The Big Picture: A look at the Premier Leagues new “deal”
A week ago, the Owners of Liverpool and Manchester United proposed a set of radical plans to shift the foundations of English football. From more power for the biggest clubs in the land to a cash hand out for the EFL, the wide-reaching plans from Fenway Group and The Glazers were quickly shunned by the other eighteen Premier League clubs but the cat is now out the bag.
The decision to reject the ‘Project’, reportedly three years in the making, by the Premier League is no surprise. The stand out elements, of reducing the number of teams and increasing power on key voting issues for those clubs who have been in the division the longest, would open the door for a monopoly to be created on both the sporting and commercial elements of the English game.
Terms such as a “Big 6” have long been used to describe the teams who, more often than not, occupy the top spots come season end. Now the American-based authors of these plans see an opportunity to seize power and build status on the long running success of their clubs.
Some objection to the proposals was based on the practical element of having less teams and thus less games. It is unclear how fewer games would affect the current and future TV deals for the league. And for smaller clubs in the top division and those seeking to get promoted to it, gate receipts and matchday revenue are still a huge part of the financial health of a club and it’s position in the community. Fans will have spent years watching either a well-established PL team or a team striving to reach that level, only now to have their matchdays cut in numbers too. When it comes to the weighting of power for voting on key issues, you stray into more sinister territory. The questions of, ‘how much power?’ and ‘voting on what?’ loom large. The idea of an elite members club, or a “racket in control” as described by Chris Sutton, does little else than paint a picture of a skewed competition.
Part of the package put together included an immediate £250million hand out for Football League clubs which, unsurprisingly, has gathered support from Chairmen in the lower divisions. Even the most optimistic of those in charge at Championship, League One and League Two level realise that without huge external investment, they will never threaten promotion to the promise land. A cash injection and gradual drip feed of TV revenue would secure most clubs medium to long term future and relieve some pressure from those having to bank roll them each season. But due to repeated failure of the EFL and FA to properly investigate prospective owners, the football pyramid is rife with Chairmen and Board Members who have failed in business before and are now (amazingly) failing again in running English clubs. The dangling carrot of a guaranteed income from the vast trough of Premier League riches will have tin-pot millionaires far and wide ready to have their fill.
It is needless to say that all but the most placid of fans reading the developments would have met it with anger, but little shock. Another non-sporting influence being thrust upon the only true stakeholders of the game, the supporters, no longer comes as surprise. Pick your poison – less games if you’re a fan of a Premier League club or having to concede an opportunity at a trophy like the League Cup in exchange for the crumbs dropping off the top table
Accepting a plan of this nature under the guise of ‘financial stability’ would all but secure the status quo of football for as far as the eye can see. The ideals and hope that fans pin on the game would be washed away by a tide of commercial strategy, as those lucky enough to find themselves in positions of power pose as if the clubs they own are a new designer watch.As is often the case now throughout the sport and culture in the UK, be it football clubs, theatres or music venues with years of history, they’re eaten up by investors from lands afar and turned into little more than a disposable asset at Boardroom level. This won’t be last we hear of an attempt to grab football away from the people for good.