Nobody wants to go down from the English Premier League. That’s probably one of the most redundant opening sentences anyone’s ever written about football, but it’s also a point that needs underlining. It’s the richest professional football league in the world. Every season that a club remains in the division, it gets a slice of that sweet, sweet television money that’s enriched every team that’s managed to maintain a long-term position in the division. The longer you’re in the league, the more television money you make and the bigger crowds you attract. You sell more shirts and other merchandise, and you become more attractive to talented players.
The financial implications of dropping out of the division are almost unthinkable. Relegated clubs might get a couple of years’ worth of “parachute payments,” but after that, they’re on their own. Not only that, but they’re less attractive to sponsors – and shirt sponsorships are the lifeblood of a team looking to strengthen or maintain its position. If you’re not getting seven-figure sponsorships, you’re not going to be able to compete with the teams that are.
To understand our point, look at the big-money shirt sponsorships of English Premier League football clubs, many of which come from the gambling world, like Fun88, which sponsors high-flying Newcastle United. Think of a massive casino network company like AG Communications. It has money to play with, but if it opted to follow its rivals and get involved in shirt sponsorship, it would look at opportunities in the Premier League. Casino companies and other big-money sponsors aren’t interested in the Championship or the leagues below it because there’s comparatively little television exposure. Relegation from the Premier League isn’t just about loss of standing from a sporting perspective – it invites the risk of going broke.
For all those reasons and more, the teams that currently have a chance of beating the drop will spend the final couple of games of this season fighting tooth and nail to do so. Southampton are already down, but who’s joining them? Let’s look at the candidates.
What’s happened to Leicester City this season would have been unthinkable as recently as a couple of seasons ago when the club won the FA Cup. A few years before that, the Foxes won the English Premier League in one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the history of any sport – not just football. Unfortunately, the club has made some errors of judgement since then. Things started going wrong when Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club’s beloved chairman, was killed in a helicopter accident in 2018. His family took over the running of the club but has never been willing to put in as much money as Vichai did. The net result of years of selling players without spending cash on replacing them was that the club made no new signings in the summer of 2022. The squad always looked weak this season, and so it proved to be the case.
Even with a depleted squad, the club’s FA Cup-winning manager Brendan Rodgers stuck around and did his best. Surprisingly, the fans started getting on his back after Christmas as results became increasingly poor. That led to the dismissal of Rodgers, which is a move that both the club and the fans probably now regret. Had Rodgers stayed, he’d likely have kept them up. The appointment of perennial loser Dean Smith made it clear that the Foxes didn’t have a post-Rodgers plan, and relegation is now virtually inevitable.
If you look up the word “desperation” in a new dictionary, you might find that the given definition is “Leeds United persuading Sam Allardyce to come out of retirement and help them fight relegation in 2023.” The past two seasons for the Whites have been catastrophic. While form had started to deteriorate under the management of Marcelo Bielsa towards the end of the 2021/2022 season, the Argentinian coach still had the backing of the fans, and relegation never seemed a likely prospect. His American replacement Jesse Marsch kept Leeds up by the skin of his teeth and was never truly accepted by the fans.
Leeds began this season in the same form they ended last season, and in truth, they probably held onto Marsch for too long. When he was fired in February 2023, the damage was already done. Much like Leicester, it quickly became apparent that Leeds didn’t have a managerial succession plan. The club was publicly humiliated when manager after manager turned them down, and the rushed temporary appointment of Javi Gracia became a further embarrassment when he was fired with four games to go and replaced by Allardyce, who’d been retired for two years. Destined to fail? Possibly. Desperate? Absolutely.
As the press is so fond of telling us, Everton haven’t suffered relegation since 1951. Some people seem to believe that avoiding relegation for so long means that the Toffees are somehow immune to it. Allow us to be the first to assure fans that they’re not. Everton is a badly-run club, and it’s been flirting with disaster for a very long time. This season might see the chickens finally come home to roost. Frank Lampard was lucky to scrape survival at Goodison Park last season but was fired this season when he looked unlikely to be able to repeat the trick. Plenty of people felt that the appointment of the wily Sean Dyche as his replacement was a sound one. Results since his appointment suggest they were wrong.
Everton have had opportunity after opportunity to get out of the relegation dogfight, but they’re still stuck in it with two games to go, and they look no more likely to get out of it than Leeds. The smart money says that it will be one club or another that goes down, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Everton take the drop. Some Everton fans even believe that going down might be the kick up the backside that those in charge of the club have long needed.
When the Tricky Trees signed more than twenty players in the summer transfer window, everyone assumed their owner had gone mad. When the club stuck by manager Steve Cooper after a disastrous run of form before Christmas, those suspicions of insanity among the City Ground hierarchy seemed to be confirmed. However, the relegation of Nottingham Forest is far from a done deal. They have a slight edge on both Leeds and Everton when it comes to points, and they always appear to carry more of a threat to their opponents on matchdays.
At this point, Forest would be unlucky to go down – but it’s not impossible. A single win for either Leeds or Everton would drag Forest right back into the mire, and the psychological setback of dropping back into the bottom three might be a blow the team can’t recover from.
West Ham United
The Hammers qualified for Europe via their league position two seasons in a row before the 2022/2023 season rolled around. Nobody seems to be able to put their finger on precisely what’s gone wrong at the London Stadium, but we’ll say this; if West Ham don’t win the Europa Conference League, David Moyes will probably be looking for a new job this summer. Expectations were high coming into this campaign, but it’s been a complete mess.
Even with the above said, the Hammers are on 37 points at the time of writing, and it’s hard to imagine Leeds or Everton winning both of their remaining games and catching up with them. They’ll survive purely because the teams below them are so awful – but far better will be expected next time around.