We could discuss how you define a big club until the cows come home, but the most successful clubs in the country speak for themselves and several of them seem to have faded into the darkness over the past two or three decades.
When you consider the fact that Liverpool remain the most successful football club in England with a haul of 41 major trophies in their 120 year history you wonder what has happened to the successful days at Anfield now that they sit 12th in the top flight. Moreover, Aston Villa are ranked as the fourth most successful club in the country with 20 major trophies, despite not winning anything since 1996 and spending the last few seasons in the Premier League either battling relegation or sitting comfortably in mid-table.
Other clubs that have experienced a surprising fall from grace are Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, the latter winning two consecutive European Cups in the late 70s and early 80s.
Currently we’ve seen Arsenal go seven years without a trophy after spending the majority of the 90s and early 2000s winning major silverware every other season, while five-time European Champions Liverpool have not qualified for the Champions League for the last three seasons and look extremely unlikely to qualify again this season.
But why is it that these clubs have been unable to sustain their periods of success and continue competing for the country’s major titles? There is no doubt money has had a huge part to play in it, while you could argue poor decisions in the boardroom and bad management are also major factors.
When Sky won the rights to live Premier League matches in a £304 million five-year deal in May 1992 it was inevitable that there was going to be both winners and losers from the deal. However, the biggest impact came to the clubs outside of the Premier League in 2002 when ITV Digital collapsed and failed to pay their outstanding balance of £178.5 million to the Football League, leaving the leagues and its clubs out of pocket. That ultimately meant that the clubs who had fallen out of the Premier League would find it harder to fund a strong attempt at an instant return, resulting in a further loss in revenue.
TV rights have since pumped more and more money into the game, which has seen the world’s richest men willing to buy football clubs, either for entertainment purposes or out of good business sense. As a result, clubs have enjoyed huge cash injections for the world’s best players on astronomical wages.
But, like in any normal real life scenario, as the rich get richer the poor get poorer, and that’s what we seem to have witnessed in football over the past two decades. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have had the luxury of billionaire owners buying them and then bankrolling their new toy to success, while United’s global commercial dominance means they are possibly the most powerful club in the world to date.
But while this is all happening, teams like Liverpool, Aston Villa, Leeds and Forest have not been able to keep up and have subsequently fallen behind their rivals. Arsenal, on the other hand, have failed purely down to poor managerial decisions from Arsene Wenger as his refusal to spend money to bring in replacements for the club’s best players who have been sold for million of pounds worth of profit.
Liverpool’s financial clout still has the ability to compete at the top level, but poor decisions from the board when it comes to managerial appointments seems to have let the down, decreasing their ability to attract better players and therefore falling out of the top four and struggling to climb back into it.
This, in a nutshell, is how I fear football will remain for a long time to come. Clubs without the money of a billionaire will slip further and further down the proverbial food chain, while the richer clubs will continue to grow and become more and more successful.
Despite the Premier League seeming a bit more of a level playing field so far this season with West Brom, Norwich and West Ham all exceeding expectations, the major domestic competitions will remain firmly in the grip of the club’s richest clubs for many, many years to come.
What do you think? Will the country’s once successful club’s get back to the good old days or is it the turn of another club with the money to compete? Leave your thoughts below.