There were long spells this season when people were questioning whether Bournemouth would get the job done, but Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Nottingham Forest sent them back to the Premier League at the second time of asking. January signing Kieffer Moore tucked in the winner late in the game to send the Cherries into the top flight once more.
Considering that Bournemouth are a small seaside town club with a stadium capacity of just 11,000, their second promotion to the Premier League in seven years ought to be classed as a fairy tale. But don’t be fooled.
What many people tend to miss, including the Sky Sports commentary team on Tuesday, is that they didn’t exactly do the “unthinkable” the first time around, with their success as attributable to money as any other in recent memory. It may seem strange for a club of Bournemouth’s stature to receive significant financial investment, but that’s exactly what their rise was built on. After all, their stunning promotion campaign to the height of English football in 2014-15 was controversial to say the least.
The club had invested millions on players to the point that they were in violation of the EFL’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Yet because their gamble paid off and promotion was achieved, they avoided punishment due to them suddenly falling under the Premier League’s jurisdiction. So when they did exactly what Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Reading and more have done in recent years but escaped the kinds of punishment the rest were subjected to, Bournemouth had done little more than get away with exploiting a loophole.
They were able to go up scot-free, enjoying five seasons at the top table before suffering relegation in 2019-20. Their quick return to the top-flight after a two-year absence further highlights the crippling effect of the Premier League’s parachute payments, which has been a growing problem for the remaining 21 teams in the Championship for years. Their ascent to the Premier League again this summer alongside Fulham underlines further the assertion that the financial gap between the teams with parachute payments and those without has got way too big.
We already know Norwich City are making a swift return to the second tier for 2022-23 and, given their track record in recent years, you would put your money on them achieving automatic promotion already. It not only makes the narrative tiring but it’s boring as well. The beauty of the Championship used to be that the race for promotion was different almost every year and now it’s more or less known beforehand who will fill the top two spots and then it is just teams battling it out to make it into the play-off picture.
While this appears to be a rant specifically aimed at Bournemouth, they have only done what others have been able to do, throw money in to gamble on getting into the Premier League and then live off the EPL dollar. The gargantuan financial gap opening up between the top two tiers of English football and the EFL as a result, is concerning to say the least.
As already mentioned, Norwich are the chiefs of swapping divisions, with an inability to come to terms with the top flight. Yet when they come back down they are streets ahead of their rivals and it is almost a walk in the park for them to go back up for another crack in the money league.
It was reported in November that the Premier League and the EFL were in talks over removing parachute payments, but the silence since that report has been deafening. It is something that certainly needs to be looked at to help the beautiful game so that some degree of integrity is kept and the Championship can be returned to its former, ‘anything can happen’, glory.
Everyone at Bournemouth should indeed indulge themselves in celebration for their accomplishment, but after receiving a combined £75 million over the last two years (reportedly lessened due to the Covid-19 pandemic) to cushion the blow of relegation, this promotion was more of an inevitability. And for those covering this story, they need to realise that they are not a club who have triumphed against all the odds to get where they are.
The growing financial gap in football is a pandemic in itself, and for as long as parachute payments remain in place it’s simply not going to get any better.
*18+ | BeGambleAware