A fight to the finish

I often tell my non-soccer loving friends, of which there are many, that relegation is the best-kept secret in the world to American sports fans.

There is nothing like it.

The final day of the NFL season always features 16 games – and most years almost all of them are a complete waste of time. Division winners have clinched, home field for the playoffs has been decided and a host of teams end up simply playing out the string.

That’s because, in American sports, there’s no penalty for finishing last. In fact, teams are rewarded for it with high draft picks.

In soccer (everywhere else in the world), a last-place effort gets you a one-way ticket out of the league.

There were 10 games in England yesterday on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season. And Manchester United had the championship already sewn up, even their game with Blackpool mattered.

Seven of the 10 games were important for league survival or places in European competition next season.

Wolverhampton fell behind 3-0 at the half, and looked to be going down to the Championship (the second division of English soccer), but two second-half goals kept Wolves in the Premier League.

And that’s worth about $90 million to the club, by the way.

Hugo Rodallega won’t be buying his own drinks in Wigan for a while, as his 79th minute goal kept his side in the BPL with a 1-0 win at Stoke.

There were also losers on Sunday.

Blackpool took a 2-1 lead against the champions, but fell apart late in a 4-2 loss.


Birmingham couldn’t nick a draw against Tottenham, a sad end to a season that featured a Carling Cup trophy for the case.

Doesn’t matter. They’re gone, too.

Both clubs will join West Ham in the Championship next season, making way for Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and the winner of the playoff final between Swansea and Reading.

With relegation, there is a penalty for futility.

Just ask the folks in Blackpool and Birmingham.

Check out the highlights here


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