A Heartbreak In Thirty Eight Acts

Their immense stadium dominates the skyline of the Tyneside’s largest city. An immense steel and cement cathedral built in honour of the one thing that truly stirs the souls of the people. Today however the shining temple that is St James’ Park has lost some of its lustre, because today Newcastle United has experienced the unthinkable. One of the largest, oldest and best supported football clubs in England has just been relegated. The Toon, the Magpies and most importantly my favourite football team will not be playing in the English Premier League next year! This is a concept North American sports fans may not be familiar with but essentially the bottom teams in the league (the specific number varies from country to country) are demoted to a lower league within a national pyramid of leagues. At the same time they are replaced by the highest ranking teams from the league immediately bellow the one from which the teams were relegated. Think of it this way, imagine if at the end of the NHL season the NY Islanders (who were bottom of the league this year) were forced to play in the AHL. Even in the top tier professional football league in North America, Major League Soccer doesn’t have a relegation system. For two very good reasons: firstly, you need a fully developed lower league with teams who have the infrastructure and finances to handle top tier football and secondly, being eliminated from the league places a club at a tremendous financial disadvantage (not a good idea for a league whose teams are still finding their place in North America’s crowded sporting market). In the Premier league, where clubs receive millions of pounds (or Euros) from television, merchandising and sponsorships just for being in the top tier, this drop can be financially devastating. TV money and the financial inducements offered by the Football Association (English football’s governing authority for those who aren’t aware) for being in the Premier League go towards hiring new and increasingly expensive players and managers. Without this money Newcastle is likely to lose the few stars they have left on their roster. Most notably England’s injury prone star striker Michael Owen who has admittedly done little to earn his 16 million pound price tag. The biggest issue for me however is that without a premier league spot I will most likely never get to see a game all of next season (or even longer if they don’t win promotion). This sucks…but I’ll stick with them and hope they not only rebuild but find their footing and earn their way back into the top flight. Howay Lads, I still believe.

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