When in 2010 Hull City and Portsmouth were relegated from the FA Premier League it meant that two English regions lost their only team in the top flight.
Since a similar fate had struck other regions in the previous years, the season 2010-11 became a contest between teams from four regions only: two from the North East, five from both the West Midlands and Greater London and a whopping eight from the North West. It must have been a cheap and easy season for some supporters – those of Wigan Athletic had seven away matches within cycling distance.
During its first decade, the Premier League (formed in 1992) consistently included clubs from seven or eight regions. The number fell to six in 2002, fluctuated between seven and five in subsequent seasons, until the 2010 dip that marked the first and only time in the league’s history that the majority of regions were unrepresented.
Then, Norwich City and Swansea City came to the rescue and got themselves promoted from the Championship. This was remarkable, as the East of England had been deprived of Premier League football for four years, and no team from Wales had ever achieved the ultimate promotion.
Sure enough, in the next few years clubs from other regions followed their example and currently the number of regions with Premier League football is back where it once started, at eight.
Yet, that is still eight out of a possible ten – Wales plus the nine English regions. Interestingly and unexpectedly, a scenario for full regional representation is currently presenting itself. Here’s what it looks like.
The two regions currently without a club competing in the Premier League are the East of England (Norwich City sadly went down last year) and the South West. The latter has been without a top level contender since 1994, when Swindon Town were relegated. Amazingly, with seven rounds to go, Bournemouth, the only team from the South West in the Championship, top the table, a position that would grant them their first ever promotion to the Premier League. With Norwich City, Watford, and Ipswich Town all in the top six, the East of England has three clubs well-placed for promotion.
In a way, the promotion of sides from the South West and the East of England is the easy part of the scenario. The difficult bit is getting the East Midlands to cooperate. Their only Premier League team, Leicester City, are hopelessly glued to the bottom of the table and have nine matches left to close a seven-point gap to safe 17th. In the likely case of a Leicester City relegation, the Championship would need to provide a regional replacement to secure a ten-region Premier League season in 2015-16.
Nottingham Forest have failed to keep promotion spots within reach, but Derby County are still hanging on, currently occupying 5th, which would qualify them for promotion play-offs.
So there’s the scenario in full: Bournemouth and one of the Eastern clubs to take the two top spots in this season’s Championship, then either Leicester to stay up or Derby to win the play-offs. Oh, and we can’t have Hull City go down, that would spoil everything. If, like me, you would quite like to see an all-region Premier League for the first time in its history, now you know what to do. Cheer for Bournemouth, and for Derby (or Leicester), and for Norwich (or Ipswich or Watford, but not for all of them), and a little bit for Hull. Easy!