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Changing Fortunes In English Premier League

Bola Bolawole
Posted: May 7, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bola Bolawole

A beyond-the-imagination, surprise has happened in the English premier league with Leicester not only winning the league but also doing so in grant style. It won with two games still remaining. A team that barely escaped relegation last season is the new master of English football. Footballers whose names were hardly known before now have become house-hold names and the toast of football lovers; and a gaffe, Claudio Ranieri, that wasn’t counted as one of Europe’s notable coaches now walks tall, with his shoulders held high over his club’s out-of-this-world performance. These, indeed, are changing fortunes. For the new champions, they are positive changes on all fronts. They are new champions and the rise is not only from grass to grace, it is also astounding and meteoric. Next season, Leicester will start out as the defending champions. They will slug it out later with the FA cup winner, and that affords another opportunity to collect more silverware, as well as become the undisputed master of English football. They will also play in the European championship, rubbing shoulders and trading tackles with the elite clubs such as Barca, Real and Athletico Madrid, Juventus, PSG, Bayern Munich, to mention but a few. Financially, Leicester’s fortunes will rise. Prize money from winning the league apart, playing in Europe is financially rewarding; which is why, for the big clubs, the minimum acceptable performance level set for managers is qualification for the European championship, which is a big money spinner. Leicester has now joined the lucrative big league, not only in terms of prestige and name but also in the very important area of the big bucks.

One football club’s good fortune is another’s ill luck. Leicester’s success has meant the failure of Chelsea to defend the crown it won last season. Not only did Chelsea lose; it did so miserably. Under Jose Mourinho, the club’s fortunes dipped disastrously in a macabre dance that saw yesterday’s hero become today’s undisguised villain. The same manager who had mastered England in one season became a miserable sight and the butt of cruel jokes the next season. It was an amazing, even if inexplicable, reversal of fortunes. Guus, the caretaker manager who succeeded Jose, did his best, but his best was not good enough to earn Chelsea a place among the best four in England. So Europe is out of it. And Chelsea is not alone in this reversal of fortunes for the traditional big teams of the English premier league. Liverpool is another big name whose fortunes have dipped disastrously. Yet, two seasons ago, this is a team that narrowly lost becoming the champion. It is a team that has always been among the best four. But not anymore! This season, it struggled to make an impact but failed to impress.

Leicester is not the only surprise of the current season, Tottenham Hotspur also is. Barring all unforeseen circumstances, Tottenham will be runners-up and will play in the European championship next season; leaving only two remaining spots for the traditional “landlords” of Europe to struggle to fill. Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United are in cut-throat competition to out-do one another for the slots. They used to take qualification for Europe for granted; but, again, no more! Call it the changing face of English premier league and you will be dead right. If the change endures, then, it promises to have effects that will reverberate beyond the shores and borders of England; nay, Europe as a whole. For one, we shall be seeing new faces on the European soccer circuit next season that have not been there for a long time. For another, the financial standing of many of the hitherto big clubs will be adversely affected by their failure to feature in elite European championships. They will lose money; lots of it. Endorsements and sponsorships will also suffer; especially so if their dip in form continues. Fans’ base is likely to drop and with it the number of crowds that troop to match venues, with the attendant loss in gate-fee revenue. Leicester and Tottenham today may not be among the biggest and financially strong clubs in England; but if they succeed to maintain their current form in the next few seasons, we should expect a drastic upward turn in their financial fortunes. More revenue is bound to flow in from prize monies, sponsorships, endorsements, gate fees, and promotional sales. What the Old Brigades will lose, the New Sheriffs will gain.

One area of interest to me is the reaction of Nigerian football fans to the changing face of English football. Fans of clubs that are losing reckoning and standing may not long endure the loss of their bragging rights. Bragging rights are of great emotional, psychological, as well as entertainment pleasures to Nigerian soccer fans. Years back, the fan base of a club like Liverpool was massive in Nigeria. I will be surprised if they are still up there despite their demotion in the pecking order. A similar fate may be on the way for clubs like Chelsea, Man. U, Man. City, and Arsenal, unless they quickly put their acts together. The ascendancy of Leicester and Tottenham is surely going to adversely affect the fan base of the clubs losing relevance; but it is too early to say whether the one-off success recorded by the two newcomers will automatically and immediately translate into an astounding expansion of their own fans’ base. It is reasonable to expect a rise, though; but the quantum of it will depend on how the campaign goes next season. If Leicester and Tottenham show early signs of maintaining their impressive form when the new season starts and the fumbling big clubs continue to wobble and fumble, then, expect fans to shift base and loyalty. As they say, success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.