Tuesday's soccer news starts with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola choosing to raise the Premier League parity question directed at his club when they were the ones piling on the points at the top of the table. Former Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore raised that issue when City finished with 100 points, 19 ahead of Manchester United. Guardiola's reasoning is his own, but it does ask if a runaway leader and the normal gulf of points separating one or two teams is good for the Premier League.
At the time, Scudamore felt that it wasn't, or at least that it was worth flagging as an issue. It's a safe assumption many agreed with him. That doesn't necessarily mean fans of the club not piling on points at the top of the table. It doesn't take deep feelings for one of the other Ligue 1 clubs to see how PSG winning every year might represent a problem. It's the same scenario for Juventus in Serie A and either Barcelona or Real Madrid in La Liga. That doesn't describe the Premier League, but one club making it obvious that there won't be a title race might not be ideal.
The problem for all of Europe's leagues is a lack of control over what introduces parity. That's a North American pro sports concept that requires some combination of a salary cap/luxury tax, a draft, player trades rather than transfers, playoffs rather than the league table determining the winner, and a mutual understanding that what's good for the business of the league as a whole outweighs what's good for a handful of clubs. Even then, it doesn't necessarily stop runaway leaders.
None of that describes the situation in the Premier League. The explosion in broadcast rights fees and UEFA's willingness to put the top four directly into the Champions League group stage overly tilts whatever balance might exist. Instead, it's the clubs likeliest to finish in the top four with more in common with each other than the rest of the league.
Add in the spending on transfer fees among clubs in the top tier and what happens is a league almost devoid of parity as a concept. Instead, it only exists as a result of the basic league structure. 20 teams playing 38 games in the Premier League normally bunches clubs around mid-table. In that 2017-18 season Guardiola referenced, 10th through 14th-place were within three points of each other. All had less than half of Manchester City's points and none had a positive goal differential to City's +79.
Last season's race to the finish was different at the very top. Manchester City saw off Liverpool 98 points to 97, with City never giving Liverpool a way back in over the final months of the season. The difference between 2nd and 3rd was 25 points and a +43 goal difference. Liverpool is already up 22 points on City this season. The only real story right now is whether or not Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will admit the title is in the bag prior to it becoming official. 9th through 14th-place are within three points of each other, but that 14th-place team is probably more concerned with the six points separating them from the relegation zone.
Whether or not the current version of the Premier League's leadership and its clubs would prefer a different system is question one. How they get to it would require reorganizing what it means to be a professional club in the Premier League. It's an open question how that would work without having to comply with European Union regulations, the old response to imposing tighter controls on how clubs spend money and bring in players.
The Premier League could have an opportunity to restructure itself, but it's not out of the conversation with the rest of Europe. The Champions League remains the focus for England's elite, competing with clubs that aren't all that interest in making their domestic leagues difficult.
iNews' Sam Cunningham looks at how Liverpool created that gap in points at the top of the table. The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel argues for Liverpool's glut of points at the top of the table. The Daily Mail's Sam Mcevoy picks up with what's happening with West Ham United this season. The Guardian's David Conn on the ownership issues at Sheffield Wednesday.
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