Are You Ready for Some Football?

I've begun following FC Dallas, the Major League Soccer team originally known as the Dallas Burn, as part of my embrace of all things soccer in the run up to the World Cup. My friend Wade Duchene has been after me for years to start following international football, which he discovered while stationed overseas during the first Gulf War, and I run a sports community weblog that has attracted a bunch of Premiership fans. Resistance was futile.

Soccer in Great Britain is as huge as any pro sport in the U.S., and it offers something that American sports fans would love if it was adopted here -- promotion/relegation. Teams are organized into a giant league system topped by the Premiership with dozens of leagues below it. The best teams in each league are promoted to a higher league at the end of the season. The worst are relegated to a lower one.

Teams can climb as high or drop as low as the entire system, making possible things like the rise of AFC Wimbledon. When Wimbledon's football club moved away a few years ago, angry fans formed a public company and started their own team, calling it AFC Wimbledon.

The new Wimbledon began in a ninth-level league and have been promoted twice to the seventh level. The old Wimbledon's on the verge of being relegated to the fourth, bringing them closer to the chance that the teams will play in the same league.

If we had promotion and relegation in U.S. pro sports, the Bidwell and Ford families wouldn't be running NFL franchises into the ground for decade after decade, because they'd be subjected to the same competitive pressures as their players. By now, they'd be running Arena2 League franchises into the ground.

Watching Saturday's FC Dallas game on DirectKick, I discovered that former Jacksonville sports talk host Bill Riley has become the Real Salt Lake play-by-play announcer. Another local blogger, Joe Dougherty, was a regular on Riley's morning show on WBWL, which disappeared when the station began running ESPN Radio in its place five years ago.

I looked for Riley on the radio for a while after his show disappeared, figuring he was too good not to be hired by somebody else. He's ended up in Utah calling the games for a woefully bad expansion franchise and hosting an afternoon show.


I firmly agree with the idea of promotion/relegation in pro sports--and not just the pros, either. I've worked up a system to apply it to high school sports as a possible answer to the public-private arguments currently plaguing Tennessee.

I cant believe there is no relegation/promotion in top US sports. What happens when a team plays really bad year after year? Surely there is no point in a team playing at the wrong level? Every team in the England wants to play in the premiership but thats just not possible with nearly 100 league clubs. However, every team has a chance a glory once a year with the FA cup. All teams play in a knock out competition until there is just 2 teams left (usually a top club) but theoretically an amateur team could get to the final.

I support Coventry City FC and they won the cup despite being relatively small in 1987. 2 year later Coventry were knocked out of the cup by Sutton United who play 4 divisions below and have players won only play part time. Heartbreaking for me but its just the way the cup goes sometimes...real David vs Goliath stuff.

What happens to older players who are past their best in the US who can no longer play in the top league but still have loads to offer a smaller club. Do they stop being professionals? Coventry signed Dennis Wise (ex England international midfielder)after Christmas who is now 37. He is playing fantastic and scored 4 in 2 games when he signed. He might not get a contract for the premiership but he can certainly do a job for us.

Would love to watch a top US sport live one day. Which is the most entertaining, hockey is fast but all the gear involved puts me off it.

As a Wimbledon supported from the 50s I have to agree with everything you say. Football is a wonderful sport (Not the American variety). My only gripe is that the team that was franchised away to Milton Keyes still maintains the history of the original club. They need to get their own history. If the promotion/relegation system were in operation here in the US where would teams like the BlackHawks be? As always money talks in the good old U.S.A. Looking forward to the World Cup. Of course I support ENGLAND.

Heh. I was doing a vanity search of my name on Google (yes, I had a legitimate reason, not ego), and discovered that you mentioned me in this entry.

A bit about Billy Riley: he moved the SLC when the Ball (the old WBWL) went automated. I barely remember it as an ESPN affiliate (WZNZ 1460 has that disctinction now), but I do know that sometime in the middle of the night a few years ago, they went Radio Disney. Still are, AFAIK (I don't get below WOKV these days).

Riles worked at KSL for a while, the moved to KALL. Riley did afternoon drive time on KSL and KALL for a while, but h'e now the moring drive-time on KALL. He was also calling play-by-play for BYU men's basketball o KSL, but he's probably not doing that gig anymore.

In fact, this was the first year he and I didn't get together for the Kentucky Derby/Triple Crown analysis. We started doing it here on the Ball, then he contacted me a couple of years ago in SLC and asked if I wanted to do it with him out there.

I found that kind of ironic, since Utah is not exactly a mecca of gambling in the region. But, we talked about the races because they were a major sports event.

I really felt badly when Riles, Scott Jackson, Rick Ballou and the Ball crowd left town. Radio is a cutthroat racket.

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