James, aka the Blogging Prodder, had a few thoughts on the end to the football season in England. He writes:
I'm not a fan of the game so I suppose I have no right to talk about it. However, I find it odd that a team that comes third in a division gets promotion and a slap on the back whereas the team coming 7th gets a trip to Wembley and a trophy. Of course, it's all about money and the FA must have an awfully large debt to pay after building their new stadium.Winning the league, or clinching promotion via an automatic place, is often an anti-climax. The likely outcome may well have been known for weeks or months, and the excitement just isn't there. Compare Leicester City's title this season with that of Manchester City's title win of 2012. Not only were Leicester City not on the field when they won it, but they still had two matches to go. They had led the table from January 16th, so the drama would have been had they not won the title. Manchester City's title came in slightly different circumstances of course, and with the twist of depriving their city rivals of the title they thought was theirs (sorry Baz). There should be a formula for this, something along the lines of EXCITEMENT LEVEL = DESIRED OUTCOME / TIME ELAPSED SINCE DESIRED OUTCOME BECAME ODDS-ON.
James mentions 7th place and a trip to Wembley, so he is referring to AFC Wimbledon, a team I saw play my son's former team (Chipstead) when they started life in the Combined Counties League in 2002 (level 9 of the English Football league system. They have come a long way in 14 seasons. I should clarify that my son was 11 at the time, and wasn't yet in the first team. So yes, again the "play-offs are not fair" shouts are heard, with AFC Wimbledon finishing 10 points behind 4th placed Accrington Stanley, but the play-offs aren't about being fair. They are about keeping the season interesting for longer, and about offering a dramatic finish with a final at Wembley. I'm sure the additional revenue for Wembley helps, but play-off finals have been one-off matches since 1990 and as a Crystal Palace fan, I love the play-offs. For supporters, there's no better way to gain promotion, especially into the Premier League. One game, winner takes (almost) all.
As Leicester is the nearest EPL team to where I live I did pay some attention to them this season. I don't think their winning the EPL was a "freak". Personally, I think it will be more common with all the TV money flowing in. Regardless of what the "hardcore fan" thinks it is what the owners think that matters and for them coming fourth in the EPL is more important than winning a Victorian throwback FA Cup or even coming first in the EPL. Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Leicester will be entering revised incomes streams into their data models.I stand by my use of the word "freak" which is defined as "a very unusual and unexpected event or situation." I would say that a 5,000-1 win fits that definition, and although the Premier League's wealth distribution is more equitable (with its equal rights TV share) than it could be, the big boys still have an advantage. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United all made more money from the Premier League last season than champions Leicester City who made £90 million. But they made £72 million last season, so winning the league didn't exactly make a huge difference. What's £18 million between friends these days? While I like the idea that a club can only have 11 players on the field at one time, I really don't see the miracle of Leicester City's win being repeated any time soon. The dominance of the 'super-clubs' shows no sign of ending. of I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this though. Football was a lot more interesting when I first discovered it.
Also, Leicester put paid to the nonsense about "soulless bowls". I've never heard such noise from an EPL team. More than in your trad four sheds. Mind you on the day Leicester received its EPL trophy the crowd was not as raucous as the rest of the season. I suppose it was the English reserve kicking in again.
The Emirates Stadium is referred to as a library but you could quite happily read a book in peace at just about any EPL stadium this season. Talking of being otherwise engaged I found it rather amusing when, at the beginning of the Champion's League final, the cameras were trained on the assembled UEFA and FIFA élite in their corporate box. To a man their heads were bowed as they examined the screens of their mobile phones and not paying the slightest attention to a game they supposedly govern. Still, I was glad that Blatter and Platini were not there. Public executions for halftime entertainment? It would make up for a bore-draw.
Apparently James has yet to visit Selhurst Park, where the Holmesdale Fanatics lead the constant singing, wave the fags, and bang the drum whether Palace are winning, drawing or (rather too often) losing and book reading there is most certainly not an option. As fellow Palace fan Jim Daly (not James) wrote recently
A lot of that has been thanks to the Holmesdale Fanatics, a small group of fans who took it upon themselves to recreate the "ultra" atmosphere often seen on the continent.
And it has worked. Their chants, drumming, banners and enthusiasm has swept around the ground and encouraged those who might before have politely clapped along to get on their feet and sing -- at home and away.
A real club, with real supporters. Wouldn't have it any other way. As for the UEFA and FIFA élite, I guess big matches are just another day in the office for them. It all goes back to my Cup Final post and the downside of perennial success - it gets boring. The public loves the underdog - unless he's named Donald Trump.
What is most definitely not boring, are the NBA Finals, this year in a 2-2-1-1-1 best of seven format.
A nice start to the finals with the Warriors winning a low scoring game 104-89. Game 2 will be higher scoring. And closer.