I’ve been chuntering to myself since the massive transfer inactivity of the last few summers, and the perilous financial state Liverpool and Manchester United found themselves in, that the Premier League era is over (RIP Premier League, 1993-2010).
The reason I had been pushing this is that whilst clubs outside of the Premiership have been drifting to, back from, and over the brink into administration all the way through the Premiership era, the Premiership had been pretty much unharmed. But then not only did West Ham and Portsmouth tank with the credit crunch, shockingly, some of the football old guard got involved as well.
At the same time, the mega-money hoard that had been limited to Chelsea then began to spill out to Man City, for God’s sake, Blackburn.
The point is, the Premier League sustained 20 teams based on a cartel that benefited all 20, based on packaging a full season of high octane football and selling it exclusively to Sky in the UK, and to host broadcasters throughout Europe and beyond.
Whilst the mega-million brigade may have distorted the league a little, by allowing Man City to dominate transfers and bring in a new era of transfer fee hyper-inflation, the commercial package essentially stays the same. The idea that this outside money alone could break up the Premier League (into the much toutes European Super League) by created a massive and obvious gap between the haves and have nots would seem to be nonsense. If a traditionally small and unfashionable club in the industrial North West, like Blackburn, can become gazillionaires, so can anyone.
However, today’s ruling over showing Premiership in pubs (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/8302315/Pub-landladys-European-case-threatens-to-scupper-Premier-Leagues-1.78-billion-TV-deal.html) could threaten the whole house of cards. Nearly all the Premiership clubs are afloat not because of gate receipts (Fulham anyone?) but because of the cash from the cartel. The spell which was binding the Wigans, Boltons and Evertons to the Premiership model has been broken. The Premier League can no longer split it’s product into several smaller chunks and sell it throughout the world, or at least the EU.
There will be such a limited number of broadcasters that could pull this off (it will be Fox) that there will be no competition, and the broadcaster will be able to drive down what they pay for the package. The same also goes for the other leagues, like La Liga and Serie A. The big clubs without mega-finance (Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, the Milans, Barca etc..) could see a huge dip in income, but with the mega-finance teams looming and waiting to buy all the players they can no longer afford, what can they do?
How about reestablishing that good old cartel? All the top clubs, one geographical area, one broadcaster – the European Super League.
Is this pie in the sky? Not sure, but I for one can’t wait. The sooner that lot take their ‘sports entertainment’ and take it elsewhere, the sooner the rest of us can restore the Football League, and get back to watching football the way we have for generations – in lovely, stinky decrepit stands full of pies, cynics, pain and failure. THAT is what football is all about!