You may recall that last year The Sports Nexus, an independent pressure group committed to improving the condition of all sports in Britain, released a study that proved what we have all long suspected: the Premiership is becoming increasingly predictable and competitively imbalanced. The research, conducted by Professors Christine Oughton and Jonathan Michie of Birkbeck University, showed how the top five were pulling away from the rest. Top five? I remember thinking how quaint and comforting a concept that seemed when three clubs were manifestly a class apart and one of those, Chelsea, were clearly bent on establishing a superiority over even Manchester United and Arsenal. Yet Liverpool’s extraordinary European triumph appeared to vindicate the researchers’ cut-off point. Their latest findings, however, indicate that the overall state of the nation’s elite football is more perturbing than ever to those who fear that, when the boom ends — and a levelling-off of Premiership attendances suggests the time is nigh — we shall be left with a permanent hierarchy, as is the case in Scotland, Holland, Portugal and elsewhere. In other words, that English football will emerge the worse, rather than the better, for its golden years.
Haven’t we always had a ‘permanent hierarchy’ at the top of the Premiership?