JJ Watt returns to football after just a few months of retirement! However, before NFL fans get too excited, it’s not what you think. The recently retired future Hall of Famer and his wife, USWL soccer player Kealia Ohai Watt, posted a hilarious video on Twitter announcing Watt’s return to soccer. But the football he’s talking about is what we call football and he goes into the owner’s box, not the sidelines, and takes on the English football pyramid with a club called Burnley.
In a video posted to social media on May 1, NFL legend JJ Watt and his wife explained: Kealia Watt announced that he is “officially coming out of retirement.”
While JJ Watt is returning to soccer, it’s the European twist that we call soccer in the States.
The hilarious video begins with JJ and Kealia joking about the fact that he’s only been retired a few months, but both agree that he “really needs something to do.”
JJ suggests renting an RV and following Taylor Swift on tour. Instead, the Watts have chosen to invest in English football club Burnley.
“We don’t have the money to buy an entire European football club. However, we are moving more in the direction of minority participation firmly emotional investment,” Watt announced. “So, America, allow us to introduce you to Burnley. Buckle up kids because we are about to embark on a little journey known as the English Football Pyramid.”
The Watts are now the latest in a line of American athletes and celebrities to invest in football clubs around the world. LeBron James owns a piece of Liverpool in England, Will Farrell, Mathew McConaughey and Drew Carey all have shares 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 England’s fifth tier to fourth tier.
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 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’s made up of 20 teams, including those you’re probably familiar with if you know anything about European football. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur make up the EPL’s ‘Big 6’ teams.
After the EPL, there is, in order of prestige, the 24-team EFL Championship, League One and League Two. Collectively, these four divisions are known as “League Football”.
Below this are “non-league football” clubs. These include the National League (5th tier) and the 6th to 11th tiers of English football. These minor leagues range from full-time professional leagues to community-based and semi-professional leagues.
In addition to playing in their leagues, most of the English football pyramid – from Division One to Division 10 – participate in the FA Cup tournament each season. The top four divisions also play for the English Football League (now Carabao) Cup.
The closest comparison in American sports is the minor league baseball system. In England, however, the clubs are not linked. This is because there is a promotion and relegation system.
This means that the top-winning clubs at each tier are promoted to the higher division for the next season, while those at the bottom are relegated to the tier below.
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 be promoted to High-A in 2024.
After that, if they ended up at the bottom of the standings, they would go back to Single-A. If they won their league in 2024, the Pelicans would switch to Double-A the following season.
Hypothetically, this could continue until the Pelicans have won their way into Major League Baseball.
Interesting facts about Burnley
The team that JJ Watt and Kealia Watt invest in is Burnley Football Club. Burnley FC are known as The Clarets due to the maroon (burgundy) color of their home shirts. The club is based in Burnley, Lancashire, England, on the north east coast of the country.
Founded nearly a century and a half ago, in 1882, Burnley have twice won the top flight of English football, 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 season, the team is in first place with three games to go and has already earned promotion to the EPL next season.
Burnley’s resurgence in the 22-23 season owes much to his new manager Vincent Kompany.
Kompany is a Championship legend having played 11 seasons for Manchester City in the EPL. The centre-back ended his career as captain during one of the organisation’s most successful periods under renowned coach Pep Guardiola.
After retiring in 2018, Kompany took up the position of manager at Anderlecht in his native Belgium before returning to England in 2022 to manage Burnley.
With the help of the Watt investment, Burnley can now buy players in the 2023 summer transfer window to help them assert themselves and hopefully stay in the Premier League next season.
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