By J Hutcherson (Aug 11, 2016) US Soccer Players - Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore seems to be a fan of parity. More a vague theory than a practice in Europe's major soccer leagues, it also requires an explanation. Is it parity in league champions? Is it outsider clubs qualifying for Europe? Is it simply disrupting the normal course of events where the clubs that spend the most tend to win the most?
Talking to Sky Sports, Scudamore made it clear that he means the title. "Without being disrespectful to any club, we have a strategic plan at the Premier League and the strategic plan says putting a new name on the trophy in every six-year period," he told Sky Sports. "That doesn't mean we don't want any team to win it. It just means we would rather see some sort of rotation, for all neutrals in the game (what Leicester achieved) was a big moment."
In other words, it's Premier League style parity rather than the National Football League model. It's the NFL version that many in sports business see as optimal. It gets the credit for the league's popularity, where any of its 31 teams can turn things around season-to-season. It's not that the NFL lacks dynasties. It's that the difference between winning and losing is more than writing checks. Of course, it helps that the NFL has a draft, limited free agency, few in season player trades, and most importantly a salary cap.
Without those controls, it's tougher for the Premier League. Parity has always been the aim of Major League Soccer. From the beginning, MLS talked about not having dynasties. That's still something the league stresses, even when it means the kind of MLS Cup match-up that won't boost the TV ratings. What's important is the idea that any team can win.
The Premier League and the other big leagues in Europe normally don't even pretend to have that. It's almost always a couple of clubs, extended to a handful in the Premier League. the rest in up games on the schedule rather than true rivals for the title.
Last season may still be an outlier if we're being polite. A fluke if we're not. For all we know, there may not be another Leicester City any time soon. As important for the next Leicester scenario is the next Chelsea, a super club crashing out of contention and spending a season struggling. Those two things happened together last season. It seems unlikely that it will happen again on schedule.
That's the problem with what Premier League officials are saying. What they want requires more than hope. It requires constraints. The NFL could hope for parity and they'd likely get it every now and then under an open system. Major League Baseball has no salary cap and a few clubs willing to pay their luxury tax to sign whoever they want. There's no dynasty in baseball right now. The Premier League leaves it wide open and hopes for the best.
All of this is happening as the money in the Premier League increases along with the spending. The Premier League will pay more for players, drawing in talent that would otherwise be playing for their Champions League rivals. Of course, the clubs spending at this level expect to play in the bigger tournament. Three direct spots and a qualifying spot for Premier League teams. By definition, that makes four elite teams each season. Right now, they're Leicester City, Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester City. When it comes to the economic game Premier League clubs play, two of those teams are not like the others.
So here we are, after the season of disruption. Should regular service return, will we see a change in scope from the Premier League's leadership? Will the talk return to super clubs spending super amounts to be the best in England and ultimately Europe? Will the new normal that 2015-16 represented seem like a blip? No matter what the Premier League says or what they want, has anything changed?
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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