Michael Bailey: EFL rebels and their threats may be facing a bumpy ride
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey recounts football’s financial gorging wonders what the EFL rebels’s next move will be.
It’s the goal, of course. One thrown into a little more light by some revelatory Norwich City form this season.
The Premier League was once dubbed by someone no doubt in marketing as ‘the promised land’, English football’s top table and other monickers – all geared towards driving the perception that getting out of the Championship is to escape the doldrums. Or to use Sky Sports terminology: “the wilderness”.
Bizarrely I’m yet to see them use the same tagline on their own comprehensive, multimillion-pound EFL coverage. I guess they’re waiting for the second half of the season.
Looking at it now, angst at Sky’s use of language may be part of the reason why 15 of the EFL’s biggest clubs have railed against their latest TV deal – a five-year contract due to start from next season, that offers a bit more money to all clubs throughout the Football League’s three tiers as well as the EFL Cup.
A bit more isn’t enough though – especially for Leeds, Aston Villa and Derby; all of whom will feel their value deserves more; according to reports, they also feel other broadcasters are willing to pay.
While the exact definition of supporting the rebels’ cause is far from straightforward, Norwich City are reportedly among those 15 clubs – as they were in support of the Premier League when it broke away from the Football League in 1992. Clubs vote in their own interests – to expect anything else, especially as a collective force, is just naive.
The new Sky deal was agreed last year and set to be finalised at the end of October – but it didn’t happen, and now the rebel clubs have been given until Monday at 4pm to fall into the line.
The EFL already has enough clubs across its three tiers to sign the deal, but it’s the threat of a breakaway league that’s causing the concern and focusing minds.
The Premier League would have to agree to any proposals, and the ability to earn promotion from a new league into the top-flight. General consensus says they don’t like the idea of a Premier League Two or similar. Stating the threat is one thing, for the rebel clubs to work through their threat may be another task entirely.
Some of their concerns are flagged as legitimate – such as Sky’s red button service and its threat to matchday attendances. But given Leeds (and Eleven Sports TV streaming website) owner Andrea Radrizzani believes ditching the 3pm TV blackout is a necessity, it’s hard to picture him campaigning for the wellbeing of EFL ticket-paying supporters.
No doubt the feelings of League One and Two clubs towards the EFL rebels, are similar to how most of football feels towards the European ‘super’ clubs that have been planning their own continental breakaway – effectively ditching all traditional competition for a yearly invitational league.
Accompanying that course of events is the complex morality of financial fair play.
But nothing shows how much football is eating itself compared to the preposterous proposal of Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, that all Premier League clubs should each send a £250,000 golden handshake to departing top-flight executive chairman Richard Scudamore – £5m that any one of us could spend on something 5m times more worthwhile.
Such a level of disconnect with reality and respect is only mitigated by football’s intoxicating nature.
It’s our love of the game as supporters that gets used and abused as tacit support for such brazen acts of grotesque opulence, so out of kilter with the rest of our country’s issues. It’s indefensible.
Whether such stories and the thought of being smashed 6-0 by Manchester City and Liverpool, alongside earning the odd win every 10 games still makes the Premier League the promised land, is a debate for another day.
And there is no denying the severity of the current Championship impasse.
At the same time and for the EFL’s rebels, for their own good they will do well to avoid looking like financial charlatans themselves in the weeks ahead.
• What a Championship table we can enjoy this international break, with Norwich City top of the pile.
That said, the fact the Canaries are top is not the most pleasing bit. It’s the tally of 10 wins from 17 games. It’s the improving goal-difference. And it’s especially the gaps to teams further down the top half.
Such platforms can prove resolute – but only if you have what it takes to build on them. It’s poised to be one hell of a Championship campaign as we find out.
To underline the point, while Norwich sit top by two points with 33 from their opening 17 games, the summits of Leagues One and Two are also worth a look.
The third tier is led by Portsmouth on 38 points from 17, with Sunderland second on 35 – and with a game in hand.
Lincoln lead League Two heading into the weekend on 36 points from 17 games, with MK Dons behind on 34.
Interestingly, in all three divisions it’s currently 28 points that will get you in or on the verge of the play-offs.
In an ideal and positive world, we’ll see Norwich City kick on and become the leaders other divisions are enjoying.
But then, this is the Canaries and the Championship we’re talking about.
• So Wayne Rooney reliving past glories by getting another run out in an England shirt? Nope, it hasn’t really floated my boat either.
But in fairness, with the Wayne Rooney Foundation using the occasion to raise money for its charitable causes, it’s on a different planet to some of those other football stories this week – so fair play. Maybe Mr Scudamore could make a donation.
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