Why have football league tables so early?
The opening weeks of a new football season are largely an enjoyable time. With one exception – early league tables.
I recall growing up in an era where league tables didn’t kick in until at least 10 games had been played. Maybe it was even a few more than that. However, the modern-day Premier League-led age seems to call for a table after the first match.
There is no reason for this. Aside perhaps one. If you’re a newly-promoted team expecting to get thrashed every week but you pull off a surprise big win on the opening day. Then yes, it’s fun to see your team (briefly) top of a table. Commentators will often snigger with an undercurrent of: “Enjoy it while it lasts, Bournemouth fans”.
But is it all really necessary? The straightforward answer is no.
⬆️ @ManUtd go above Liverpool with their first points of the season#MUNLIV pic.twitter.com/yRBGrL3wWK
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 22, 2022
I guess it’s symptomatic of the constant need to measure ‘success’ and ‘failure’.
There is indecent haste to draw the dreaded dotted lines of relegation. Higher up, Champions League spots and even Europa League sections are mapped out. Heck, even the Europa Conference League. I mean which football fan cares about being seventh after one game?! And when did seventh become an ‘achievement’ anyway?
Permanent pressure of league tables
This penchant extends down the football ladder too. In League Two we’re told who is in a play-off spot after just 90 minutes of action. Worse still, someone suffers a 3-0 defeat and is now doomed to sit under the line of relegation for at least ONE WHOLE WEEK!
It applies unnecessary pressure to fans. As a fan of a L2 side myself, this pressure gets heaped on a manager. Five games in and we are calling for their heads.
Some time ago, youth football in the UK took a decision not to publish league tables. The idea is to take away some of the pressure at that age. Hey kids, just enjoy playing. That sort of approach. It’s a wise one too as once seniority arrives it’s dotted lines and ‘hype’ all the way.
In senior football, and to a degree all sports, the game is driven by ‘hyped pressure’ rather than a simple enjoyment of playing. Think how many times you hear a pundit say phrases like…
“He must feel the pressure”
“The pressure got to him there”
“You have to be able to deal with the pressure at the highest level”
Of course, sports psychology has produced many studies on pressure and its effects. These affect both players and spectators. I’d imagine spotting your side propping up the division is not great to see at such an early stage of a season.
The result is just a cycle of hype and pressure. Rinse and repeat. It often means the whole act of watching a football match can be one of unrelenting angst and misery!
As Mylo once put it: Drop The Pressure. It’s about time football did away with its way too early league tables.