Whilst on holiday in Spain, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Athletic Club Bilbao.
Freakishly, whilst in the museum about the history of the club, there was a pendant on display that was given to them by Newcastle United when they played each other in 1994. It was quite spooky to find a link between the two clubs!
Now you may remember Athletic Club from last season when they knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League. They ended up going all the way to the final before losing to Atletico Madrid. Along with that they were runners up in the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona. Last year was a very good season for the team and they are hoping that they can build on that success in the forthcoming season.
However the crazy thing in all of this is that all the players who play for Athletic Bilbao come from the Basque region of Spain where the club is based. For a team that only allows Basque players to compete for them they have done extremely well, they have a group that actually want to play for the shirt because they come from the Basque region.
It got me thinking, what would the Premier League be like if it was divided into regions? Or if it only allowed players from an area such as the North-East? There would be a limited pool of players that teams could choose from and teams wouldn’t be dominated by foreign imports. Of course this really wouldn’t happen in the current age of football but it does make for a thoughtful debate. It would see the Premier League have more English players in the squads and perhaps these players playing for the shirt because they come from that region. In terms of the North-East, both Newcastle and Sunderland would be fighting for players from that area but if you think about it, if regions were used in Premier League football Newcastle could have had players such as Michael Carrick and others play for them because that is their native county.
Athletic Club are unable to compete with other teams in La Liga because they only employ Basque players but for a club that uses this tradition they have been extremely successful. It highlights that only with the Basque players in their squad they don’t need to use a massive influx of money to sign quality players such as the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. This system does have it’s limitations but indicates that how a regional based club can be successful in La Liga.
Would it ever work anywhere else though?