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Phoenix Nights


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Phoenix Nights

 

Taken from the Guardian November 2001

 

English football history is repeating itself. A decade ago, the biggest clubs in the land were moaning about the out-dated structure of domestic football and the lack of money from television. Soon after all the planning, plotting and persuading of David Dein (Arsenal), Martin Edwards (Manchester United) and Irving Scholar (Spurs) resulted in the creation in 1992 of soccer's land of milk and honey, aka the Premier League.

 

A decade on, the plotters behind the newly-unveiled Phoenix League are drawn from the game's middle orders, such as Rupert Lowe (Southampton), Geoffrey Richardson (Bradford City) and Bryan Richardson (Coventry City) rather than its elite. But the grumble remains the same: too little money is shared too many ways, so further restructuring is needed to end this inequality. It's like football's groundhog day, but with Premier League chairman Dave Richards - a key figure in creating the Sky-bankrolled top flight and now a prime mover behind the Phoenix League - in Bill Murray's starring role.

 

This time, though, the rebels' ambition is greater. Dein & Co established a super-rich, self-governing, breakaway elite. Lowe's co-conspirators want to revamp the Premiership, create a new Premiership Two division and, in a cross-Border coup, get Celtic and Rangers involved as well.

 

According to yesterday's Daily Mail , the new two-tier set-up would consist of two divisions of 18 teams drawn from the Premiership's 20 clubs, 14 of the First Division's 22 and the Old Firm. Six First Division clubs - Coventry, Manchester City and Bradford, Wolves, Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday - are reportedly ready to resign from the Football League in the next few weeks to let them join a revamped set-up which hopes to be operational by next year or, at the latest, August 2003.

 

As with 10 years ago, money is the explanation for all this. The financial gap between Premiership and League clubs was always going to be considerable. In recent years it has become what Gerry Boon, the highly respected head of Deloitte & Touche's football unit, rightly calls 'a yawning chasm'. They estimate that, thanks to the Premiership's hugely lucrative recent television deal, by 2002-03 its 20 member clubs will receive £1.5 billion in income between them, which is about £1bn more than the League's 72 outfits put together.

 

Put another way, an average Premiership club will soon pull in £60m a year more than a typical First Division side. That grim financial reality means that, even with relegated Premier League receiving 'parachute payments' for two years after they suffer the drop, downward mobility is a disaster.....

 

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Football consultant Alex Fynn, who helped draw up the 1992 'blueprint for the future of football' which led to the Premier league, explains: 'The Phoenix League is effectively an attempt by clubs which can't afford relegation to ensure they remove the stigma of the financial penalties of relegation and replace the hard landing with a trampoline.'

 

So will it happen? The plotters claim they have the backing of everyone in the Premiership except the new Big Four (at Old Trafford, Highbury, Anfield and Elland Road), who were deliberately not approached or informed. That is more than the 14 clubs Premier League rules say are needed to force through any major changes. In theory, that bloc vote added to resignations from the Football League and Scottish Premier League should see the phoenix fly. But the Big Four's omission is this scheme's fatal flaw. Even if they are outvoted, they will not join any league which they haven't approved - and know no new set-up will succeed without them. They may only have four votes but they deliver 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the TV audiences.

 

'We have no philosophical objection to the Phoenix League or something like it,' said an executive at Fulham. 'But if the Big Four aren't up for it, it won't happen. It has to have the backing of Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal at least, and ideally Leeds and Chelsea too. Without these boys, nothing will change.' An Elland Road source pointed out that: 'The Premiership's TV deal with Sky is structured around Man Utd. Unless any new set-up included them, it would have little appeal to TV.'

 

Initial soundings among the Big Four are not encouraging for Lowe & Co. In Liverpool's view: 'The Phoenix League wouldn't make financial sense because the TV income would have to be shared between 36 clubs and not the current 20, and few Premiership clubs are likely to do that.' An Arsenal source said vice-chairman 'David Dein's personal view is that to create a new league based on anything other than sporting criteria would be immoral'. A Leeds source confirms: 'The top four or five clubs would be against it. We don't want to dilute our TV money and we don't think we need to change the current system anyway.'

 

Dein's objection is ironic, to say the least. Back in August he urged the possible inclusion of the Glasgow giants in a new league to be seriously discussed, saying: 'I'm convinced there will be a need for some restructuring in the future. The end of the current TV contract in three years would be the perfect catalyst for such change'. Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale is also sympathetic. and Old Trafford chief executive Peter Kenyon confirmed to Observer Sport just last month that he would rather see United play Celtic than Southampton in an 18- or even 16-club Premiership, and again pinpointed 2004 as the likeliest kick-off date.

 

That is a more serious prospect than the Phoenix League, although a hybrid of both schemes could easily satisfy everyone now interested in change. Big clubs tend to get what they want, whether in the format of European competitions or participation in the Worthington Cup. The chairman of Southampton is unlikely to disprove that.

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Taken from the Telegraph

Premier clubs snub Phoenix

 

12 Dec 2001

 

THE proposals for a second Premiership, dubbed the Phoenix League, were last night reduced to a smouldering heap of ashes by the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore.

 

After a meeting of the Premiership chairmen, Scudamore announced the reported plans for a breakaway had been rejected by a shattering 19-1 margin and that all 20 clubs had voted against Celtic and Rangers moving south.

 

"There has been an overwhelming dismissal of the notion of a `Premier League Two', much as I expected, for a whole host of reasons," said Scudamore. "There can be, by definition, only one Premier League - that's the fundamental situation.

"We will not be driven by anything other than customer influences. The Premier League can see absolutely no practical way, nor any commercial reasons, as to why Celtic and Rangers should enter the English system and certainly not parachute into the Premier League."

 

The announcement brings to an abrupt end the sorry saga of the proposed Phoenix League, which reached its climax at an angry meeting of all 72 Football League chairmen in Nottingham on Nov 29.

 

Six rebels clubs - Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Manchester City - were forced to admit that they had secretly plotted a breakaway league and were ordered to disband by the Football League.

The League's chairman, Keith Harris, under pressure from Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond, announced that his organisation would undertake a review to find out how they could cushion the financial blow of clubs relegated from the Premiership.

 

However, reports at the time that heralded the complete reorganisation of professional football in England were dismissed by Scudamore, who said that the Premier League would take no part in the Football League's review.

 

"We welcome the fact that the Football League are undertaking their own financial review and it is important they have a strong league at all levels," Scudamore said. "I don't think it's doing the game any good for half-baked plans to be launched that haven't had the necessary thought, or anything like the type of process, needed to make them credible.

 

"I have never heard the clubs being so unequivocal about an issue before. The Premier League is a fantastic success story and there is only one way in. We believe in promotion and relegation and this is what makes the First Division play-off final one of the biggest games in world football."

 

The six plotters from the Football League had counted on the fear of relegation to frighten enough top-flight clubs into voting for a system that would reduce the gap in television earnings between the Premiership and the next division down.

 

"As part of our review we will look at the issue of what happens to Premier League clubs when they get relegated," Scudamore said. "The problem is that they go down with a business that is costed around staying up.

"That doesn't mean you have to get Celtic and Rangers and a whole new league."

 

Relegation from the Premiership has been reported to cost some clubs £15 million in television revenue.

 

The Football League have put pressure on Sky Digital to carry the ITV Sport Channel, which they believe is critical to the channel's success. ITV's £315 million three-year deal for Football League highlights began this autumn.

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Pretty much everything Richard Scudamore says in that article makes me literally feel sick at the state of football. All about the money now. Makes me laugh how the scummers complain about Chelsea 'not running their club as a business' and trying to get success at all costs, but who made football a business in the first place. Making money wasn't the original spirit of the game, it's a shame that's all it's become.

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Taken from the Telegraph

Premier clubs snub Phoenix

 

12 Dec 2001

 

THE proposals for a second Premiership, dubbed the Phoenix League, were last night reduced to a smouldering heap of ashes by the Premier League's chief executive, utter cock Richard Scudamore.

 

 

"There has been an overwhelming dismissal of the notion of a `Premier League Two', much as I expected, for a whole host of reasons," said schlong-hungry Scudamore. "There can be, by definition, only one Premier League, apart from the other ones down the pyramid that might crop up. Oh, and if people want to bugger about so that supporters of third division teams have to spend 5 minutes explaining why they are in division 1, then that's OK too."

 

 

The Premier League can see absolutely no practical way, nor any commercial reasons, as to why Celtic and Rangers should enter the English system and certainly not parachute into the Premier League. Well, OK then, we'd like to do it as Celtic in particular would add massive commercial influence, and it couldn't be done without the other lot being let in as well, but we can't pursuade around 12 teams to take the chance that they will be the two that miss out on the gravy train at their expense. Let's cloak it in ethical language about our regard for tradition."

 

Noted goat-buggerer Geoffrey Richmond added, "blah blah blah cake."

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