Last week, news broke out that FA Chairman Greg Dyke was proposing plans to cut the Premier League’s membership from 20 teams to 18. An idea that in his mind would improve the England national team, cut down on fixture congestion and player fatigue. While the idea was quickly shot down and dismissed by the Premier League and various FA officials, it still makes you wonder – are there any merits of a smaller Premier League?
Debating The Case For a Smaller Premier League
With the reduction of two teams dropped, it reduces a Premier League team’s game count to 34, dropping four games to be played. While a reduction of four games does not sound a lot, it still opens up multiple opportunities; allow bigger teams to prepare for European fixtures better, reduce fixture congestion and namely include scheduled league breaks. Such break could be the forever discussed topic of a winter break where no league fixtures are played over the Christmas and New Year period. Premier League teams typically play three-to-four games over that period, causing player fatigue, injures and dips in form. While consumers and football fans would oppose a winter break, this period allows players to recover, prevent injures, allow teams to assess their season a lot better and give leagues in European knock out stages a better chance. This may ruin the Premier League’s global coverage, however the pros of a potential ‘winter break’ outweigh the negatives.
Would this therefore have a trickle down effect and aid England’s national team? Definitely. The idea of a league with fewer fixtures would help ease injury concerns and considering how English players always pull out of the national squad due to injury or fatigue, it will make a difference. However it must be stressed it will not entirely solve England’s performance in international tournaments; an earlier end to the season would give English players a rest but will not automatically translate success. The national team’s success lies in funding youth academy set ups, copying the Southampton model, improved coaching education and protecting young players. A smaller league would help our national team but further measures would need to be undertaken to enhance England’s international prestige.
With a smaller league, it should theoretically create a more competitive league. Only two teams will be relegated but add the potential of a play off between the 16th placed side and the Championship Play Off winner and you could set up a thrilling end to the league campaign. The Bundesliga has followed this relegation format and over the years has produced some dramatic games such as the sensational play off between Karlsruhe and Hamburg. The only downfall would be undermining the Football League (especially the Championship) to create a more contentious and intense Premier League but a smaller and tighter league would possibly increase the league’s quality.
Even if the idea was roundly dismissed, it is still a debate worth discussing. While dropping two teams would have a knock on effect for the lower leagues and affect Premier League’s commercial interests, a smaller league would lessen player fatigue, allow teams to prepare better for significant games and create a more competitive league. Given how there have been crazier ideas about the Premier League like Scudamore’s 39th game proposal, Greg Dyke’s idea of a smaller Premier League is one of the more sensible suggestions. Perhaps Dyke has a point despite being in a minority.