More money means more pain for fans
If money is the root of all evil, then somebody forgot to tell supporters of Manchester City and Chelsea - both of whom get to spend the summer floating in a happy daze.
Before the arrival of their sugar daddies, backed by petrodollars from Abu Dhabi and Russia respectively, City were light years away from winning the Premier League title and Chelsea were hardly earmarked as contenders for the Champions League. Now, they are trophy-holders and serious contenders for next season.
Cash is not always king in football but it sure helps. For all the teams without billionaire benefactors, the mission to keep up with the spiraling salaries and trumped-up transfer fees is a challenge that is as overwhelming as it is risky. Some 60 per cent of Premier League clubs reported a loss when the last financial accounts were released.
Competing with the likes of City and Chelsea in the money league is an impossible task, so the rest have to be resourceful, and hope that the new regulations designed to try to encourage clubs to run themselves as a sustainable business (a pan-European initiative called Financial Fair Play) actually begin to shackle the spending power of the super rich. Not everyone, it must be said, is holding their breath on that one even if it is a nice idea.
And now there is suddenly even more money sloshing around for every Premier League club to get their hands on. A new, record-breaking television deal, worth a record $4.7 billion over three years — up a whopping 71 per cent on the previous arrangement — will soon be boosting the coffers everywhere. This is just a deal for domestic television rights, so when internet and overseas deals are factored in, the Premier League’s broadcasting worth is estimated at closer to a stunning $8 billion.
Each club is guaranteed at least $22 million more each year than they previously received. To put that into perspective, that means the last-placed finisher in 2013 will probably get more than Manchester City earned for finishing top of the Premier League pile last season. That sum, incidentally, totaled $95 million.
The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, believes the deal is very significant in comparison to major overseas clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and so on.
"It allows people to plan and gives us a degree of financial security. I don't underestimate that,” he said. “The idea you can plan with some certainty your revenues for the next four years is a big thing."
And in fact, there is an interesting comparison with Spain’s La Liga, in which the heavyweighs from Barcelona and Madrid negotiate their own television rights individually. They can pull in around $200 million per season, but the smallest clubs earn a fraction – in the region of $20 million. The Premier League have a system where the deal is struck collectively. All boats are raised in England under this new deal – and suddenly, a leap to the Premier League means so much more to the teams in the Championship, a rung below.
It is questionable how great all this will turn out to be for fans, however. Somebody has to pay for these mega-deals, and part of the cost will presumably be passed on to the consumers in the form of price hikes for subscription channels that deliver football coverage. Live games have been the preserve of the pay-per-view channels in England for 20 years now. In that time, the cost of attending a match inside the stadium has ballooned, too.
But the increase is fabulous news, obviously, for clubs, players and the wheeler-dealer agents who squeeze every drop of earnings out that they can. It is likely that the $300,000 a week salary that Carlos Tevez takes home will soon be dwarfed. And with some big stars — Emmanuel Adebayor, Luka Modric and Robin van Persie come to mind — seeking improved deals, there are fewer reasons for clubs to stretch their payrolls.
As yet , there has not been an obvious knock-on effect in terms of the Premier League’s transfer activity. Only Chelsea have been notably lavish in advance of the European Championship, with the Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard arriving and Porto’s Hulk very strongly linked with a big money move. A greater indication of whether this gives clubs more clout in the market will come when the Euros finish.
Bruce Buck, Chelsea’s chairman, predicted Abramovich is eager to up the ante to help his team to build on the Champions League win. “We’ve seen him, year after year, invest and put his hand in his pocket and spend big money. He may go to another level now,” said Buck.
Chelsea, which starts next season's Premier League campaign at Wigan, are desperate for a stronger challenge in the league. City will kick off its title defense at home to Southampton but are eager to make more of a go of it in the Champions League.
Manchester United are intent on bouncing back, but have a tough start to the season against Everton - the team that wrecked United's title dream. Arsenal, who host Sunderland on the opening day, have to try to stay in the top four. Liverpool, who face Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City, in three of their first four fixtures, are under pressure to improve.
Now there is even more money to make the football world go round.