Apologies if I state the bleedin obvious, but…
Take a little longer than usual to run you eye over the Premier League table – albeit still with that one game to go – and you can’t help but feel that it is becoming ever more dysfunctional.
It’s the gap between Liverpool in seventh and West Bromwich Albion in eighth that ought to set the alarm bells ringing somewhere – but won’t.
Ten points separate the two teams and with the Baggies looking as if they were firmly on the beach last weekend and playing host to Manchester United this weekend – as Liverpool entertain long-doomed QPR – so you can’t help but wonder whether that margin might not be 12 points before the season ends.
There is also, of course, the small matter of that United game being Sir Alex’s final one in charge; I can’t see anyone denying him one final victory. So let’s work on that basis – that the 2012-2013 Premier League season will end with a dozen points between the top seven teams and the rest.
That is a huge gap between the have-a-lots and the have-utter-buckets – the only exception to the ‘rule’ as such being the continuing magnificent efforts of Everton; to be in that top seven on the shoe-string finances available at Goodison is one of the reasons that David Moyes won’t be at Goodison next season.
And why – in many a likelihood – minus his influence, the gap next year will be between the top six clubs and the other 14.
Who realistically is going to find another four or five wins in their locker to bridge that gap? Given that the top six will be ever more richer next season than they were this.
Are Newcastle the club that, by rights, should be in that top echelon? Really?
I think the summer could prove long and uncomfortable for Alan Pardew.
But of the rest, who can bridge the gap?
And it is an important question – because it ensures that the 14-strong mini-league come 2013-14 will be just as ugly, just as desperate and just as unappealing as it was, by and large, this.
The stand out games tend to be those against the top six or seven clubs; invariably they end in defeat – every once in a while, however, a beauty emerges from the beastliness of the rest. Something that you can actually describe as entertainment.
But, for me, that’s the challenge facing the Premier League – if they really care about levelling the playing field up and hoping for rather more entertaining fare to serve up to its global customer base something needs to change.
So, with that in mind, here’s a thought.
I’ve always thought that the American draft pick system was a good idea. In that the teams that finished bottom of any division got first dibs when it came to picking the best the colleges had to offer.
With a wage cap also in place, it tends to keep the playing field rather more level than it is here. The talent is spread out. It is the same thought process that gets the pace car out on their oval racing circuits – to bunch the cars back up again to make it more entertaining for the paying punters.
On the basis that there are too many entrenched interests to agree to a wage cap in the Premier League, how about divvying up the positional prize money in reverse order?
Those clubs at the top of the table are already picking up their prize bonuses in the shape of Champions League revenue, so why not give the club that finishes 20th the most money and then slide the scale down incrementally to the club that finishes first – who, in the case of either Manchester club, need more money the least?
You could, therefore, do away with the ‘parachute payments’ for falling into the depths of The Championship; instead give the club that finished 20th the means to re-finance themselves off a reversed positional prize pot.
Relegation in itself will keep things incentivised in terms of doing your best to avoid the drop; but this way people can at least hope for one summer in which maybe – just maybe – the playing field can be levelled a little way.
Keep things as they are and the slog that was the back half of this season – one that was repeated across the country, no doubt – will become ever more gruelling in terms of entertainment.
No-one takes risks; everyone just fixates on that 40-point mark and does whatever it takes to scramble across the finishing line. Job done for another campaign.
But is that as good as it’s going to get for anyone south of 6th?
Something needs to change. Just don’t hold your breath, that’s all…