DREAMRUNS

Inside Sport - - COMEBACKS - – Trent Slee­man, Bris­bane

It’s Pigskin Pre­view time again (March is­sue), but many sport­ing eyes in this coun­try are fol­low­ing an over­seas league even more closely than usual. If Le­ices­ter City can go on to win the English Premier League this year, it will al­most con­clu­sively prove that any­thing is pos­si­ble in sport.

For once the hy­per­bole is jus­ti­fied, be­cause this is the sort of thing that just does not hap­pen. Black­burn’s suc­cess in 1994-95 aside – and that tri­umph was be­fore the EPL ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity and, there­fore, the wealth which has since al­lowed the “big” clubs to flour­ish – the Premier League era has only ever seen four dif­fer­ent cham­pi­ons, all of whom have al­ways been or have be­come “big” clubs.

That Le­ices­ter is on the verge of top­pling this is no mean feat be­cause the EPL is just not de­signed to al­low a small club to suc­ceed with a bud­get and re­sources that are frac­tions of what the “big” clubs have at their dis­posal. Make no mis­take, if Le­ices­ter can go on to win the league, it will be a game-changer for the game not only in Eng­land, but world­wide.

It is in­ter­est­ing to com­pare Le­ices­ter’s run to pro­fes­sional sport in that other great mar­ket, the USA, where pro sport is largely shaped by equal­i­sa­tion mea­sures that seek to give all fans a gen­uine be­lief of their team win­ning in any given sea­son: drafts, salary caps, gov­ern­ing body grants, etc. A look at the hon­our rolls of the var­i­ous leagues over the past 30-odd years re­veals a fair sprin­kling of suc­cess across the coun­try. For the EPL, the land­scape is vastly dif­fer­ent.

So where does Aus­tralia’s sport­ing en­vi­ron­ment sit on this spec­trum? We have equal­i­sa­tion mea­sures such as salary caps, club grants and, in the AFL’s case, a draft, but we also have a sit­u­a­tion where the smaller and there­fore poorer clubs have lit­tle prospect of suc­ceed­ing save for some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary. Is it a good thing? As our own leagues gear up for an­other bumper sea­son, a large num­ber of fans over here will be tun­ing into the EPL over the com­ing months to see if Le­ices­ter City can pull off some­thing that is truly im­prob­a­ble. And, just maybe, give some hope to sup­port­ers of the Wests Tigers and Carl­tons of the world who dare to dream.

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