One of the big stories in the world of English football today center around statements made by League Manager's Association CEO Richard Bevan inferring that foreign owners of Premier League teams would like to see the promotion and relegation system scrapped. Bevan doesn't name names but many of the sources reporting this story have included the names "Aston Villa" and "Randy Lerner" in close proximity to his quotes, leading to a fair number of people to "connect the dots" as it were. And though a recent club statement does not explicitly state Aston Villa's opposition to any such plan, the inference seems to me to be quite clear; Aston Villa would not be in favor of any such notion and if you'd be so kind as to not make sweeping statements that would implicate the club and possibly arise a great deal of ire amongst an already fragile fan base that would just be lovely. And that's quite nice to see, because the idea of doing away with promotion and relegation is quite clearly insanity.
From the standpoint of the club owner as profit-driven investor, there's certainly some appeal to this idea; buying a Premier League club isn't cheap. With more and more owners viewing the establishment of their club's "global brand" as vital to their investment strategies, the money required to improve marketing efforts, facilities and the product on the field is considerably more expensive. That being the case, it's easy to see how the prospect of the massive financial hit taken upon relegation are a terrifying prospect for a club's owners. But there's one very important fact that doesn't tend to get mentioned a whole lot when subjects such as these come up; they knew the deal when they bought the club. Relegation is not some nasty surprise these folks were unaware of upon taking ownership, some sort of higher-stakes equivalent of a fine-print poison pill in a credit card agreement.
Not to get too terribly political, but hasn't the idea of making huge and fundamental changes to long-standing institutions in order to protect very wealthy people from suffering the consequences of their own poor decisions fallen out of favor in recent times? Perhaps if one buys a club that's not in the best competitive position one should take a more measured approach to the size and type of investments made in that club until they're on a bit firmer footing? As much as we'd all like to be Sheikh Mansour (or at least have his resources at our disposal) the number of people in the world able to turn on the outside of the upper tier of English football into one of the best teams in the world in under five years is quite small; the number of those capable that are willing to do so -losses be damned- is even smaller.
Point being, business and investment involves risk. And if you own an English football club, one of those risks is that your team won't be good enough and will be sent down. And the promotion and relegation system is just far too important a part of the fabric of the English football system to do away with in order to protect owners from the risk of losses that any businessman worth half a damn would have weighed before buying a club in the first place. I don't begrudge anyone trying to make money, but when it starts messing things up for everyone else it becomes a problem. (In case you hadn't noticed.)
In any case, there's almost no way this happens. In the near future at least. It's a dumb idea that everyone on the planet aside from four or five people absolutely hate and were it instituted I think the sheer force of the backlash would lead to the idea being scrapped. If it did go through it would be a tremendous logitical nightmare (who gets to decide which teams are permanent Premier League clubs? Do those owners then have to pay a boatload of money to the Football League to divvy up amongst the teams whose major ambition is no longer a possibility, likely having tremendous financial consequences? Do we really have to keep Stoke?) And so, even if the club's comments are largely meaningless in actual impact, I believe that the symbolic impact is fairly important.
After the hiring of Alex McLeish there was something of a backlash against Lerner with certain segments of the fanbase trying to paint him as just another dumb American that doesn't understand football trying to make a buck off of the hopes and dreams of the club's supporters. Those accusations were never fair and always baseless, but they were there (and still are to at least some extent) so the further away the club gets from talk of this madness the better.