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Can Richmond Really Win the Championship?

Ted Lasso is less than a week away from its finale, and AFC Richmond is one game away from potentially winning the Premier League. As the ultimate underdog story is about to conclude, many people wonder if something like that is even possible in real life: can a small local club really become champions of one of football’s toughest national leagues? Because, deep down, that’s what AFC Richmond is, a neighborhood club with some national projection, but it’s ultimately minor. While actual football matches play a smaller role in the series, they are what will decide the fate of the season. So what can really happen?


From the Story’s POV, Richmond Will Likely Be the Champions

Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) on the field in Ted Lasso Season 2
Image via Apple TV+

There’s no way around it. Back at the end of Season 1, when Richmond was relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, Ted (Jason Sudeikis) comforted club owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) by assuring her it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, relegation would give them time to regroup, restructure, and, once promoted back to the top, “win the whole effing thing”. So that was it, the end of the whole series had probably been given away at the end of its very first season. Not spoiled, just promised, as you can’t drop something like that and not make it come back later. Even narrator Arlo White said the exact same sentence last episode, so it’s coming, guys.

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Still, despite Ted’s promise and best intentions, it’s always been difficult to have that much faith in Richmond as a title contender. We love the team and the players, and it’s been incredible seeing them grow as a family and start actually believing in Ted’s ideas and their own potential. Because that’s what Ted has also stated about the Richmond locker room since the very first episode of the series: “smells like potential”.

When Ted took over as coach, there was a little bit of everything there: an old icon in the twilight of his career like Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), a talented troublemaker like Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), up-and-coming youths who didn’t believe in themselves like Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh)… Nearly every real-life football trope was there. They just needed to be shaped into what they could be, and that’s what Ted did, and each of those players was given their own development arc in the series, too, along with other members of the team, like Isaac (Kola Bokinni), Colin (Billy Harris) and so on. But not just the players. One of the best things Ted Lasso has done is apply the real-world fact that the team’s performance on the pitch inevitably mirrors its management, and Richmond did become a positive example in that arena with Rebecca’s ownership and the whole staff. All that, coupled with the fact that Richmond does represent a very well-defined and proud community, is the recipe for a fairy tale in any sport, and would crown an exemplary underdog success story to cap the whole series, even with Nate (Nick Mohammed) coming back — and Ted potentially leaving.

So Richmond has paid their dues, time after time. They’ve done their sentence but committed no crime. Bad mistakes? They’ve made a few and had their share of sand kicked in their faces, too. So now, as Ted Lasso approaches its finale, the only thing left for the series to do is roll out Queen‘s “We Are The Champions” for Richmond, even if they don’t end up winning the whole effing thing, they are the champions for us — and also because we now know Freddie Mercury once owned the club, too, so that would be poetic.

ted-lasso-richmond-players
Image via Apple TV+

Unfortunately, though, there’s the other side of it. While Ted Lasso did build a beautiful title-worthy campaign for AFC Richmond in the current season’s Premier League, there’s something that needs to be said about it from the sports perspective: it just doesn’t happen. While it’s certainly worth noting that the Premier League only started in 1992, no team has ever come from promotion straight to the title. Before that, it has happened a few times, most notably with manager Brian Clough‘s epic Nottingham Forest in 1978… And that’s the most recent example in English football.

Football nowadays has become a very hostile environment for local clubs like Richmond. Money is basically what decides whether a team will win a title or not, even tournaments that prize regularity like the Premier League. This very season, for example, Arsenal dominated most of the league, but couldn’t keep it up until the end – it’s a long season, teams play multiple championships, and you just can’t expect players to be incredible every match. Unless you have money to build an impressive first team and have a bench of substitutes that could very well be playing in anyone else’s first team, and that’s the case with Manchester City, who ultimately passed Arsenal in the last rounds and crowned themselves champions for the third year in a row.

That’s not at all the case for Richmond, as they would probably be a yo-yo club in real life (the ones that get promoted and relegated very often). They are, in fact, the team that the bigger ones like Manchester City prey upon. Whenever a small club does a good job, you can certainly expect its players to depart for bigger clubs the following season, as there are always irrefutable offers for everybody involved, from the footballers to the clubs themselves, who often need the money to survive. That’s one of the reasons Ted Lasso is such a great and positive series for football fans: it shows that it’s not always about the money and that, when it is, it really shouldn’t be.

But Richmond’s Run Is Very Similar to Leicester’s Real Title-Winning Season

Kola Bokinni as Isaac and Phil Dunster as Jamie Tartt in Ted Lasso
Image via Apple TV+

The beauty of sports is that they are always prone to surprises. Richmond winning the title would be the ultimate surprise and one of the biggest accomplishments in Premier League history, as it’s never been done before. There was a very similar case once, though. In the 2015-2016 season, small club Leicester City did manage to snag the Premier League title away from the big teams and became one of the greatest fairy tale stories in modern English football.

Coached by Italian coach Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes surprised the whole world with a very cohesive tactical display, allowing their players to perform where they felt the best on the pitch. No one believed Leicester could win the whole effing thing at the start of the season, and it was one of the top relegation candidates in everyone’s opinion. It had almost been relegated the prior season, why wouldn’t it now? Plus, the players were discredited, and Ranieri was seen as old and obsolete. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold most of the players who led the team to the title, like Algerian star Ryad Mahrez (who now plays for Manchester City), and French powerhouse N’golo Kanté (who went on to Chelsea), but they are still remembered by this amazing accomplishment.

Richmond’s current campaign seems based on Leicester’s real one, complete with a staggering win against Manchester City in Manchester and a striker who went through hell and back – Jamie Tartt for Richmond and Jamie Vardy for Leicester. Their campaign didn’t make any sense, and they won. Richmond’s also doesn’t make any, but they’ll probably — and hopefully — win.

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