Apparently, when people talk about what makes them proud of Britain, they will respond, “The Premier League, the BBC and the Queen”. These were the words used by Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s Chief Executive in response to the surprise/delight/outrage/disbelief (delete where appropriate) reaction to the record £ 5.14bn TV deal being trousered by the league.
What a load of nonsense. For every person who watches and follows the Premier, there are dozens who find it a bloated, ego-driven and self-serving industry. And for every royalist, there’s a republican-type who finds the monarchy an outdated institution. The Premier, and Mr Scudamore’s comments are very much of their time, an age of greed, hubris and self-delusion. Next the Premier will be sticking pictures of starving kids in Africa on its website to try and convince people that it is a philanthropic organization populated by missionaries.
However, the money is there and the amount being paid to the Premier is classic supply and demand. The Premier has a good product – arguably the best marketed football league in the world – and someone is willing to pay top dollar for it. You can’t blame either party.
But where it will all go horribly wrong is if the money merely gets siphoned the way of the post-Bosman generation of players. Already among the most overpaid employees in the history of sporting capitalism, footballers are in danger of being weighed down by their Rolexes.
Premier clubs do not need to pay their players any more than they do. Indeed, a pay cut would be more appropriate in the current climate. But as the mammoth TV deal was announced this week, you can be assured that smoked-glass limos were drawing up at the country’s leading clubs as agents (also with anvil-like watches on their wrists) eyed the opportunity of an enhanced deal for their clients. In other words, players will be looking to capitalise on the cash sloshing around the boardrooms of England.
And there’s talk about the money being passed down through the system to help grass roots football. At present around 5% of Premier income filters down to that level, so there’s no guarantee that the latest windfall will be of great benefit.
The crazy thing about football is highlighted in the relative wealth of the Premier’s clubs. Deloitte predicted that all 20 would feature in the top 40 of the European wealth list next year. That makes Burnley, for example, richer than Ajax! Put your European Cups on the table, Turf Moor!
The TV deal should provide an opportunity for some clubs to bring down their extortionate prices. The perhaps that influence may trickle down to the non-league scene, where prices have also become inflated. Will is happen? Doubtful.
Is the Premier a bubble just waiting to burst? As much as we’d like to think so – in order to bring some reality back – there’s little chance of it happening soon. While the TV companies have money to burn, they will always pay a premium for premier.