Sunday, 21 October 2012

Premier Regress

There once was a time when the Premier League was the focus of the world; a time when its claim to be the greatest league could be comprehended without a giggle of embarrassment. Once, there was stars to invest in, characters to believe in, stories to cherish. Slowly, however, the landscape of power has changed. As the Premier League gets increasingly more affluent, its actual baseline quality diminishes. It is a league in regress.

The Premier League once had central characters with tangible personality, with palpable charisma, with actual talent. Jose Mourinho fascinated and entertained a generation, with his intoxicating aura and his nonchalant re-writing of history. Thierry Henry beguiled and flattered a nation, with his inimitable panache and his free-scoring march to the very top. Cristiano Ronaldo, skipping and gliding on a weekly basis, was an enigmatic whirlwind. There was drama. There was incident. There was excitement.

All of that has gone. What stories does the Premier League evoke from its imagination now? Only lurid tales of disgusting racism; only laconic yarns of incessant scandal; only obscene allegories of selfishness and greed.  In a different, more simpler epoch, the nation would join in fervent debate about the latest wonder-strike from Bergkamp, or another fabled free-kick from Ronaldo. Now, however, Monday mornings are spent wading through reams of allegations and finger-pointing. Now, the Premier League cognoscenti is more concerned with this derogatory tweet or that outrageous dive than it is with any actual football. It is a league that survives only on its ability to create aspersion.

The league flows from one indistinguishable week to the next, with predictable results and dull football. It is symptomatic of the era that teams like Stoke City now show no ambition whatsoever to progress and develop. Rather, they are content to merely stay in the division, by means of brute physicality and rule-bending, and drink the financial fruits each May. Financial success is the only priority in the Premier League, and the pursuit thereof has made most teams samey and inseparable. Are Manchester City different to Manchester United? Not really. Do Chelsea differ from Arsenal? Barely. What is it now, in this era, that actually separates Sunderland and Newcastle United?

The Premier League is killing every attribute that once made football so appealing.

What can be done to reverse this sad regression? The amount of games on television must be reduced severely; not only does it feed the financial disparity, but it also denies future generations the poetic opportunity to mythicize and relate to football players. Furthermore, there must be a salary cap. This is imperative for the basic survival of the game in its current guise; footballers at the top level have earned far too much for far too long, and it must stop before utter implosion. Also, admission prices must be returned to  an earthly price, removed from the stratosphere of the filthy rich. In short, football should return to the people; should again be open to the enchanted debate and unfettered enjoyment of the masses.

It is harrowing to know that these things will not happen. Such is the ignorance of those in charge, they cannot see that the Premier League continues to regress. No longer do we have positive, human stories to be  focus on. No longer do we have admirable, moral characters to discuss and enjoy. No longer do we have a league of worth. Those in search of real football will find it where it has always remained: in the Football League.

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