are in the millions, not the paltry amounts offered in the Europa League.
It is clear that no side of modest means can hope to construct a competitive squad on a Europa League budget, and in fact trying to reach this rather pointless charade will put their Premier League status at risk.
A more financially rewarding and relevant alternative needs to be found if the mid-table Premier League teams are going to remain competitive. Gifting the FA Cup winners a Champions League spot could prove a success, but could also lead to farce should a lower league club win. Currently, clubs such as Sunderland, Fulham and Norwich have no goals or purpose- the title is an impossibility, whilst even Europe, as discussed above, holds no tantalising appeal any more.
The only way is down, it would seem, and this needs to be resolved.
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