Former Bolton Wanderers chairman, Phil Gartside, lost his battle with cancer yesterday. During Bolton’s 18 year Premier League tenure, Gartside wanted Celtic and Rangers in the league, as part of a reorganisation which would have seen a second tier Premier League created.
His motivation was the realisation that English football’s model was inherently dysfunctional. Teams like Bolton would over-commit to the player contracts necessary to keep them in the league, but with everyone else doing the same thing, it was only a matter of time before they finished in the bottom three. Less than 3 years since relegation Bolton face a winding-up order this month over a £2.2m debt to HMRC.
‘The Gartside Plan’ for league reorganisation found little support among his Premier League peers. Each passing TV deal poured ever-more money into the Premier League but the model remains dysfunctional. Those relegated regularly face dire consequences – and that’s before the bubble bursts.
As English and Welsh clubs who have dropped out of the Premier League continue to deal with the consequences, Europe’s mega-rich clubs are unhappy with their return from Champions League football. The relative democratisation of Champions League qualification, introduced by Michel Platini, which sees more clubs from smaller countries reach the group stage, is seen as a problem to some of Europe’s richest.
They want games against Manchester United, not Dinamo Zagreb. So do TV companies and sponsors. The football industry in Europe operates a series of EU sanctioned cartels. These sanctioned exceptions were granted on the basis that football is a sport, not a conventional business. The more top clubs act like businesses, not sporting institutions, the more reason to tear down the walls of these carters.