Leicester City: The Comeback Kid

By | April 30, 2016

By Jed Stone

The English Premier League is one of the best. Moreover, it is just about the most watched. Last year, 4.7 billion viewers around the world tuned in to watch the Premier League.[1] If you were one of those viewers last year, then you probably suspected Leicester City would not be present in this year’s Premier League. As part of the unforgiving nature of the League, a chunk is cut each year. Out of 20 teams, the lowest three teams must bid farewell into one of several lower leagues plaguing England’s hungry but less talented soccer scene.


Leicester City was certainly at risk to drop out of the Premier League. However, the past is the past. Look at the Premier League standings today. At the top of chart sits Leicester City. They have accomplished what few have done. And come Sunday, they are in a position to clinch their title. What makes this story all the more fascinating are the hurdles they’ve jumped through in effort to make it this far. In particular, Jamie Vardy.

Source: NBC News

Source: NBC News

First, to set the stage, one must understand that the Premier League has no salary cap system in place. Essentially, this would allow the teams with most investors and money to run the league. However, money doesn’t always win championships (just ask the New York Yankees, Miami Heat, LA Lakers).


Jamie Vardy is a star to the soccer world. Yet he was signed for a true fraction of the cost most star players are signed for. And not just that, Jamie Vardy would have never been predicted to have been a star. He wasn’t brought up in the Barcelona Academy like Messi, or touted to be the one to change the game from an early age. Instead, Vardy struggled. He attempted to play for Sheffield when he was just 16, but was rejected. Thus he was relegated to a lower, unheard of league in which he had to work in a factory to actually pay the bills. At this point, he was hardly a professional soccer player. Finally, his talent broke out and three transfers (and $1.2 million) later he was on the Leicester City squad. He has broken records. His team is shocking the league, and maybe the world.


So what does this mean for the Premier League? Well, it means you can’t count a team out. But for me, I question the validity of the “drop” policy. In any given season, a team can perform terribly for a number of reasons. Maybe their top player(s) was out due to injury. It seems to me that perhaps it would be more fair to drop the last place team every year, and then only drop the other two teams if they are in the bottom three for two consecutive seasons. What if Leicester City just missed the cut last year and didn’t make it back to the privileged Premier League?




[1] Alexander Smith, “Leicester City’s Soccer Underdog Story Rivals ‘Miracle on Ice’”, NBC News, April 30, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/leicester-city-s-soccer-underdog-story-rivals-miracle-ice-n564766”.

One thought on “Leicester City: The Comeback Kid

  1. Andrew Cho

    Thanks for the overview post of Leicester this season. It has been nothing short of a spectacle and perhaps we can expect another shocking end to it like the 2011-12 season with Manchester City.

    You bring up an interesting point about the relegation policy in the English leagues. I wonder how much more difficult this would make it for teams in the second division, Championship League. For most of the teams in this division, we read in Goldblatt’s book that moving up to the Premier League has huge financial implications. Striving to be in the Top 3 in the league only to be denied a promotion means another season spent running at a potential financial loss to the team. It seems that in this system, the bottom teams in the Premier League have a monumentally greater advantage in playing the promotion/relegation system, as they can “sacrifice” one year and then do well the next year.

    I do agree that soccer fans around the world may not have had the pleasure that is Leicester City this season. However, to have this type of relegation system in order to actively attempt to foster more stories like Leicester seems difficult. In their case, they placed 14th in their first year back in the Premier League, and then rose to the top of the table the next year, so Leicester wasn’t so close to relegation in their first year that we might have “missed” a clear title contender in the Premier League (as difficult a feat that is).

    If it indeed was the case that a team got relegated because one of its star players got injured, then it can easily return to the Premier League the following year. Injuries are part of the game and the league and a risk factor that all teams throughout the league incorporates into their yearly strategy. It may not be fair for bottom of the table teams to receive a sort of compensation or free pass in the case that a Vardy suffers injury.

    Your relegation suggestion is a highly interesting idea and one that I took to ponder for some time. But considering all teams and outcomes, it seems that the current English system is most appropriate and equitable. Thanks for the post!


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