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.