May 2015, and Bournemouth FC secure their promotion to the top flight of English football, the Premier League. I've been a football fan for over 40 years, but also love the NFL - oh how the NFL would love to have a Bournemouth story..!
Promotion to the Premier League is seen as the Holy Grail in football, because not only do you get to play cubs like Manchester United and City, Chelsea and Arsenal, you get access to the Premier League's money. A lot of money.
The Premier League recently signed a TV deal which was simply massive, making it one of the richest leagues in world sport, and that means big paydays for the clubs in that league.
So, getting to that league for the first time is obviously a big deal for any club, but with Bournemouth, it's the story behind that rise to the top that makes the promotion stand out, and it's a story to warm the heart of football fans. Let's look at that story before looking at why the NFL would love to have something similar...
Back in 1997 the club were so short of money that the players had to go rattling buckets in the town centre. Current manager Eddie Howe was a player at the time, and his association with them is a lovely thread in a world of managers flown in from around the world.
In 2008, the typical financial struggles of the lower league teams were drowning the club again, and the administrator was 5 minutes away from liquidating the club. It was only when current chairman Jeff Mostyn put in his own money to pay for another month, that the club survived.
In 2009, the financial problems meant they started the season with a 17 point deduction and a ban from going into the transfer market, which seemed to place them doomed to drop out of the league altogether. In fact it was only a goal 10 minutes from the end of their final home match that saved them.
Real Roy of the Rovers stuff.
From that series of low points, it's been up and up, seeing them go from the very bottom to the very top in just a few years. It's hard to believe that it's still possible to do it in today's football world, and it won't be any surprise to hear that the foundation of the rise was the same foundation behind the falls - money.
A rich Russian moved to the area, took an interest in the club, and became the owner, providing the kind of money needed to attract the kind of player needed. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, money talks in sport.
Having said all that, Bournemouth's story *is* one to warm the hearts of the football fan, and the NFL would love to have a story like it, but they never will...
In English football, you can simply start a club, and apply to join the FA. Then you can join your local league, and if the team improves, there is nothing to stop the team going up via promotion, then up again via promotion, all the way up to the promised land of the Premier League. Nothing.
Not so with the NFL, which is a business model based on franchises. Any NFL team is part of the NFL business. They have to act in a certain way, they have to go with certain NFL deals, and they share the NFL money. Yes, some teams are owned by the fans, but most are owned by rich individuals or families, and here's the kicker - no relegation or promotion.
It's not possible for me to form a team and hope for eventual promotion to the NFL, because that's not how the sport is set up. It's not possible either for a team like the New England Patriots to get relegated - can you imagine it!
There are 32 teams in the NFL, and the only way that line up will change, is if the NFL decides so, maybe via expansion, maybe via a team moving from one city to another (London team within 10 years, anyone?)
Don't get me wrong, I love the NFL, and there are real moments of drama, and although you may get heart-warming back stories about individual players, you'll never get one about a team coming from the depths all the way to the giddy heights.
I'm not suggesting that the NFL change its' model, it is also one of the richest sports in the world, so the model works, but I think the Bournemouth story shows why it's football rather than the NFL which is the true global game, and oh blimey, how the NFL must yearn to have a story like it!Suggest a correction