Friday, August 12, 2011

Survival of the fittest (wealthiest?)

Poetic - sometimes, if we're feeling really good. Evocative? Occasionally. Artistic - hardly. But as we mentioned on Wednesday, the graphic below is about as artistic as Balanced Sports get.

click graphic to enlarge
It plots the survival rates of teams promoted to the Premiership across the past decade and tells a stark tale. While Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham have survived - some would even say thrived - at the top level, the tales of greatest success are to be found in the early part of the past decade when they were joined by Manchester City, Portsmouth, West Ham and Wigan in establishing themselves as Premier League entities.

Of 30 teams promoted, thirteen have gone straight back down.

Elimated after
1 Year
* Denotes number of teams still in Premier League.

A "Survival Analysis" on such a small sample size would be ineffective given the group loses nearly 50% of it's members after a first year relegation. But were we to examine how many clubs had a five-year survival rate, exactly one promoted club in three stays in the division for five years or more. That means of the 21 teams who could have been in the Premier League for five years by this season (ie. all those teams promoted 2007 or before), seven have survived that length of time.

However, should we withdraw those clubs arriving B.R. (before Roman (Abramovich), who for better or worse changed football forever with his petro-roubles) - that number drops slightly to 26.67%. However, this also includes the recently relegated clubs West Ham United and Portsmouth, who nearly bankrupted themselves with exorbitant wages, the global financial crisis, multiple court appearances and other sundry expenses.

This proves once again that Stoke manager Tony Pulis is correct in his thinking: that three seasons of consolidation should be enough to establish oneself.  With prudent investment - leading to crucial squad refreshment - Premier League status can be retained.  It's all so simple, isn't it?

Not really.  A team must make the choice to thrive and perhaps risk financial crisis (cf. Portsmouth - one FA Cup for debt so large it makes Greece smirk) or simply enjoy an EPL existence, like current relegation favourites Wigan Athletic.  The chasm between first and second divisions hasn't been this great in some time, if ever.  

Even the glory days of Promotion at the turn of the millennium weren't as straightforward as it would seem.  While Bolton Wanderers operated on a shoestring and Sam Allardyce's Route-1 football, Fulham and Manchester City have both benefited from the largesse of a financial benefactor.  As Everton's Bill Kenwright would attest, it's no longer enough to just get to the league and try your chances. 

The two promotion successes of recent years - Sunderland and Stoke City - followed the same model; backed by owners Ellis Short and Peter Coates' combination of fiscal prudency and healthy hip pockets. Along with Wolves, whose finances are also healthy, this trio look likely to maintain this one-in-three average of promoted sides remaining in the division at the expense of smaller clubs and hamstrung owners.

1 comment:

  1. As a supporter of recently promoted (soon to be relegated) QPR, I quoted your very good article in a piece I wrote today about our crazy little club: