Managers speak as one over ups and downs

We should applaud Ferguson, Redknapp and Whelan, even in his verbosity, and the rest for standing up in unity for the old-fashioned values which have been the bedrock of English football for more than a century. By Frank Malley.

There are not too many issues which see Barclays English Premier League managers singing from the same hymn sheet with not one note out of place.

Mostly they are arguing over red cards, quibbling over transfers or debating whether Joey Barton deserves a 96th chance to resurrect his career.

Yet this fortnight saw them queuing in line to put their tick in exactly the same box. The box which said promotion and relegation should never be removed from English football.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson led the way, saying it would be “suicide” for the new generation of club owners to consider ending promotion to and relegation from the world's most popular league.

Tottenham's Harry Redknapp launched a passionate defence of things as they stand, insisting nothing in football was more exciting than the last day of the season when Premier League clubs were scrapping for their lives and their entitlement to the television riches on offer.

Not surprisingly Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, who loves an interview, weighed in with typically over-the-top sentiments which included a threat to withdraw Wigan from the Premier League and voluntarily join the Football League if relegation and promotion were scrapped.

It seemed to escape Whelan completely that he might soon have no choice in the matter considering his side lie second-bottom of the Premier League, have a defence with more holes than Swiss cheese and are odds-on with many bookies to be joining the npower Championship sometime soon.

But no matter. Whelan had expressed his principled anger at comments from Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, who claimed that some foreign owners of top-flight English teams were keen to end the concept of relegation from the division and promotion from the Championship.

Such a move would take 14 of the 20 top-flight clubs to agree to it and even then the idea could be scrapped by the Football Association.

But still we should applaud Ferguson, Redknapp and Whelan, even in his verbosity, and the rest for standing up in unity for the old-fashioned values which have been the bedrock of English football for more than a century.

Here is why.

The Premier League is awash with foreign owners — American, Russian, Indian, Egyptian, Arabian.

Even in these recessionary times there is some rich billionaire in every corner of the globe desperate to get his hands on a Premier League club.

Many do it for the kudos. Increasingly, however, they are looking at ways of paying their way. Looking how to turn around the accepted ethos whose answer to the question ‘how do you make a small fortune in football?' is ‘start with a big one'.

Already you can see how they are thinking with the frequency with which the big clubs embark on Far East tours or trips to America. Blackburn recently returned from India where they were spreading the gospel for their owners while Sunderland's Niall Quinn has stepped down from his role as chairman to try to promote the club overseas, he and manager Steve Bruce taking advantage of the international break to woo businessmen in South Korea.

A global business is the aim, with Premier League clubs no doubt playing competitive matches around the world, a concept which perfectly sits with the franchise model but one which would struggle to survive the financial conflagration which might go hand in hand with relegation.

Yes, you can see why stability and predictability is the perfect franchise model. Look at McDonald's, it works perfectly for them.

But football is not about selling burgers. It is about selling hopes and dreams. It is about creating thrills and managing disappointment. It is that ebb and flow of rich emotions which gives it its allure.

Ferguson and Redknapp and Whelan know that because they are football people. They know that tinkering with the simple game would risk alienating the supporters whose passion and loyalty make it such a saleable product.

“What is more exciting than the last day of the season when teams are looking to stay up and win the championship?” asks Redknapp.

That is the question football's owners should be asking. Let's help them out. Nothing.

© PA Sport, 2011, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.