Football’s money problem

Figures released last week revealed that upon finishing 20th in the Premier League in the 2013-14 season, Cardiff City gained more than double the amount of television money than German champions Bayern Munich.

Considering also that BT Sport and Sky Sports paid a combined total of £5.136billion for the rights to three years of Premier League games between the start of 2016/17 and the end of 2018/19, there have rightly been questions asked of just where that money will go and how it will benefit those that so willingly put in to the commercial juggernaut that is the Premier League.

Idealists would have the league enforce reductions in soaring ticket prices that are putting a squeeze on the pockets of fans up and down Britain. The latest TV deal has seen a stunning 70% increase on the previous contract, with each match now being valued at £10.2million, so surely there is room to reduce ticket prices and give a little back to supporters?

However, there is an overriding feeling that the status quo will be strictly adhered to, and that the TV money will only go into the pockets of the chairmen, managers and players of the clubs to which it is distributed; player contracts in particular show no signs of slowing on their upward trajectory, with the average Premier League player earning £30,000 per week – for some perspective, the average yearly wage in Britain is estimated at £26,500.

Deloitte’s Football Money League 2015 released in January revealed that Cardiff City, in terms of revenue streams, made more money than Champions League regulars FC Porto of Portugal, who won Europe’s premier competition as recently as 2004. This was supplemented primarily by the £62.1million that the Welsh capital club received in television rights over the course of their maiden (and highly unsuccessful) Premier League season.

Bayern Munich, who would be many people’s pick for the best team in the world right now, earned £27.34million in comparison. Season tickets for able-bodied supporters to watch Cardiff City play in English football’s second tier started at £329.99. To offer a contrast, the cheapest equivalent ticket to watch the German champions and last year’s Champions League semi-finalists at the Allianz Arena costs just £104.

These contradictions crop up wherever you look; we continue to fill out grounds and buy into the Premier League bandwagon despite the clearly extortionate ticket prices, especially considering the period of austerity that Britain finds itself in. The decision-makers continuously hike up the prices of tickets, replica kit, match day food – anything they can stick a price tag on basically – and bask in record-breaking revenues year-on-year.

The success of national football teams is another contentious issue surrounding the vast amounts of money being injected into the British game; while we are told that the Premier League is the best in the world, the England team in particular have been seen to suffer, their first-round elimination from last year’s World Cup prime evidence of this.

There is a relatively limited pool of talent coming through in Britain – bright sparks such as Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane are few-and-far between, and it is difficult to see where the next major success story such on the level of Gareth Bale will come from. The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish national teams are also noticeably mediocre and show little prospects of dramatically improving.

Just 44.93% of Premier League players are of British descent, compared to 45.2% Italians in Serie A, 56.5% Germans in the Bundesliga, 61.1% Spaniards in La Liga and 68.4% Frenchmen in Ligue 1. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that fewer chances for home-grown players to compete at the highest levels will lead to fewer players capable of competing on the international stage.

Germany meanwhile, a country that places emphasis on player development for the national team at equal importance to that of national league quality, have reaped the fruit of their labours; the national team won the World Cup at which England performed so dismally, while the Bundesliga goes from strength to strength in terms of overall quality and entertainment value.

It seems extremely unlikely, that despite all of the arguments outlined in this article against the continued commercialisation of football, the Premier League will give any leeway to allow the national game to flourish. It Is equally unlikely that they will, as many have suggested, subsidise ticket prices in light of the huge hike in TV revenue due to arrive in the next few years.

Ultimately one can only see the price of attending and enjoying football rising, along with the value of player contracts, agent fees and other multi-million, perhaps even billion pound deals. While the likes of Manchester City can bypass financial fair play rules intended to protect the level competition amid spiralling spending, it feels as though no amount of regulation can prevent prices for the average fan rising. Make no mistake, the Premier League continues to thrive, but it is to the detriment of those who make it profitable in the first place.


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