To play, or not to play? That is the question facing the Premier League right now.
With the ramping up of Project Restart, everything is pointing towards the former, albeit in soulless stadiums which could do with a little bit of cheering up. However, that decision sits on risky ground, with the league potentially just one positive coronavirus test away from calling the whole thing off.
Such an incident could lead to the 2019/20 season being scrapped, and a whopping £765m in TV revenue being refunded to broadcasters across the globe. And if that were to happen, there is a genuine risk of clubs going under quicker than you can say COVID-19.
Now to be clear, we don’t wish to see any side go out of business and board up its windows. However, given the genuine chance of it happening, we need to ask ourselves one important question: when all is said and done, which clubs could the Premier League happily live without?
It turns out there are six of them…
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1. West Ham
An athletics arena masquerading as a topflight football stadium and charging kids £700 to be their matchday mascot. Aside from that, what have the Hammers ever really offered the Premier League?
Actually, we’ll tell you one thing: the flagrant flouting of the rulebook surrounding the signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in 2006. That shady deal ultimately led to their top-flight survival on the final day of the season at Sheffield United’s expense, as Tevez fired them to victory at Old Trafford.
West Ham’s eventual punishment? A measly £18m fine (paid in instalments) while the Blades had to wait 12 years to taste the Premier League again.
How is that fair?
Their banishing from the Premier League this time around would see them face real justice for their historical transfer indiscretions. More importantly, it would finally allow Neil Warnock to sleep easy at night.
The Magpies haven’t won a meaningful trophy since their 1955 FA Cup triumph, but if there was silverware on offer for having the whiniest fanbase, the club’s trophy cabinets would be overflowing.
If St James’ Park’s stands aren’t awash with the sound of moaning about their manager, then they’re shouting abuse at the owners. And when one of those changes, it’s a case of rinse and repeat.
Although to be fair next season could be slightly different, as supporters line up to justify their new owners’ just because they bought a £60m striker. It’s not for us, so be gone, Newcastle.
To international fans and broadcasters, the Premier League is an almost mythical creation.
A maelstrom of action in buzzing cities featuring state-of-the-art stadiums with crackling atmospheres, boasting pristine pitches being graced by the most exhilarating footballers in the world.
And then there’s Burnley.
We’re sorry to say it, but we’re certain that somewhere in the Premier League’s HQ there is a grotesquely overpaid marketing officer going: “Is there any way we can get rid of them? It really doesn’t suit the brand… perhaps we can squeeze in another Manchester derby somehow?!”
Ah, Everton. One of the small handful of clubs never to have tasted Premier League relegation since its inception in 1992, but avoiding the drop is the only thing they’ve achieved in the league in the past 28 years.
They’ve offered nothing in terms of drama; never bad enough to get pulled into a genuine relegation scrap, and never consistently good enough to crack the top four recently despite heavy investment in.
Where’s the fun in watching that mediocrity repeat itself time and again?
Chelsea changed the face of the Premier League forever back in 2003 when, to quote Arsene Wenger, they began their “financial doping”. That summer, new owner Roman Abramovich bankrolled the club to superstar signings such as Neil Sullivan, Glen Johnson, Adrian Mutu… oh, and some other chaps like Claude Makelele, Hernan Crespo and Juan Veron, setting them on their way to eventual domestic and European glory.
This approach led to a seismic shift in transfer market values, and a change in clubs’ strategies forever.
Teams no longer wanted to organically grow and build a championship-winning team – it was now about being as attractive as possible to foreign investors who would spend their way to success.
It would be somewhat poetic if Chelsea were to fall and be forced to start all over again at the bottom of the football pyramid, with a now 50-year-old Sullivan in goal.
When a club’s name becomes a byword for “bottlejob”, you know you’re in trouble.
Time and again Spurs have proved themselves incapable of dealing with the pressure on the big stage, and with the Premier League being the biggest of them all, perhaps Spurs are more suited to life in the lower leagues?
With the spotlight off them, they may actually find it a bit easier to taste success and end a title drought that has lasted since 1961. Just imagine League Two football under the floodlights at that new stadium of theirs, as fans sip on upward poured pints. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
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