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Oct 24, 2008

Gartside only looking after number one

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has come with an ingenious idea to extend the grandiose nature of the Premier League by creating two divisions of 18 teams and making it a closed shop. Who says Premier League chairmen are only interested in themselves and the money? Of course, Gartside will have serious worries about slipping through the trap door and off the gravy train that is the Premier League, sitting just a point above the relegation zone. Would he be making the same comments had Bolton been in the top half of the table, as had become the norm under Sam Allardyce?

When someone like Gartside comes out with such an elitist attitude, trying to hide behind a statement like 'it would help the England team' it will hardly going to change the view of fans who look at the Premier League and all it stands for with contempt.

And to actually lock out relegation from his proposed 'Premier League 2' would completely remove any sense of competition or drive to move forward. If the threat of going backwards is not severe then many clubs would find it very easy to simply relax on easy street.

The truth is that if chairman such as Gartside have planned their budgets accordingly there will be no need to have such concerns. No team has gone out of business after dropping out of the Premier League and in fact no Football League team has gone bust since Maidstone in 1992. As Leeds have found out you cut your cloth accordingly and do not blow cash you can't afford. If you do then you face the natural consequences.

"I don't have the answers," Gartside quite rightly admitted. "but perhaps even not having relegation from a second division of the Premier League."

Thanks, Phil. Let's turn the top echelon of English football into a humdrum, backslapping private party where the bottom half of the 'exciting' Premier League 2 is full of teams with nothing to play for come New Year's Day. That will really develop the game.

He even moans about relegation from the Premier League to the Championship, insisting that the same teams almost always bounce straight back. Except of the last 15 teams to drop, only three have won an immediate return.

At the inception of the Premier League Bolton were in the third tier of English Football. That means that by Phil's planning and thinking his own team would have been locked out of the Premier League.

And what of Wigan and Fulham, two sides that during the lifespan of the Premier League have risen from the basement of the English game to the summit? Gartside said he also wanted to protect the interests of his fellow chairman at such clubs... by banning the same fairytale rise from happening again?

No doubt the 36 teams making up the two divisions would be chosen on stature rather than achievement. Fourteen teams would have to be dumped into oblivion and the Premier League won't want Blackpool locked in when they could cherrypick Nottingham Forest. All's fair in money and greed.

At least, and this is a rare moment of sense from the man, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has binned Gartside's ludicrous plan. Unfortunately, with another NFL regular season match sold out at Wembley Stadium this weekend, he's still trying to find a way of introducing the risible '39th Game'

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