Comment: Let’s now think about how the Leicester legacy can be preserved

Leicester’s remarkable title victory has brought a sense of fairytale, adventure and wonder to the Premier League, caught the world’s imagination and given fans of clubs outside the elite an opportunity, like Claudio Ranieri, to ‘dream’.

Comment: Let’s now think about how the Leicester legacy can be preserved

So has there ever been a better time for those who run football to consider what steps should be taken to protect that dream?

As Leicester’s achievement begins to sink in, not just for those lucky few who watched it at Jamie Vardy’s house but for fans right across the world who have been inspired by their story, it’s easy to see why this incredible season is being described as the moment which changed the game.

After years of complaints that football had sold its soul to television, lost its connection to the common man and forgotten the reasons why the sport is so special, Leicester have been an effective and heady antidote.

The way they have swept aside bigger clubs, coped with the incredible pressure of a title battle and confounded experts at every turn has been a heady high.

On top of that, they have done it in a way that appeals to the man on the street; not with the intellectual purity of an Arsene Wenger, not with the tactical brutality of a Jose Mourinho but with the honest hard work, vitality and free thinking of good old Uncle Claudio.

The emergence of Vardy, too, has strengthened the Leicester story.

A working class lad, faults and all, who has gone from non-league to top flight hero in record time.

A link between the fans and the game that has been missing for years.

A story so good it’s being turned into a film.

All these things should be celebrated as Leicester prepare to lift the trophy on Saturday and the big boys dust themselves down and try to work out what on earth went wrong.

It’s a moment that really has disrupted football — challenging perceptions that the top four is a members-only club and inspiring those who normally spend their lives looking longingly up but not daring to believe they can ever get there.

But now, and sorry to burst the bubble so early, there is also a hidden danger in Leicester’s success story; because it seems those vociferous few who shout so loudly to try and protect football from losing its roots are at the moment strangely subdued.

There is a sense that the reason for Leicester’s fairytale is the new money arriving in the Premier League next season when even the club that finishes last will earn €130m under a new TV rights deal.

All of a sudden television is no longer the big bad devil which robbed football of its soul; it’s the paymaster which is giving the game back its magic.

True, the deal, and in particular the way it is distributed, looks likely to be good for the competitiveness of the Premier League judging by this year’s events.

But look deeper and you need to ask what does it really do for the lower league clubs who are currently so inspired by Leicester’s story?

The danger for the would-be Leicesters of the future is that the new money in the Premier League will make it virtually a closed shop, open only to those who have been there before.

The figures are so high that all 20 teams who play in the competition next year will instantly joint the list of world’s top 30 richest clubs.

So, just as we lose a two-tiered system which starts and ends at sixth place we are about to inherit one which stretches to 20th but which operates at such a different level to those below that future dreams are crushed before they even begin.

Take a look at the Premier League now. Leicester were in League One in 2009, Southampton in 2011.

Bournemouth have risen all the way from League Two since 2010. Even Manchester City were in England’s third tier in 1999.

But for clubs at that level in 2016 it looks a daunting and slippery ladder despite Leicester’s example.

Increasingly tough Financial Fair Play rules for Football League clubs will make it very difficult for benefactors to put in the kind of money required to take a club with a small ground through the leagues as Maxim Demin has done at Bournemouth (a club who only this week were fined for spending too much) — and the huge parachute payments paid to clubs relegated from the Premier League make it an even tougher and uneven battle for promotion.

It’s true that the top flight may well change for the better as a result of Leicester’s success; there’s a significant chance that more and more clubs will challenge for the top six in future as they gain the ability to pay wages that even giants from abroad cannot match.

Let’s welcome in the new era and wallow in Leicester’s glory; but let’s not presume that David has killed Goliath and is suddenly safe.

Football still needs people to protect its soul and fight for its future — even at a time when we are all celebrating its ability to generate a fairytale that many thought was no longer possible.

The Leicester story should be a poignant reminder of what makes the game special and why it’s worth fighting for, not just a temporary mask to cover what’s beneath.

Why should this be a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence?

Why shouldn’t football be set up in a way which encourages people to dream like Uncle Claudio did?

So let’s party hard with Jamie Vardy for now — and then think about how the Leicester legacy can be preserved.

At the moment the world is on our side.

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