Amidst all the negative attention since the announcement of the new £5.1bn Premier League TV rights deal, we analyse how, despite extensive criticism, it could prove to be a positive occurrence for the beautiful game in the UK.
The most immediate potentially positive consequences were discussed in an article featured earlier this month; that of clubs lowering ticket prices for fans and the potential trickle down effect in terms of investment in the sport at lower levels. Whilst club ticket prices and grassroots investment were analysed in suitable detail, the remaining other favourable prospects, will be assessed below.
The Paper Chase!
Arsene Wenger has expressed his belief that the TV rights deal will “contribute to get the best players all over the world to come to England.” He explained how, during his stint at Monaco in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they bought English players as they were “the first to have television money.” Money talks, especially in football, and the chasm between the amount of it in Premier League compared to the other top leagues worldwide is ever widening.
Take La Liga, wherein many of the most notable players ply their trade, and where the situation with TV rights money is unique, but on the whole, not conducive towards bringing in many top players throughout the league. It’s the sole top European league in which clubs individually negotiate their own contracts. This, unsurprisingly, favours the top clubs; Barcelona and Real Madrid each received £110m in 2012-13, whilst the likes of Real Betis received £9.5m, alongside five other sides. Atletico Madrid, last year’s Champions League finalists, received £33m. To put this in perspective, from the 2016/17 season the team which finishes bottom of the Premier League will receive around £99m.
Of course Real Madrid and Barca have the financial clout, not to mention the reputation and glamour, to attract the big players, but others do not, which will lead to their Premiership counterparts having the upper hand. On the whole the likes of Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, who are already at a disadvantage, will struggle to compete financially with their ‘equivalent’ English clubs such as Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal
Moreover Chelsea and Man City will see their bargaining positions bolstered by the deal, and so the likelihood is increased that the next Porto academy starlet, or the next ‘next Messi’, may opt for a move to England over Spain, or Italy.
This is of course good news for Premier League fans. Higher quality players means a higher level of football, a more competitive environment and more entertaining games. A recurring theme in the anti TV rights deal camp; that it’ll be detrimental to the continuing development of English talent, can be largely dismissed by the Soccerex Transfer Review of this season. Last summer, Premiership clubs invested more (20%) in native players than in the past three seasons, and over four times the proportion La Liga clubs managed.
The argument, put forward by Sir Alan Sugar amongst others, that this will be negative for the England national side can also be countered with a look at the emerging English talent just this season.
Should there be an influx of higher quality players to the Premiership, then English youngsters will have to train harder, and perform consistently better, to ensure a place in their club’s starting lineup. Tottenham are a side which has splashed the cash on foreign player recruitment in recent years, as are Liverpool, and you need only look at the likes of Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Raheem Sterling, and Jordan Ibe, as proof that if they’re good enough, they’ll get a chance.
A look below at which Premiership clubs have used academy players this season…
|Club||Individual players||Total appearances||Club||Individual players||Total appearances|
|Aston Villa||5||46||Man City||3||7|
(statistics as of December 9th 2014, manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
These statistics were accurate as of December 9th 2014, meaning academy graduates from big spending Man Utd, Tottenham, and Liverpool had made a total of 161 appearances in just over three months of football. Incidentally United and Liverpool were the top two biggest spenders, with a combined total of £267m during a summer which broke all previous Premier League transfer totals.
Arsenal meanwhile, the side to hand their academy graduates the most caps, spent big, with an outlay of £82m on Sanchez and others. Players such as Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere have regardless featured regularly, whilst the Englishman who made the move from Man Utd in the summer, Danny Welbeck, has impressed and looks ever more capable.
Over at Spurs, Harry Kane, who has patiently awaited his first team opportunity with loan spells in the lower leagues at Millwall, Leyton Orient, and Leicester, is now the second top scorer in the Premier League. He’s also the third deadliest striker in Europe across all competitions, with only the formidable Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi ahead of him.
Indeed it can be argued that the more money that is invested in the Premier League, the greater the benefit to Roy Hodgson’s England side. The opportunity for loans, and learning the game at a lower level, will always be present which in turn brings us to the discussion around the potential benefit to said lower leagues.
BBC pundit, Robbie Savage, has spoken out against the ‘Alan Sugar argument’: “The easiest thing to say is that, if an English player or a British player doesn’t make it, his excuse is ‘well, they bought a foreign player’. It is a ready-made excuse.”
“You are not telling me now that if Everton had bought a youngster from a foreign club that would have stopped Ross Barkley from coming through?”, he continued.
The table also does not account for English players used in general; something for which Burnley are renowned. The comparison evidenced in the table here highlights this.
Lower leagues investment
Of course the more money the Premier League generates, and most are predicting the bubble is far from burst, the more interest it generates from potential investors. Current Premier League foreign ownership now stands at over half the clubs (11) whilst in the Championship, 12 of the 24 clubs are owned, at least partly, by foreign owners.
Championship clubs may not benefit in a huge way directly from the TV rights deal, but some may benefit indirectly. The league rises in value, and stature, since it is the cheapest and clearest route to owning a Premier League side. Investors with long term goals will likely opt to purchase a Championship side and fund a plan to turn them into a Premiership club. With so many clubs struggling financially at this level, this is undoubtedly good news. It is not being hyperbolic to suggest that the TV rights deal may indirectly save some clubs from extinction.
Charlton Athletic were one side struggling with huge debt, and major financial problems, before Roland Duchatelet (pictured) swept in and now owns 95% of the club. As a part of his network of clubs across the continent, Duchatelet’s money paid for a much needed new playing surface, and the Addick’s performances have surprised many doubters this season, albeit inconsistently. Whilst life is not hunky dory at Charlton, the underlying truth is that the Belgian businessman brought in desperately needed investment. As such his motives, whether it’s to turn a quick profit by establishing them as a top Championship side, or a return to the top flight, before a resale are neither here nor there. Without him the club would be in dire straits; as documented the money was badly needed.
Of course foreign investment is not always a guaranteed means of saviour, indeed it can prove to be disastrous. One needs only to look at the case of Portsmouth, FA Cup finalists in 2010, who’ve changed hands more times than many can count in the recent past and are now mid-table in League Two, or Birmingham City where Carson Yeung, who owns a reported 25% of the club, is currently in prison in Hong Kong.
Though it is not just foreign investment in clubs that should increase thanks to the new deal. Solidarity payments, and parachute payments, from the Premier League will surely rise, though the details are yet to be confirmed.
- Championship clubs currently receive around £4m (made up of £1.9m Football League Central payments and £2.3m Premier League solidarity payments)
- Parachute payments were £24m for the first year in 2013/14 season
- These fall to £18m in the second, and £9m in the third and fourth
The Football League has announced that parachute payments will be reduced to three years from 2016/17 though it is expected that the amount will still rise overall. Swiss Ramble put together an excellent prediction of the alteration in these payments which can be seen here.
So Championship clubs can expect a boost in revenue from the Premier League TV rights deal, though the gulf between them will still widen considerably. Despite the already mammoth amounts of money in the Premier League in recent seasons though, lower league clubs have continued to put together impressive cup runs. The likes of Bradford City and Sheffield United are testament to proving that increasing differences in terms of revenue need not mean their financial superiors leap ahead where it matters.