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What Makes a Team Worst in Their League

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A glance at a completed league table of any football league in the world (although it might be applied to other sports as well) would reveal the presence of a team at the top of the table which is the champion of that league in that particular season. However, if we scroll down towards the wrong end of the table, the part of the table in which it is likely to be analyzed and observed as meticulously as the top of the table, would reveal the presence of a team languishing at the bottom of the league table. This team, usually relegated to a lower division alongside two or three teams above them, would be considered the worst team in that league. Sometimes fans like you and me start to wonder what exactly are the reasons for that team to be the one which is the worst team in the division and has to contend with the proverbial “Wooden Spoon Award” in the league.

Just like any other phenomena in this world, in which there is/are causes and precursors, there are reasons and triggers that make a team worst in their league. I would categorize those reasons into two categories and that would be financial reasons, which constitutes a very large chunk of why a team is the worst in their league as well as the club’s personnel’s abilities as well as others. Although it seems that the reasons that will be listed in the following paragraphs seem to be standing on its own, each of them is not mutually exclusive and they might apply concurrently in a football team.

The first and arguably one huge aspect which makes a team worst in their league is the financial aspects of the team, and the importance of this is amplified many-folds in the modern game whereby business is increasingly more and more intersected with football compared to politics unlike in the past whereby the latter dominates football much more than business. But now, it is so different, as the financial aspect of a team is almost the sole yardstick to measure how the team would perform in a league or any other competitions. Football, just like any other sports is supposed to be one of the rare avenues to at least momentarily escape from the harsh reality of life, at least for 90 minutes at a time, but just like how politics have been so close do dominate football, business have clung on the same manner to football. Football clubs have become more of a business tools for conglomerates out there and we have seen how many top football clubs nowadays are being led and operated by figures who have little or nothing to do with football at all. Sometimes clubs are being taken over to increase the profile of the club by pumping millions and even billions, and even unlimited budget such as what Manchester City are enjoying right now, and they might look to sell the club on when the sale value as well as the reputation of the club has skyrocketed.

The above is actually another debate for another occasion, but the point here is that not every team in a league enjoys such financial concessions such as what have been highlighted above. For every Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Internazionale, there are Messina, West Brom, Tenerife, and recently Portsmouth. In other words, there is some kind of financial disparity existing between the haves and the have-not in a football league, and the phenomenon of foreign conglomerate ownership of top teams as stated above have served to widen the financial gap. Players, who are the most crucial human resources of a football team, are being increasingly bought for astronomical amount of money, such as how Real Madrid broke the record for most expensive transfer twice in just a few days when they bought Kaka for 65m Euros and then Cristiano Ronaldo for 80m Euros. This, together with the massive bidding campaigns of players from the wealthiest of the wealthy clubs inadvertently and perhaps unavoidably inflate the prices of players in the transfer market. Clubs that do not enjoy the massive financial backings would suffer since they might not be able to afford the prices as well as the kind of wage demands of the players who are capable of carrying the small clubs up to the next level.

Even if the small clubs possess good players or young players with potential, and that they are able to become some sort of a “selling club” to the big spenders (eg. West Ham, Sporting Lisbon), it is unlikely that the huge amount of money earned would be able to carry them on to the next level as they have to frantically sign another player as a replacement or that season will be a jeopardy, and there will not be a sufficient time to unearth a replacement from within in such a short time. Some small clubs might not even have the luxury of spending the money earned from the transfer as they have to pad up their precarious financial state and thus they go from bad to worse. Basically, the team that is the poorest (ie. With the lowest bank balance), as well as the team that fails to churn out promising players to be sold off to the big clubs who are willing to pay good money for them will be the worst in the league.

The second reason would be mismanagement of the club. I mentioned about Portsmouth, and it is well known that the English club recently faced a series of devastating financial problems that almost resulted in the historical club being forced to cease its long existence. The financial problems that they got themselves into actually resulted in a mismanagement of the club’s finances in which to keep things simple, they simply “spend beyond their means” with artificial budget sired from debts. Actually, mismanagement is commonly tied up to the finances of a club, although there will be more on other types of “mismanagement” later on, and debts is the primary component of mismanagement occurring in the footballing sphere. As I mentioned above, top teams and even mediocre teams especially in the English Premier League are constantly being taken over by foreign investors whether for business purposes for otherwise, and most of the time, they would implement a policy of “spend spend spend” to make their way to the top of the footballing universe. However, and this is funnily coincides with the fact that more and more of those foreign owners hail from the USA, and it is well known worldwide that Americans sometimes have a motto of “spend now, pay later” and these big spending football clubs  adhere to that mentality as well. While they finance their way to the top by buying players, they are mortgaging, and I dare say gambling the future of these clubs away by spending now with debts, and just hope that the team does well to clinch titles or at least the UEFA Champions League regularly to continue on financing the debts incurred to artificially finance the club in what I would dub an overdrive financial mode.

Things would go relatively well as long as they are able to maintain the good on-pitch form such as how Manchester United are able to continue on to win titles and to finance the club comfortably despite a well known massive debt surrounding the club. However, not all clubs are as lucky as them. In 2002, Leeds United were massively and artificially financed with debts, and when they failed to preserve their life support by missing out on regular Champions League qualification, they became embroiled in spiraling debt culminating in their relegation in 2004, and they have not been since in the Premier League up to the time of writing, almost a decade later! Same goes for Portsmouth in which they looked like a big club around 2007 and 2008, culminating in their FA Cup victory and their first ever season in Europe in the season afterward, but they were not able to build on that success to sustain themselves, debt spiraled, and the rest is history, and even if they managed to avoid extinction, they are still in turmoil right now, and they might even get relegated again in the lower division. Another club embroiled in troubles due to mismanagement would be Newcastle United under the Mike Ashley regime. He tried to implement some kind of “continental system” in which a Director of Football is to collaborate with the manager of the club and the result was disastrous with disastrous signings of inept players and they were relegated from the EPL. Leeds, Portsmouth, and Newcastle ended up becoming the worst team in their league (EPL) on the days of their respective relegation due to mismanagement of the club.

If we want to take the definition of “worst in their league” a bit further and be more specific, I would mention teams like Real Madrid and Manchester City who have not been really at the top compared to their fellow wealthy and prestigious clubs around. Many of the wealthy owners of the top football clubs around the world have been accused by many sections of the footballing universe as business people who do not really understand how to manage football clubs, and indeed there have been mismanagement going on, and although in the league table per se they are relatively well off, but considering how wealthy and big they are, as well as compared to the other clubs of a similar stature, they can be considered one of the worst. For Real Madrid, it was proven in the first Galactico Era on how quite a few mismanagement caused them many years of trophy drought despite spending obscene amount of money for superstars, but they only bought attackers such as Zidane,Beckham, and Figo, while forgetting and perhaps underestimating the importance of defense, as they sacked Fernando Hierro and then unceremoniously sold Claude Makelele to Chelsea, and not mentioning the plethora of managers they hired and sack during those years. Even until now, despite improvements such as purchasing world class defenders, they still finished last season empty handed and despite the promising appointment of Jose Mourinho as a manager, many are still skeptical, and despite the huge reputation augmented by wealth, they are still worst compared to their counterparts such as Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, and of course Barcelona.

As for Manchester City, we know that they also failed to qualify for the Champions League last season despite their massive investments on players in which they bought mostly strikers and thus they failed to enhance their reputation to attract even bigger names in football such as how their embarrassing bid for Kaka turned out to be indicated how badly they need an enhancement of reputation to rival Manchester United as the premier club in Manchester and the whole world. Thus, considering their unlimited budget, they are still the worst team out of the wealthiest clubs in Europe. It remains to be seen whether they would improve for the upcoming new season.

For mismanagement at the highest level, no one could forget Juventus of course who were caught trying to cheat by bribing referees to decide games in their favor in which to cut the story short, is known as the Calciopoli in 2006. This resulted in a few of their Serie A titles unceremoniously stripped of them, and their key players leaving the team, as well as relegated to Serie B for the 2006-07 season. Even though  they were relegated to Serie B while they finished as Serie A champions in 2006, they were still the worst team in the league for that season.

Another mismanagement would be how the manager fails to put the right men at the right places. A recent example was how Cameroon, the African country expected to progress the furthest in World Cup 2010 among the other African participants. But a series of gaffe decisions such as stripping the captaincy from the long time captain Rigobert Song and then to play the new captain Samuel Eto’o on the right wing position, totally isolated from his natural position among other wrong decisions culminated in the team becoming the first African nation to be knocked out from the competition, and in the final official standing, they were the second worst team in the competition, just above North Korea.

The other reason for a team being the worst in their league would be due to the promotion-relegation system existing in most leagues in the world. There are a lot of examples on how promoted clubs from the lower division are actually too strong for that division, but they are simply too weak for the new division, and thus over the years, they continue on to go up and down the divisions, and they are nicknamed “Yo-yo clubs”. A very classic example especially in this decade in English football of such a club would be West Bromwich Albion (WBA) in which they have always been changing divisions almost annually. Thus, these clubs, as well as other clubs who clinched promotion especially through the playoff system are deemed to be too weak for the division and are likely to be the worst team in the new and upper division and thus they will immediately go back down the division and whether they comeback again like the yo-yo clubs are not relevant. The point is, a newly promoted team might be too weak for the upper division and thus they become the worst team in that division.

The last reason and perhaps the most logical of all would simply be the fact that football leagues and competitions, as well as other sports are simply competing to be the best, competing to win the competition. It is the unchangeable nature of any competitions that when there’s a winner, there will always be the losers, and this applies to the leagues and competitions. All these while, I have been talking about disparities between teams, mismanagement, being too weak etc. but even in a totally competitive league, such as if a Super League consisting of the strongest teams in the whole world is to be created, there will be a team finishing at the very bottom of the league table and thus becoming the worst team in that league at the end of the season. Thus, yet another reason and it might be the reason which hit the nail in the head would be that it is simply an inevitable fact and nature of a league or competition that cannot be escaped. No matter how competitive or closely fought a league is, there will always be the worst out off the competing bunch, full stop.

Thus, despite the plethora of reasons that could be stated for a team to be worst in their league such as financial strength and well being, the competency of those managing the team, how the team operates, and so on, and after all those lengthy explanations about each one of them, at the end of the day, even if all those problems do not exist at all, it is safe to conclude that no matter what, in any league/competition, there will be a team that is the worst out of the bunch, and thus any team in any league would only fight to become the winners, while avoiding the losers’ spots at all costs, but there will be competing teams who will fill those positions, including one team that has to brave the tag of “the worst team in the league”.

Written by cp

30/07/2010 at 19:50

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