Time to level out the financial playing field within the Premier League?

Last week I reviewed some of the finances from TV revenue firstly in the Premier League and also from other sources – which is most notable the Champions League. My analysis showed that there is a massive difference when you compare the income of the Premier League champions Manchester United with a team that finished in the relegation zone such as Blackpool. And that is just purely looking at income from TV and doesn’t include any commercial or match-day income. So is there an argument that the clubs in the lower part of the Premier League should be the ones that receive the greater portion of the TV money in the Premier League in order to level the financial playing field a little bit?

Well I certainly feel that it is something worth considering especially with the new financial fair play rules coming in. The financial fair play rules will have some positive effects at the top of the Premier League, because they should restrict the massive transfer spend that we have seen from clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea in recent years. However, it will make life much more difficult for clubs lower down in the league table. Teams will only be able to spend what they physical can afford to so if they could receive extra TV money then this could be vital to ensure the Premier League is competitive.

There is certainly the argument that the Premier League has become a little bit predictable especially at the top. And if you were to say that the top six next season would be Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United then you would be surprised if that wasn’t the case. Therefore, the rest of the Premier League teams know that even if they have a fantastic season the chances are they won’t finish higher than seventh. But do we really have to accept that as fact or can we at least try and do something to make it more competitive? If it doesn’t change then how long will the Premier League still be considered the best the league in the world?

However, we need to stop and take a reality check for a minute before we start dreaming of Stoke or Fulham winning the Premier League and remember the fact that certain clubs are always likely to make more money than others. A good example is Manchester United – now they play in a stadium that currently has a capacity 75,957 with plans to further expand that could one day see the stadium house 95,000 fans. The latest figures show that Manchester United made £100m on match-day income and ticket sales in 2010; this compared with the £11m Fulham made. But aside from that Manchester United have one of the most powerful brands in world football. The commercial income of £81m signifies that; again in comparison Fulham’s figure was just £11m.

So it doesn’t really matter how much these sort of clubs receive in TV money – because there global reputation ensures they will always be super-rich. What Manchester United has done is probably only a pipe dream to a lot of clubs but it’s definitely something to aim for.

Now we know from my report on Premier League TV deals that the difference between the top and bottom is fairly small – with the club at the top getting about 1.5x more than the team at the bottom. But this is only Premier League TV money and if you also include Champions League money then there could well be a gap of around £60m between the top team and the bottom.

Now some people would argue that it’s right that the teams that win the league and qualify for the Champions League should receive the most TV money as a reward for their performance in the league and I can certainly understand that argument. However, those teams do get their reward and that is qualifying for the Champions League and all the money that is associated with that.

So what if we turn the Premier League TV revenue table upside down and the teams that finishes at the bottom gets about £60m and the team that wins gets around £40m. And at the end of the day teams at the top would still earn a lot more money, but the deficit would be less – that could make all the difference and in theory make the Premier League more competitive.

Obviously in an ideal world everyone in the Premier League would have the same money and then we would really see who the best managers are – but those sort of ideas are probably unrealistic so it’s all about finding ways things can be improved for smaller Premier League clubs. As a Norwich City supporter I remember in the early days of the Premier League – when Norwich pushed Manchester United very close to the Premier League title before eventually dropping back to finish third. But I know that with the way things are now that kind of thing can never happen again – but isn’t it stories like that which is the reason we all love football? So as far as I am concerned something must be done to bring football back to the fans.

We need to showcase the best managers – who build teams with fantastic spirit and can actually be successful. Surely if we can do something to lessen the financial gap then we can start to believe in that dream again. My suggestion is probably only a start but it would be without doubt a step in the right direction. But let’s remember that the problem does not start and end with the Premier League and organizations like FIFA and UEFA also have a part to play. Rules such as financial fair play are only made with the Champions League in mind and concerns that English clubs are dominated too much – however they haven’t been thought out in detail and how they will impact the Premier League as a whole. And will only serve to increase the divide between clubs at the top and the ones near the bottom.

Above all though I dream for the day when the Premier League is unpredictable to the extreme that we couldn’t even begin to name the top six before the season has started. If something doesn’t change fans may eventually start to be turned off and follow something like the Championship instead – which has been exciting throughout and very competitive and the play-off final is likely to live up to that tag.

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