The Phoenix League

Last updated : 09 December 2004 By Patrick Goss

Man City chairman David Bernstein - behind the Phoenix League
The only thing worse that a flagrant attempt to cream off the richest clubs in the lower leagues, is to not be included in those mentioned.

England holds the biggest professional football league, with four divisions of professional sides, as well as several in the Conference - and when these sides were self-sustaining through gate receipts there was no reason for this to change.

Unfortunately player's wages have skyrocketed since the abolition of the maximum wage, and not a club in the land - including it's 'best' supported Manchester United, can boast of being able to survive without revenues generated by television.

For it is the idiot box that has jeopardised the game more than any other thing over the past twenty years - by pumping money in ridiculous amounts at the top level, the schism between the 'big' clubs and the minnows has become steadily more pronounced.

Well aware of this, Premiership sides, as well as the bigger sides with history and money, are aware that demotion from the top flight can cripple a club absolutely.

Also, sides that want to go up must be able to fund their push to stay in the top flight, and although recent seasons have seen sides go up and stay up, it is no surprise that the First Division play-off winners are
always the bookies' favourites to go down.

'So what's the answer,' ask the clubs. 'Is it to create a fairer system of sharing the revenue generated by
the likes of Sky, BBC and ITV?' 'No' cry the Manchester Uniteds and Liverpools of the world - 'TV wants us more than them so why should we get less?'

The Premiership was created so that the biggest clubs got a greater share of the pie - and, 'so,' the decision seems to have gone 'why don't we do it again?'

Hence the 'Phoenix League' the creation of a 'Premiership 2' guaranteeing a bigger share of the TV pot for the teams included – and serving as a parachute for teams demoted from the top and a ladder for those going up.

'But hang on a minute, why create a second Premiership that has teams there on merit?'

'Couldn't that mean that 'massive' Sheffield Wednesday and 'historic' Nottingham Forest could be absent?

'No' the cry came, 'let's invite the clubs we think are worthy and then everyone is happy.'

Everyone that is invited that is.

I'll admit I was delighted to see Burnley in the list because if we are not invited into the Phoenix League - or whatever it is called when this idea raises its ugly head five years down the road when TV revenue is still sucking the lifeblood from lower league clubs - then we will have to give up our dreams of seeing The
Clarets at the top again.

'Love makes the world go round' according to Andrew Lloyd Webber - but we all know that it is money that greases the ball bearings.

We can't agree with the Phoenix League - it is absolutely unjustifiable on a footballing ethical and morale level.

But we can't afford to ignore it - because it could kill us.

If the rich are to get richer, who would choose to be among the poor?