JJ Watt returns to football after only a few months of retirement! Before NFL fans get too excited, it’s not what you think. The recently retired future Hall of Famer and his wife, USWL football player Kealia Ohai Watt, posted a funny video on Twitter announcing Watt’s return to football. But the football he’s talking about is what we call football, and he’s headed for the owner’s box, not on the sidelines, taking on the pyramid of English football with a club called Burnley.
In a video posted to social media on May 1, NFL legend JJ Watt and his wife, Kealia Watt has announced that he is “officially retiring”.
As JJ Watt returns to football, it’s the European variety that we in the United States call football.
The funny video begins with JJ and Kealia joking that he’s only been retired for a few months, but they both agree that he “really needs something to do.”
JJ suggests renting an RV and following Taylor Swift on tour. However, the Watts decided to invest in English football club Burnley instead.
“We don’t have the kind of money to ‘buy a whole European football club’. We are more in the direction of minority investment but massive emotional investment,” Watt announced. “So, America, allow us to introduce you to Burnley. Buckle up, kids, because we’re about to take a little trip known as the English football pyramid.
The Watts are now the latest in the line of American athletes and celebrities to invest in soccer clubs around the world. LeBron James owns part of Liverpool in England, Will Farrell, Mathew McConaughey and Drew Carey all have stakes in MLS teams, and Eva Longoria and Kate Upton are part of a group that owns a Mexican soccer team.
Most famously, actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Welsh club Wrexham AFC and guided them to promotion from the English Fifth Division to the Fourth.
What is the English football pyramid?
At the end of the video, JJ and Kealia Watt joke about the English football pyramid. But what is the English football pyramid?
The English football pyramid is the interconnected system of all the professional and semi-professional football leagues in England (plus some teams from Wales and the British Isles). The pyramid has 11 different levels, with the English Premier League at the top.
The EPL is one of the best football leagues in the world. It consists of 20 teams, including the ones you probably know if you know anything about European football. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur make up the “Big 6” of the EPL.
After the EPL there is, in order of prestige, the 24-team EFL Championship, League 1 and League 2. Collectively, these four divisions are known as “League football”.
Below are the “non-league football” clubs. This includes the National League (5th Division) and the 6th to 11th Divisions of English football. These lower leagues run the gamut from full-time professional leagues to community and semi-professional leagues.
As well as playing in their leagues, the majority of the English football pyramid – from the First Division to the 10th Division – participate in the FA Cup tournament each season. The top four divisions also play for the English Football League Cup (now Carabao).
The closest comparison in American sports is the Minor League Baseball system. However, in England the clubs are not associated with each other. This is because there is a promotion and relegation system in place.
This means that the most successful clubs at each level move up to the next higher division for the following season, while the last ones finish at the lower level.
So, to stay with the baseball analogy, let’s say the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans were an independent team and not a Chicago Cubs farm club. If they won their Single-A league (fourth division = League Two) in 2023, they would move to High-A in 2024.
After that, if they finished bottom of the leaderboard, they reverted to Single-A. If they won their league in 2024, the Pelicans would move to Double-A the following season.
Hypothetically, this could continue until the Pelicans earn their spot in Major League Baseball.
What to know about Burnley
The team that JJ Watt and Kealia Watt invest in is Burnley Football Club. Burnley FC are known as The Clarets because of the maroon (burgundy) color of their home shirts. The club is based in Burnley, Lancashire, England, on the northeast coast of the country.
Burnley was founded nearly a century and a half ago, in 1882, and twice became champions of English football’s top tier, in 1921 and 1960. The club play their home games at Turf Moor Stadium.
Burnley last played in the Premier League in the 2021-22 season, when they finished 18th out of 20 and were relegated to the EFL Championship. In the 22-23 campaign, the team sit in first place with three games to play and have already secured promotion to the EPL next season.
Burnley’s resurgence in the 22-23 campaign is largely thanks to their new manager, Vincent Kompany.
Kompany is a champion legend who played 11 seasons for Manchester City in the EPL. The centre-back was the side’s captain at the end of his career during one of the organisation’s most successful spells under famed manager Pep Guardiola.
After retiring in 2018, Kompany took charge of Anderlecht in his home country of Belgium, before returning to England to manage Burnley in 2022.
Now, with the help of Watt’s investment, Burnley will be able to buy players in the 2023 summer transfer window to help them compete and hopefully stay in the Premier League next season.
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