So when will the Premiership break up?

The Premiership is the richest league in the world and the earnings from TV rights during the 2007-2010 seasons will top £2.7bn. This should bring to each club £40m next season. A few years ago it was £22m.
This money making machine is showing no signs of slowing down as the Premiership continues to attract a burgeoning global viewership each year. Unfortunately for English fans, this huge jump in TV revenues has also seen an unrelenting rise in ticket prices resulting in empty stadiums in middle tier clubs like Blackburn, Bolton, and Middlesborough where fans are finding it hard to cough up the money to see matches. Whereas, in top clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd stadiums filled with fans who think nothing to pay a hundred quid. The bottom line is that four clubs right now are underwriting the existence of the Premiership.
In a sense the breakup of the Premiership has already begun with the perennial four top contenders duking it out to win the title. The last club to win any silver was Blackburn in the 1994 season. The Premiership essentially has been hijacked by Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. This has much to do with the global viewership and how it has embraced these four with very little knowledge of the other clubs. Thaksin Shinawatra’s single minded obsession to buy out Liverpool, Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich’s alliance with Vladimir Putin, Beckham’s association with Man Utd, and the international mix of players found at Arsenal has branded the Premiership into modern folklore giving it mythical status and capturing the global imagination. In the USA, Nick and Steve on FSC, adopt an egalitarian way discussing the highlights of each club match but don Chelsea and Liverpool jerseys, leaving no doubt as to which club matches matter the most. Pedro and Jose for the Nike ad play with Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their club colours.
How this squares off with the English fans whose loyalties lie with the other sixteen clubs but have little else to say in the economics of the Premiership because of long saturated TV and match audiences at home, has led to the conundrum whereby, the Premiership, in order to fill their bottomless coffers, relies primarily on the selling power of these four clubs to attract new TV audiences worldwide but has to deal with the growing restiveness of the less privileged clubs as they are priced out. Blackburn’s owner has seen empty stadiums with fans staying away because matches have different start times to suit Sky Sports as well as a host of meaningless matches that they now have to pay £30 for. They choose not to come. Meanwhile the top four Premiership clubs have further distanced themselves away as they find commonalities with other top European clubs to form an economic bloc that ironically calls itself as the voice of the clubs. A tour of the Arsenal ticketing site is very instructive as club matches are now differentiated into Category A fixtures with Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, and the North London rivals Spurs commanding higher prices with tickets sold only to Platinum and Gold members. The rest of the clubs come under Category B.
The Premiership will break up but when and in what form or shape is unclear but as the Arsenal website shows it just might be as simple as a letter grade. Entry will be strictly determined by how much money you bring to the pot.

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10 comments on “So when will the Premiership break up?
  1. I’ve been watching all of these astronomical transfer fees being paid, and outrageous salaries being shelled out by the big four (although Liverpool isn’t as ridiculous as the other three) for years now, and have wondered how long this will continue. Basically, you’ve got four NY Yankees and 16 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (or you would, if Tampa Bay ever had a prospect worth a crap to trade ala Kansas city). I think the Premiership needs to drastically re-think salaries in order to ensure the long term survival of the league. I’d love to see both a salary cap (with luxury tax imposed) AND a transfer fee cap in order to try and balance this out somewhat.

  2. And by the way, “premium match” ticket prices are absolute crap. It’s slowly catching on here in the States, but I’ve been quite pleased to see that the Mariners have yet to implement it with their ticket prices.

  3. Phillip
    TV viewership increases when you bring expensive players – with that you generate more cash for the Premiership. With unlimited money the Premiership corners more players. The La Liga and Serie already show declining attendances and much smaller TV revenues as compared to the Premiership. The Premiership does distribute the TV money equally between the clubs but smaller clubs rarely have any money left once salaries and operating expenses have been paid off to acquire the big names in soccer. Their best hope is to be bought out.
    In a more limited way, that is what the MLS hopes to do with Beckham. Simon Jenkins has an interesting blog in which he mentions that Beckham is going to teach American sports unbridled capitalism. I disagree with his point because there is enough in baseball and Alex Rodriguez to prove that we also have our share of overpaid players.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1993920,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1

  4. And for the record; Blackburn already had somewhat lower ticket prices than many other teams. There is a wide gap between who has the highest selling ticket prices and the lower ones. Despite the “big 4″ talk; and these teams are popular worldwide; good to see a lot of the “little” clubs holding their own.
    On this subject; why is Newcastle a somewhat popular team worldwide?

  5. I agree with that standpoint to a degree, but not entirely. Viewership increases when you put a quality product on the field. Viewership decreases when you don’t. It shouldn’t matter how much that product costs.
    The issue, as I see it, is that there are absolutely no inducements whatsoever for teams to not spend money like a sailor at a strip club. Create a luxury tax and/or salary cap, and things might change. But that’s me.

  6. Because everyone loves magpies, as long as they keep their mouths shut.
    I’m making that up, of course.

  7. Somehow this year’s magpies have not impressed too much with their feet or their mouth (trash talking) :)

  8. Tom,
    Newcastle is probably more popular because under the Kevin Keegan days in the early 90′s they played attacking and entertaining soccer not really caring too much about their results. They also had exceptional but flamboyant players through their history like Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola, and Chris Waddle.
    Plus, everyone loves Newcastle Ale!

  9. I don’t know about that, Shourin. I’m far fonder of magpies than I am of Newcastle Brown (too malty for this guy). Give me just about anything by Shepherd Neame or Orkney, though, and I’m in.
    Would it behoove the Premiership, assuming they don’t do anything about their profligate spending habits, to split it into divisions or some such thing?

  10. Thanks for the answers; ah, the Magpies need to be quiet; and maybe myself too; however, yours was a good answer; I’m not up on everything, but one player for NewCastle who of course, can not be forgotten either is Captain; what was his nickname, of course, I am speaking about Alan Shearer. Good article, someone ripped the plastic cover off an FHM I believe, the “printed in England” edition out, Neil Lennon, and Shearer once maybe kicked him in the face the article was saying; well, I better stop there, we may see something on the Gers or Celtic coming on…. oh, and the House of the Rising Sun and the Animals; that I do know, was music coming out of Newcastle on Tyne or however it is said.

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