MARTIN SAMUEL: Why abject EFL should be renamed the Bin Fire League
Why the abject EFL should be renamed the Bin Fire League – spend and they have a thousand rules to stop you; bleed a club dry and nothing will be done
- The EFL continues to flounder when clear administration is needed over topics
- Despite an outbreak of Covid-19 within their squad, Sunderland fulfilled their match against AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday in fear of getting a points deduction
- Liverpool’s treble in 2000-01 was special, just like their boss Gerard Houllier was
The BFL. That’s what they should call it. Not the EFL. The Bin Fire League. That’s what it is. A blaze in an abandoned dumpster, masquerading as a football pyramid.
Sheffield Wednesday breached profit and sustainability rules chasing promotion in 2018-19: 12-point deduction from the BFL. Sheffield Wednesday defaulted on player wages last month: so far, not a dicky bird.
That’s the BFL all over. Spend and they have a thousand rules to stop you; bleed a club dry, or swindle the staff, and nothing. Sheffield Wednesday’s players were given a maximum of £7,000 each for November, with the promise of the balance later. There was a similar situation in June, apparently.
The EFL should be rebranded The BFL (The Bin Fire League) with its multiple ongoing issues
Neither event incurred sanction from the BFL. Wednesday’s docked 12 points – reduced to six on appeal – are a result of skulduggery around the timing of a stadium sale to owner Dejphon Chansiri. And if it’s illegal, it’s wrong. But so is defaulting on legitimately earned wages. Yet the BFL are always toughest on ambition.
Rick Parry, the BFL chairman, wants the power to pursue wrong-doers all the way to the Premier League. A club that transgresses in the Championship, but wins promotion – like Leicester and Bournemouth and perhaps Wolves or Aston Villa more recently – could then be docked points in their new surroundings. It’s called a jurisdictional bridge.
Leicester probably wouldn’t have won the league had it been in place – they might even have been relegated the previous season. The Bournemouth fairytale would have been over before it had begun and Aston Villa might have gone last season, too.
Owners with ambition, restored to the clutches of the Bin Fire League, dancing to the tune of the mediocre and least ambitious.
One Premier League club estimates that the Championship’s proposed £18million salary cap would put most players on no more than £12,000 a week – so the promotion winners would be cannon fodder.
They would have to spend hugely in advance of Premier League finance in the summer, or compete with a handicap.
EFL chairman Rick Parry wants the power to pursue wrong-doers up to the Premier League
And if one of the clubs that hadn’t been promoted were unfortunate enough to fall into the BFL, they would have to abide by restrictions or risk being pursued across the jurisdictional bridge for breaking rules they had no part in making. The elite six will not care, because this will never be their problem, but the other 14 would be insane to allow the BFL a say in Premier League affairs, particularly relegation. Parry can barely keep his own clubs safe, let alone viable.
Take events at Sunderland this week. The League One club lost eight players to a Covid outbreak prior to their match against AFC Wimbledon. One player tested positive, two were displaying symptoms and five more were deemed close contacts who should isolate.
Sunderland contacted the BFL seeking permission to postpone. It did not arrive. Sunderland were told they could make the decision unilaterally, but there would then be an investigation into the legitimacy. Having failed to receive clarity on the penalty for failing to fulfil a fixture, and fearing a points deduction, Sunderland took the risk and went ahead. Of course they did.
Imagine being stuck in League One another season over the margin of a three-point penalty. Have a look at the salary cap conditions being introduced there. Sunderland would have played Typhoid Mary at No 9 rather than risk another year in that competition.
Sunderland lost eight players to a Covid outbreak prior to their match against AFC Wimbledon but were not allowed to postpone this match after the EFL refused their plea
And on it goes, Parry’s BFL. They’ve had the best part of a year to come up with clear protocols around Covid postponements, but nothing; 18 months since the demise of Bury to set out meaningful procedures and penalties for failure to meet contractual liabilities.
Yet where are they on Sheffield Wednesday? The club has promised to pay the wages within days, but that pledge was made to the Professional Footballers’ Association. There is no evidence the BFL are even party to the conversation.
No disrespect is intended. There are fine clubs outside the Premier League, great some of them, and good people. Trevor Birch, the incoming chief executive, is certainly an impressive figure and we must hope he knows what he is walking into.
It’s the BFL. He’ll need broad shoulders and a big bucket.
The problem with signing Haaland
There is one problem with the very gifted Erling Haaland joining Manchester City. He comes with agent Mino Raiola attached, making him the highest of high-maintenance recruits. He will need to be absolutely game-changing, mind, or why would you invite that level of aggravation into your club?
Fireman Sam will need a big hose!
‘Sam Allardyce is a man with a proven Premier League pedigree,’ announced West Bromwich Albion’s sporting director Luke Dowling.
‘We believe, and more importantly Sam believes, that we have a group of players with the quality needed to give the club its best chance of Premier League survival.’
Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Dowling, not Allardyce. He is, after all, responsible for those players. So if West Brom didn’t have a squad to stay up, it would reflect rather poorly on him.
West Brom become Sam Allardyce’s 13th job as a manager and his eighth in the top flight
Hence the arrival of Allardyce to the standard fanfare of sirens and screams. For if we are talking proven Premier League pedigree, Allardyce’s line boss does not have one.
Dowling arrived at Watford mid-season 2014-15 in the Championship and went up with them. He then did two seasons in the Premier League, 2015-16 and 2016-17, before leaving by mutual consent. He seems to have performed well.
Yet in 2019 when Steve Parish, chairman of Crystal Palace, said Watford’s recruitment was the smartest in the Premier League, he specifically named owner Gino Pozzo’s knowledge of the European market, not any director of football.
From Watford, after a gap of six months, Dowling turned up at Nottingham Forest, also in the Championship, and on to West Bromwich in September. So his Premier League pedigree is two full seasons, finishing 13th and 17th.
Pressure is on Albion’s sporting director Luke Dowling (left) to help Allardyce avoid relegation
And, yes, West Brom would settle for either right now and Allardyce would collect his handsome bonus. Yet using the appointment to endorse the club’s policy post-promotion is disingenuous at best.
The budget Slaven Bilic was given for this season was wholly inadequate for the task. It was, by Dowling’s admission, somewhere near the figure spent by Norwich 12 months previously – to be placed in the bottom six of 560 teams that have completed a Premier League season.
Had West Brom travelled the same path, the buck may have stopped with Dowling. No wonder he heralded the arrival of Fireman Sam.
PSG controversy plays two ways
In the aftermath of the racism controversy that engulfed Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League match against Istanbul Basaksehir, Pierre Webo, the coach at the centre of it, talked respect.
Webo was identified with the word ‘negru’ – meaning ‘the black one’ – when fourth official Sebastian Coltrescu told match referee Ovidiu Hategan which member of Istanbul’s staff needed to be sent to the stands.
Clearly, that word is open to misinterpretation. At first Webo seemed to think Coltrescu had used a racial epithet. He hadn’t, but the confrontation escalated fast.
Pierre Webo was target of a racial incident which sparked a walk-off in the Champions League
And while John Barnes undoubtedly has a point that the sole white member of an otherwise black group could equally be picked out as ‘the white one’ without intending offence, there are less problematic methods of identification. As Stan Collymore rightly observed, Coltrescu could have called Webo by name, as UEFA officials are briefed on senior members of the coaching staff for both teams.
The two men could also have walked together to the Istanbul bench, where Coltrescu could have pointed directly at Webo, leaving no room for doubt.
Yet might there be a reason Coltrescu was keeping his distance? It comes back to respect. In the subsequent fallout it has been largely disregarded that Webo was about to be sent off. There is invariably one reason why coaches are dismissed and it involves the abuse of referees and their assistants. So while Webo is right to see the irony in officials who display UEFA’s ‘Respect’ branding on their shirts while failing to observe it in the heat of the moment, was he upholding the principle at his end?
Coaches get sent off for abuse and what Coltrescu did wasn’t abuse. It was wrong and clumsy and regrettable and a lesson learned for all officials, we hope. Yet one imagines what was coming the other way also fell some distance short of UEFA’s precious code of respect. It has been this way for too long and, condoned by inaction, where we find ourselves is really no surprise.
Romanian fourth official Sebastian Coltescu had referred to the coach by his skin colour
Houllier had precious gift of humanity
They played every match. That is what is often overlooked about Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool team of 2000-01. In winning their cup treble, Liverpool fulfilled every fixture that was in the calendar on the day their season began. All those blank midweek dates for rounds of the League Cup and UEFA Cup, all those weekends with possible FA Cup ties. There wasn’t a game on the list they did not play. It was an incredible achievement.
Manchester United were knocked out of the League Cup in the fifth round in 1998-99, Liverpool’s treble winners from 1983-84 did not make it past the fourth round of the FA Cup. And, yes, a treble with a title in it and a European Cup is the trump hand. Yet in its unique structure and narrative, Houllier’s treble was also very special indeed.
Like the man, really. I remember talking to him about his heart operation and recovery and, seeking an empathetic connection, mentioned my father had an aortic valve replacement in 1993, around nine years earlier.
Former Liverpool and Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier, pictured at an awards ceremony in Monaco just seven weeks ago, has died at the age of 73
We discussed that for a while, the importance of returning to work and how some people find it difficult, the emotions and vulnerability associated with major surgery.
Every time we met after that, no matter how many years had passed, or if we were at a match, or in an airport lounge, on tables at the same restaurant – and once in a FIFA car that rescued me from a deserted corner of the Maracana Stadium – his first words were to ask after my dad, a man he’d never met, but always remembered.
The tributes to Gerard this week were unanimous in praise of his coaching talent, but also his humanity. How true they all were.
Houllier celebrates with the UEFA Cup trophy after his Liverpool side beat Alaves in the final in Dortmund in May 2001, completing a treble of cup wins that season
Neto gain left nasty taste after that dive
Wolves deserved to beat Chelsea on Tuesday, but it rankled that Neto scored the winner, having earlier tried to win a penalty by diving. On discovering this, Stuart Attwell, a weak referee, did not even book him. Minutes later, Neto become the hero.
Fans are affronted by diving. Some would have simulation in the penalty area made a red-card offence, others argue a penalty should be awarded at the other end. Both would be deterrents, but harsh. It must be said, however, that in the moment either felt preferable to seeing a cheat prosper as spectacularly as Neto did.
It’s a virtue to send the same message to all
Political correctness became a dirty term, which was a little unfair. Often, it just amounted to being considerate of others.
If golliwogs on the side of jam jars are unnecessarily offensive – and they are – find another logo. What’s wrong with that? It’s the same with virtue signalling. In many cases, it’s no different to being nice.
Gary Lineker isn’t virtue signalling when he acknowledges the plight of refugees. There is nothing in it for him. It’s just the way he feels. What is the absolute embodiment of virtue signalling, however, is the rainbow laces campaign for LGBT rights and the way it is exploited by the biggest football clubs in this country.
Liverpool (left) and Manchester United are among the clubs who geolocated their social media posts during the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign this month
While Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, for instance, are only too happy to share messages of equality and diversity back home, their social media accounts in locations such as the Middle East and parts of Asia feature no such endorsement.
‘One love,’ Manchester United tell their followers in English and Spanish, but not in Arabic, Malaysian or Indonesian.
To make it worse, when a national newspaper contacted Kick It Out for their comment on this inconsistency, they chose to stay silent. So just to recap: ‘Kick It Out is English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change, Kick It Out is at the heart of the fight against discrimination for everyone who plays, watches or works in football.’ Unless that means upsetting the big clubs, or entering the moral maze of geopolitics.
No doubt they’ll have a nice line in banners and T-shirts, though. They’ve always got a lovely line in banners and T-shirts, the lot of them. Not to mention laces.
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