The Premier has become a super league, suggests EY report

WHILE we all wait for the next attempt at creating a European Super League, it is not unreasonable to believe the English Premier is in fact a super league in all but name.  A report by Ernest & Young (EY) on the economic and social impact of the league highlights just how powerful and influential the Premier has become.

A few years ago, a Premier League official said there were three things people in the UK was most proud of: the Queen and Royal Family; the British Broadcasting Corporation; and the Premier League. Today, given what we have all experienced in the past two years, the National Health Service would surely make it on to that list. 

According to the EY report, the Premier League contributes £ 7.6 billion to UK GDP (2019-20 figures). The growth trajectory is astonishing, since 1999, the economic contribution of the clubs has increased by more than 800%. 

By comparison, the music industry contributes around £ 5 billion, the arts £ 10.47 billion and the value of all the fish caught in the UK amounts to £ 831 million. The Premier contributes £ 3.6 billion tax and supports 94,000 jobs. This is a considerable figure given only 33,000 work in the British steel sector and 43,000 in the coal industry. Call centres, however, employ around 900,000 people in the UK.

In 2019-20, Premier clubs generated £ 5.1 billion of income, a large chunk of which came from domestic and overseas broadcasting. At the same time, the league paid out £ 2.9 billion in wages, a ratio of around 57%.

The Premier League remains the most popular club competition in the football world with a cumulative global audience of 3.2 billion, almost double the UEFA Champions League (1.625 bn), Bundesliga (1.6 bn) and La Liga (1.559 bn). Data from Nielsen Sports indicates that 69% of football fans worldwide are fanatically interested in the Premier.

Interestingly, the league’s central revenues are distributed more equitably than any of the other top European leagues. The top club in the Premier in 2018-19 (Manchester City) received 1.6 times as much in revenues as the least remunerated club. Other leagues are far less democratic in this respect, their figures are: La Liga 3.8x; Bundesliga 3.7x; Serie A 3.6x;  and Ligue 1 3.1x.

Broadcasters fall over themselves to secure Premier League rights. In fact, the league’s broadcast exports comprise almost half of the UK’s TV exports. In 2019-20 this amounted to £ 1.4 billion, more than the combined overseas rights of the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A (£ 1.2 billion). While some fear the TV bubble may be slowly bursting, there seems plenty of mileage at present.

Despite criticism that money doesn’t always trickle down to grassroots level, the Premier distributed 15% of its 2019-20 revenues to the football pyramid and local communities. Furthermore, £ 226 million was paid in transfer fees to EFL clubs by Premier clubs and overall, 48% of Championship clubs’ 2019-20 revenues were derived from Premier distributions. League One (27%) and League Two (24%) also gained a significant percentage of their income from this source. Since 2012, almost half a billion of academy grants have been paid by the Premier and since 2000, a further £ 164 million has been invested in the Football Stadia Improvement Fund. 

Given the gulf that has developed between the Premier and the other top leagues, it is understandable that some of Europe’s big clubs feel threatened by English football’s economic power. Javier Tebas, La Liga’s president, told Marca that clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus see the Premier League as a threat to their existence. “The enemy is not only the Champions League, but also the Premier League,” he said. But overseas visitors are still drawn to the league, as evidenced by more than half a million tourists from abroad, spending £ 442 million, in 2019-20. 

In Euro 2020, no league provided more players, with 117 coming from Premier clubs. Germany’s Bundesliga was next with 89 players (source: Twenty First Group). The league has long attracted top players and coaches, often to the detriment of allowing young talent to fully flourish, but in 2019-20, 48% of total Premier League appearances were made by homegrown players.

The financial strength of Premier League clubs is now starting to reveal itself in the form of Champions League dominance. In two of the past three seasons, the final has been an all-England affair, with Liverpool beating Tottenham in 2019 and Chelsea narrowly overcoming Manchester City in 2021. Some might say this was long overdue given the resources the clubs enjoy, but it may be this is a new age of Premier League dominance. If that is the case, then claims that a super league already exists and resides in the United Kingdom might just be accurate.

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