Mark Coles discusses where all the new Premier League money will end up
Even those not massively interested in football will have recently noticed a deal signed by the Premier League for a £3bn TV contract from 2013 to 2016. Auctioneers split bundles of games up into sixths and sold them off, with Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB buying the lions share and BT buying the rest. In the context of football only being a game this may not be very noteworthy, but that quaint view has gone and football is now a product, commodity and export, and a very successful one that ranks alongside chemicals and financial services that we sell around the world. Therefore, the £3bn can be treated as an investment like any other kind of investment, but one doubts this will have the kind of long term benefits on the beautiful game that the size of the money suggests.
An increased revenue stream for clubs will see all 20 Premier League clubs receive an equal share of the windfall, which means even with UEFA’s financial fair play rules (Breaking even over 3 years); clubs spending on players will increase yet again. Transfer fees have already reached extortionate levels in recent years, with many talented but average players being sold for inflated sums. In 2000, European Player of the Year, and now football legend Luis Figo was sold to Real Madrid by Barcelona for £37m, but fast forward to 2011, Andy Carroll, an inexperienced, unproven 21 year old from Newcastle, joined Liverpool for roughly the same amount. Wages have taken a similar path. Wayne Rooney, Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez to name but a few worldwide, earn in excess of £200,000 per week (Rooney gets nearly £250,000), and to attract star names to England these sort of wages have to be offered. It is therefore the lowly humble fan that will pay for this.
Since the invention of the Premier League in 1992, ticket prices have risen astronomically and clubs now use every trick possible to extract revenue from fans who have increasingly come to the firm belief that loyalty to teams is being worn away and they are seen as little more than cash cows, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many.
In addition to this agents of players operate in a ruthless fashion, with big money up for grabs. Little more than parasitic leeches, these folk tout their clients to clubs for huge disproportionate sums, play one club against another for wage offers and hold players present clubs to ransom. One cannot help but think, the large proportion of the cash will be gobbled up by these two groups (players, their transfers and agents). Little of the money poured in at the top of the hopper, with reach the grain sack at the bottom (the fans). They will still be faced with high ticket prices, high merchandise prices, and games only viewable by paying again for Sky Sports packages. England’s awful World Cup in 2010(and slightly better display in Euro 2012) seems to have done nothing to stir the thought that money needs to be invested into the game at the bottom to produce the kind of players that can make us compete with the Spain, Italy and Germanys of this world. A strong World Cup/Euro campaign not only is good for football, but is good for the nation. Sales of many consumer goods rise (TV’s, sofas, beer, food etc) and more importantly the nation has a feel good factor, which leads to improved productivity and a greater collective identity.
Therefore, the £3bn can be seen as an investment in British business but its effectiveness as a matter of time will tell. How much will impact areas where capital is needed is questionable, and the large majority will stay serving the system that has failed us for years and looks set to continue.
Football has been taken away from the fans that made it, to a microcosm of society that will remain as exclusive as the billionaires that fund it. Sadly the long term outlook seems bleak. Big Spanish teams (Real Madrid and Barcelona) can negotiate their own TV rights, so are not short of money, and money is infusing new markets. Russia has seen a flurry of cash and clubs like Anzhi Makhachkala have been offering obscene amounts to star players (Samuel Eto’o is reputedly on £350,000) for a relatively easy life (standard is much lower than the bigger leagues) and China has attracted Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to Shanghai Shenhua for £200,000 at the twilights of their careers, so competition is only likely to increase. The only way football knows how to compete is to throw more money at something, and with a Premier League boss (Richard Scudamore), who is on a personal bonus for TV deals, the trend looks set to continue and not for the better.