The Beautifully Lucrative Game

by , September 3, 2008

Now like many people across the country, I am someone who takes great interest in perhaps one of, if not the greatest football league in the world; the Premiership. The level of football is often sublime; the atmosphere at the games electric and on top of all of that, the number of superstars present in the game gives season ticket holders across the country something to get excited about on match day, even more so if you happen to be a fan of one the promoted clubs that come up each season and quite often end up going back down again.

But that’s just it: why do they go back down again? A question with an obvious answer I know, but I am merely leading up to my point.

The question of money has cropped up more and more over the past few seasons, you need only look at the influx of foreign owners and the transfer budgets in excess of 30 million – occasionally on one player – not to mention the rumoured transfer sums: 65 million, 85 million. Rumours they may be, but those numbers are astronomical.

Then of course we move to players wages, if what they are bought for is astronomical, then what they get paid for their services is modest in comparison, but not modest enough as was highlighted by Reading chairman John Madejski as ‘obscene in the extreme.’ A sentiment that is surely shared across the country, especially around the transfer windows when teams try to keep hold of their key assets while trying to prise others away from their respective clubs.

But as a fan of any club it must surely be disheartening to see one of your clubs stars refuse to sign a new contract based purely on the amount of money he has or has not been offered. A recent example being Michael Owen who was only offered a one year deal in the region of £83000 a week depending on which tabloid you read of course. Now when an offer such as this is turned down, you must wonder whether or not players play for money or for the love of the game.

In this example, arguments for security could also be brought up, but another example is the Emmanuel Adebayor transfer mini-saga over the summer, many will remember him claiming that money was no object and playing football was his primary goal, yet he was still tempted away – until an improved contract and by improved I do of course mean more money.

All of these things are causing people all over the country to question what the Premier league is turning into, which includes the fans as well as those in the game.

Yes, I have been heard adding my voice to the chorus of others, but I took a step back and asked myself the question: what was the purpose of the Premier league? Why was it conceived? Now when you ask these questions and look to find the answers, perhaps talk of the Premiership turning into an uncontrollable beast is slightly misguided and here is why.

From the conception and birth of the Premier league in 1992, the idea of the Premier league limited company was to break away from the then football league to pursue lucrative television deals to make more money, along with sponsors with the same effect in mind.

Now to give my argument some weight and to place everything into context, here is a little history: 1993 Carling pays £12 million over four years to sponsor the competition. Then Barclaycard come along in 2001 with £48 million to become sponsors in. In 2004 Barclays took over and in 2007 a 65.8 million sees Barclay remain in that position for another three years. To televise the Premiership, Sky and now Setanta have paid between them £1.7 billion. All of these facts can be found on the official Premiership website for everyone’s reading pleasure.

Couple all of these things with the amount of coverage it has gained worldwide, and the Premiership has actually achieved what it initially set out to do: become one of the most lucrative franchises in the world. So with all of this for perspective, can we as fans really complain? The league was designed for a reason and it is serving its purpose well.

Chairmen and Managers complain also about the money the top clubs have to spend on top stars, but in the soap opera that is the Premier league, the greatest stars get the greatest wages as they give the greatest entertainment. It isn’t illogical. The Premier league is a money making machine first and foremost; its own mantra says so.

However as a fan of the football played in the premier league, I can see as can many others that the level of cash generated and kept within the exclusive club that is the top flight, has become so vast that those hoping to join the greatest league in the world from the Championship are in danger of not being able to survive at all, Derby county being a prime example of a club not cut out to live with the financial clout of the premier league.

Now being born and bred in Nottingham, I relished nothing more than watching Derby pick up the record for lowest Premiership points total in the history of the league, but from a fan of football, the question that ultimately comes to the fore at the end of the day is this: Does the Premiership shoulder the responsibility to help close the rift it created between itself and the football league? Or has it come to the point now where the exclusive club for foreign billionaires should think of cutting ties altogether and forming a ‘super league’ all of its own? With 7 of the original founders of the league still present in the league having never been relegated, those being: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur it is a feasible idea for many football fans.

As a fan of Arsenal, I am obviously a fan of the game played beautifully. But as a fan of football, I am a greater fan of competition, and for many, that word has been missing from the Premier league for far too long.