David Hannant: Football’s inequalities are so clear that I almost sympathise with Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 12:32 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 11 June 2020
It is not often that I feel even the slightest shred of sympathy for Ipswich Town.
Ordinarily the feelings I tend to get in the face of any kind of misfortune for Tractor Boys is everyone’s favourite German word - schadenfraude.
By now we all know what that one means, a feeling of pleasure from the misfortune of others.
However, the way lower league football has been treated in the face of Covid-19 has left me at the very least feeling sympathetic towards those in the same position as Paul Lambert’s side.
Obviously, the curtailing of the League One season condemning Town to another year in the third flight is nothing short of hilarious and I don’t feel any sympathy for them in that sense.
I do, however, have a great deal of sympathy towards the third tier downwards in general, so by extension that means I feel sorry for Ipswich.
We’ve known for quite some time that there is a huge gulf between the top two flights of English football - financially in particular, but also in terms of the number of eyes on them.
However, never before do I think the inequality between teams in the top two divisions and those below it has been more apparent.
The curtailing of all football below the Championship must make fans of those teams simply feel like second class citizens.
Since his decision to cross the East Anglian divide, I can’t say I have agreed with Paul Lambert on too many occasions.
In this period, the number of times he has described the Portman Road home support, with its scores and scores of empty seats, as ‘phenomenal’, has quite simply devalued all those times he said it about our fan base.
I also, definitely don’t agree with his suggestion that Town could have made the play-offs.
However, I can’t help but agree with his comments lambasting the fact the top two leagues are set to restart, but everything else has to grind to a halt.
Few things get anybody’s blood boiling more than the feeling that there is one rule for some and one for another - just ask Dominic Cummings about that one.
But the fact this has allowed to play out in a footballing sense is simply farcical - it is essentially saying that nothing matters outside of the top two tiers.
Of course, I understand the financial burden of empty stadiums is much more devastating for teams outside of the Premier League bubble, even in the Championship, but surely this is where the megabucks could come into play for good.
One of the biggest flaws of the game for decades has been the money fails to trickle down the footballing pyramid freely.
The rich always get richer, the poor stay where they are or even end up poorer - the latter is certainly how this will play out.
While clubs in the top two tiers will also miss out on revenue from playing in empty stadiums, surely there is a way television and sponsorship money can be better filtered down the ladder to help facilitate Leagues One and Two at the very least being continued?
While the members did vote themselves for the curtailing, would they have done so if the financial support of those taking the lion’s share of the cash had been there? Probably not.
What we will also see as a result of this crisis is likely an even greater inequality - which at very worst case scenario make the gulf between the Championship and League One as significant as that between the Championship and the Premier League.
The financial muscle of the Premier League compared to the Championship sits at a point where even the so-called smaller clubs can essentially cherry pick any second tier player away - albeit prices can be ridiculous.
While there is an element of this wherever you are in the pyramid, generally teams have been able to get good, if not great value for players.
Once the dust has settled on all of this, teams in the lower tiers could be so strapped for cash that they may be forced to accept derisory fees for prized assets, inevitably widening the gulf.
English football is already blighted with inequality - the last thing we need is more of that.
A long way further down, imagine being a fan of Jersey Bulls, who had already won the league before the pause button was hit, only for the season to be rendered null and void.
So much has been said in this debate about sporting integrity - where’s the integrity in having one rule for some and one for everybody else.
Plus, as a final point, Ipswich Town deserved the chance to bottle their fading promotion hopes on the pitch, rather than via a Duckworth Lewis style points per game system - that would have been funnier for everyone.