No relegation in A-league "irrational" claims US football reformist

A leading proponent of promotion and relegation in the US says that every top flight closed soccer league has collapsed and that all those collapses have been preceded by massive financial losses.

Ted Westervelt runs the website and it was while working as a political consultant in Washington, DC in the 90’s that he became disenchanted with the domestic game and that it wasn't advancing because there was no promotion and relegation.

Westervelt believes that promotion and relegation is intrinsic to the game of soccer, and that persistent financial failures have been a result of a perpetual inability of the game to reach its potential market.

“Both nations have absorbed wave after wave of soccer immigrants over the last century or so,” he said. “And both have failed to realize the potential of that audience over that span.

"I place our common failures squarely at the inability of both federations to take the lead on this issue.

"Indeed, it has become almost a cycle of addiction.”

Westervelt says that the main theme of promotion and relegation is straight forward - soccer thrives in an open global market and not using it in the MLS or A-League is irrational.

“Someone might call open leagues unstable,” he says.

“But then we return to the indisputable core premise: Over 209 nations and 100 years, the open competition and opportunity embodied in promotion and relegation has never failed the game.

“Under these circumstances, it's absolutely absurd to suggest that it will fail two nations founded in those principles.”

Wetervelt added that it makes sense to have a closed league in local competitions that are indigenous to the country but not in an international sport like football.

“Soccer is a game built on accessibility,” he said.

“Promotion and relegation is a key element in that theme.

"In addition, closed leagues tend to require tight regulation exemplified by salary caps and drafts to keep the competition interesting. 

Westervelt added: "Perhaps fine in an isolated league like AFL or NFL but ridiculous in a global game where clubs are exposed to international competition both on the pitch and in the media."

“Near as I can tell, both the A-League and MLS are efforts by other closed sports leagues to apply their owner entitlements to soccer - come hell or high water. It comes with a huge cost - as both quality and interest are severely limited in the process.”

The case for promotion and relegation in Australia was raised recently when after the Central Coast Mariners lost 4-1 to Sydney FC Fox Sports commentator Mark Bosnich used the Gosford side as a case in point that having no relegation leads to mediocrity.

Bosnich is a long time exponent of having an open league and says that it should be happing sooner rather than later.

“I think promotion and regulation should be happening in five years’ time maximum,” he said. 

“It just makes sense because it stops situations like last season were the Central Coast Mariners who in my opinion had become like a State League club. There were a lot of NPL clubs that would have done better than the Central Coast and Newcastle. So then what’s the point? There is no incentive or de-incentive for those two teams I mentioned to give themselves a proverbial kick up the backside or incentive for the other clubs to go we can do a better job than that. You might be able to do a better job than that but you might never get to play in the A-League anyway. So who cares?

“Clubs are already making changes because of the FFA Cup. You’ve got to give people an opportunity, it’s going to lead to indifference and indifference leads to people not caring. And once you got people not caring, you’re in trouble.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.