During Sunday’s MLS Cup, someone wasted money to fly a banner advocating promotion and relegation in American soccer.
While promotion and relegation are commonplace in soccer leagues worldwide, it is the sport least equipped to handle it in this country. MLS is far from becoming a major league. Maybe promotion and relegation would help – but it could also be disastrous. Living in D.C., I can tell you that the DC United would not survive relegation. It may not survive anyway.
But why is this discussion focused solely on soccer? Basketball and hockey could easily institute a promotion/relegation system. I mean, the NHL has a crop of six to eight cities – Seattle, Kansas City, Ontario, Hartford, Las Vegas etc. etc. – that come up every time expansion is mentioned.
However – and I buried the lede – there is only one American sport that could institute promotion and relegation tomorrow and start printing money. Yes, it’s the professional league that prints money every day – the National Football League.
The NFL has several real problems. The concussion crisis remains a significant fear in the future of the sport. Roger Goodell is a liar. Domestic violence is not taken seriously. The player conduct policy is still being rewritten. The drug policy is joke.
Yet, to hear NFL owners talk, there are other, more pressing problems. Surprise, surprise, they revolve around money. They need a team in Los Angeles, preferably two. They really, really want a team in London. They need more inventory for television partners. They want to make more money.
So, Roger Goodell, this is the billion-dollar idea that solves all of your perceived problems – a 10-team Relegation League that plays on Thursday nights.
Where would those teams come from? Well, the NFL wants two teams in Los Angeles and one in London. There are three. San Antonio and Orlando have stadiums ready for NFL teams. There are five. Las Vegas needs only a stadium. That’s six. Maybe we give Toronto a try with its own team? How about Louisville, Memphis and Salt Lake City – three Top 50 markets with college stadiums that could serve as a stopgap?
10 Teams: Los Angeles 1, Los Angeles 2, London, San Antonio, Orlando, Las Vegas, Toronto, Louisville, Memphis and Salt Lake City.
Figure out the schedule and playoffs to get two teams bumped into the NFL while the lowest two NFL teams get relegated. This solves so, so many problems.
The Thursday Night Conundrum
The NFL loves being on Thursday night. CBS loves it too as would any other network. But the games absolutely suck and it’s borderline criminal to make players take part in two games three days apart.
This relegation league fixes this problem because the games would be every Thursday night. They’re still part of the NFL and still on national television, essentially their punishment for being relegated are no weekend games. That seems fair, no?
If the NFL wanted to get real greedy – you know they want to – they could add a single Wednesday Night Football game with the 4 games on Thursday nights.
Gets Teams in L.A. and London
For the past month, it has become an open secret that the Raiders and/or Rams are moving back to Los Angeles. Maybe Oakland hasn’t proved to be an NFL city, but why St. Louis? Forgetting the delicious irony of STL County cops losing out on overtime after threatening the Rams, why should that city lose its NFL team? How is that fair?
The London issue is one that will linger forever until a team is there because who knows if London would support a team and how the travel would work. In the relegation league, the risks are minimized because if it doesn’t work, you can close shop without it impacting the league at all. Ditto for trying it in Toronto.
More jobs for more players
How quickly would the NFLPA say yes? We are instantly adding more than 500 football jobs. Heck, Goodell and company can spin their way into being job-creating American heroes.
How much would someone pay for an NFL team in Los Angeles? We know Steve Ballmer just paid $2 billion for an NBA team. Even if we take a most conservative estimate – and average the entry fee at $500 million per team – that is instantly $5 billion for the NFL. Instantly! And that’s before whatever outrageous sum of money ESPN or Fox or NBC or all three would pay for TV rights.
Let’s make the sport fun again
Why did Tim Tebow never get a true chance? Why can’t Art Briles or Paul Johnson try their unique offenses in the pros?
The biggest problem with the NFL product is how everything looks the same. All the offenses are so similar. Especially now with the rules as they are, it’s becoming target practice for guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Chip Kelly was a breath of fresh air to the league and the Eagles instantly became one of the league’s more intriguing teams. 10 more teams means more Chip Kelly’s and fewer Jay Gruden’s.
Punish bad teams!
Dan Snyder has destroyed the franchise here in Washington. There are never going to be repercussions. If anything, his losing is rewarded with top draft picks that he can summarily ruin. You think DC fans are mad now – imagine if they were playing for their lives at the big boy NFL table?
I’m a Jets fan. I have been rooting against my team for weeks now so we can draft Marcus Mariota. If I’m rooting for my all-time favorite team to lose, something is wrong.
Gambling! Fantasy football!
We all know why people watch the NFL in the regular season. Five more opportunities each week to gamble? Yes, please!
It would be trickier for fantasy football but here’s a guess that we figure out. Maybe in addition to our NFL teams, we get two or three players on our roster from the relegation league? You think having fantasy football in our lives for six days a week would work? Based on the success of weekly and daily leagues, I’m going to say yes.
No 18-Game Regular Season
The NFL has been hinting at adding games for 10 years because it would make them so much more money to add two more weeks. But if you add a relegation league and add, say, $10 billion to the bottom line, maybe that isn’t necessary?
I don’t see any way politically the NFL can expand the regular season. Besides, instead of adding 2 weeks on already taxed players, they can add 16 with all new players!
The Drawbacks? They Exist
They do. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I didn’t think the positives outweighed the negatives. But here they are:
- Is there enough talent? The starting QBs in the NFL can be underwhelming to say the least, which you know if you’ve watched the Jets play.
- How do you manage the draft? The relegation teams have to be a part of it, so do they draft from #33 to #42? Well I just added two hours to the NFL Draft’s First Round and made the NFL another $100 million.
- Could an NFL team get relegated and disappear? This is a gigantic risk for NFL owners, especially an incompetent boob like Dan Snyder, since his fans are ready to cut and run as is.
- Would you have to re-work NFL divisions every year? With 10 teams, the relegation league can be one table. But the 32-team NFL needs divisions for scheduling. I think changing them every year to make geographic sense would be fun. Or it may be the impetus for the NFL to scrap the AFC/NFC designations and move to four, 8-team divisions like the NHL. It’s an issue, but one that $10 billion can solve.
So after reading that, what do you think?
I doubt it will ever happen but it is incredible to think about. Would you watch? Would you be excited? Do you think it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever read?
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