Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is an influential man in German football. He won 95 West Germany caps and scored over 200 goals for Bayern Munich. He even played in Italy for Inter Milan. These days, though, he’s the CEO of Bayern Munich. It doesn’t get more influential than that.
So when he speaks, people listen. And this week he’s been speaking about the Premier League’s bumper £5bn TV rights deal.
Clearly he’s feeling the pinch. Manchester United’s swoop for Bastian Schweinsteiger was one thing – although he’s a legend on the same plane as Kalle himself, he’s the wrong side of 30 and it was time for him to leave. But the potential transfer of Thomas Muller to Manchester United is possibly worrying for him, and to the world he thinks. If United want their man, Rummenigge knows they can get him. United have more money than anyone else this summer, it seems. Even Philipp Lahm isn’t convinced that Muller will stay.
The Bayern CEO is worried that the Bundesliga will fall behind the Premier League unless it acts now to bring more money into the league. Right now the German TV rights deal is just over £400m which looks like loose change to Scudamore and his suits.
It certainly feels that way to me, too. The money in the Premier League was staggering anyway, but the latest deal doesn’t just take the biscuit, it brazenly enters your kitchen cupboard and snatches the whole pack.
The money in the Premier League dwarfs the money in the Championship. This article from 2011 puts the Premier League average wage at five times higher than in the Championship. But really, £20,000 a week is loose change to the top Premier League stars, too. There are more recent figure in this article, which doubles the £20,000 figure and puts the Premier League well ahead of the other European leagues.
Wages are one thing, but they’re not even the height of the problem facing Rummenigge and his fellow head honchos around Europe.
The Premier League’s middling teams are seemingly punching above their weight. Or at least, they’re punching at a class above the rest of Europe’s middling teams. Perhaps even grand old European teams, the kinds you’ll find in the Champions League now and then. The kind you’ll see on ITV4 on thursday nights in the quarter-finals of the Europa League when the English teams are rueing their early exits.
Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Watford have all broken their record transfer fees already this summer. Manchester United would break theirs too if they sign Muller for anywhere near what the reported fee is. Leicester City broke theirs twice last season, signing Leonardo Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric, whereas West Ham and Liverpool both share a record signing, Andy Carroll. The solace for the long-locked Geordie should be that only one or two record signings have actually done well for their clubs. Fernando Torres at Chelsea, Brown Ideye, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Michael Owen at Newcastle and Darren Bent at Aston Villa… the list could go on. They’ve all been flops. Certainly they were flops for the price paid.
The vast majority of the Premier League clubs’ record signings – 14 out of 20 – have been made since 2013 when the last TV rights deal went up from just over £1bn to just over £3bn. Now that it’s over £5bn the record signings are set to take off again.
So Rummenigge is right to be worried. When relegation-threatened Premier League teams can be in the top 20 of football’s rich list there is clearly a gap between England and the rest. It was reported last season, when the TV deal news broke, that Burnley were richer than Ajax.
Disparity is bad for competition. It’s a good thing that smaller English clubs have a fair cut of the TV money, but of all the stats, the one that hits him is that relegated Cardiff earned more money from TV rights than Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain who were all league winners in their respective countries. And this is even before the new deal.
The Premier League is paving the way for football in terms of revenue generation. But is that a good thing? Should we be happy that football is becoming more money driven? Or does it just make competition better as Crystal Palace can buy players like Yohan Cabaye, Swansea can sign Andre Ayew and West Ham can sign Dimitri Payet?
The one thing we can say for certain now, with all of this new TV money in the Premier League, is that another season where every English club is knocked out of Europe by early March is totally unacceptable. Surely England should be dominating.