The ugliness at the top of the beautiful game

<span>Oliver Arblaster of Sheffield United hides his face after his side’s defeat by Manchester United on 24 April.</span><span>Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA</span>
Oliver Arblaster of Sheffield United hides his face after his side’s defeat by Manchester United on 24 April.Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Jonathan Liew articulates much of what I have been saying for a while (For Sheffield United and co the Premier League brings a unique brew of misery, 23 April). The Premier League should no longer be viewed as the promised land for Championship clubs. The often morally dubious money of the large clubs has now distorted things so much that promotion is a hiding to nothing. And in the case of my beloved Sheffield United, it’s done so much damage to the club’s image that I feel we should probably sue the Premier League.

When you’re from Sheffield, you have a sense of the history of the game. From the rules being written down to the oldest football ground to the Little Mester’s workshop where the FA Cup used to be polished each year. But the game may now be tarnished beyond recovery. There’s a real sense that the Premier League bandwagon has now become an unethical and unwieldy beast for the few hugely monied clubs to play with.

“In hindsight it is increasingly clear that the six Super League clubs should probably have been allowed to go,” says Liew. I agree. In fact, let them break away now. We can enjoy the overpaid show ponies on TV, with VAR and Man United perennial underperformers, of course. I’ve been warning a friend who’s a Villa fan that they may get invited to join. Such a league will need the likes of the Villans to chuck up the odd result that makes it interesting, but mainly to be there as cannon fodder who lose most weeks.

Thankfully, it’s back to the Championship for us. With a hope that Wednesday stay up, Leeds stay down and the EFL break away from the Prem. Then all will be well, as long as we don’t get promoted.
John Rigby

• As a lifelong Sheffield United fan and season ticket holder, I found Jonathan Liew’s article to be right on the money – if you’ll excuse the pun. This has been a terrible season for us Blades and never has the gap between the haves and the have-nots been so great. We have-nots simply don’t have the resources to compete with billionaire-owned clubs and sportswashing projects. Occasionally we might scrape our “best” 11 together and kid ourselves we’re in with a shout for 90 minutes. But then the Fergie time board magically displays 10-plus minutes, our moneyed opponents bring on £150m of box-fresh talent and it’s literally game over.

And then there’s the unconscious bias of officials to contend with. Game after game you see the big players and big clubs get decisions in their favour. Refs clearly want to stay onside with Pep, Mikel and co, and don’t really care if Wilder or Kompany are screaming at them – they won’t be seeing them again any time soon for a sandwich.

I knew we were going to be relegated from the moment we went up. We effectively have about 15 teams in the promised land for life and then a few tokenistic others dropping in and out, like state school kids at Oxbridge, so the Premier League can cynically suggest that’s it’s not a closed shop for the elite.
Geoff Love
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

• Manchester City’s wage budget this season is around 10 times that of Sheffield United, which in turn is around 10 times that of Oxford United – who are in League One. Yet Sheffield United are expected to compete against the likes of Man City every week. In no fair sport could there ever be such grotesque financial inequality between two teams competing in the same league.

If it wasn’t already hard enough to bridge that gap, top teams now have the luxury of bringing five world-class players off the bench, VAR decisions that disproportionately benefit them, and copious added-on time (just in case they weren’t already winning). Abolishing FA Cup replays is the latest concession granted to big clubs that will only exacerbate this financial chasm.

Competing at the top is now impossible unless you’re backed by an unscrupulous US businessman or a murderous Middle East regime. This isn’t the football I fell in love with. This isn’t my football.
Nick Harland

• As a Burnley fan, all I can say to Ipswich fans is that you must believe what Jonathan Liew is trying to tell you: “that this – right here – is the good bit. With a team they adore and a league they are tearing apart and a coach who is theirs and theirs alone. Not the grim struggle that comes after.” Never has just a tiny part of an article expressed my feelings of last season and this so succinctly.
Hazel Leach
Sale, Greater Manchester

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