[ 19 October 2018 ]
The Premier League
Over 90 minutes, 380 matches and nine months, very few sporting competitions can match the English Premier League
It’s the wealthiest
Deloitte’s Football Money League, based on the 2016-17 season, shows the combined revenues of the world's 20 richest football clubs rose to €7.9bn (£6.97bn), a new record. Manchester United have topped the table for the second year in a row (Real Madrid were second and Barcelona third) and there were a record ten English Premier League clubs in the top 20.
It's the most watched
With total aggregate attendance of more than 13m, it is the most watched league. (However, it slips to second to Germany’s Bundesliga if you measure the size of the average audience per match). Worldwide, the Premier League is available in 185 countries and broadcast to an estimated 730 million homes.
It's the most entertaining
Incessant news coverage, the number of top name clubs, big transfer fees and high attendances - and averaging nearly three goals per game - make the Premier League a great spectacle.
And it's unpredictable
The equivalent of Leicester City’s winning of the Premier League two years ago (pictured above) would be unimaginable in other European leagues. This is partly because the big clubs in Italy, Germany and Spain take a greater share of their leagues’ profits. The Premier League’s sharing of TV booty more equally than other leagues has made it more competitive. However, the big six Premier League clubs have recently won their battle to be paid a greater share from international TV rights. While Premier League says that it remains “the most equitable in Europe in terms of sharing central revenues,” the long-term effects of this change have yet to be seen.
More than a game
The Premier League calculates this it adds £7.6bn of value to the economy. There's a full analysis of its economic impact here.
Know what I mean?
Some of the reasons for the Premier League’s strength reflect Britain’s broader national advantages. The fact that the managers, pundits and players all have to gabble, mumble or (very occasionally, articulate) in the English language makes it accessible as a global product.
Football for breakfast, lunch and supper
Britain’s geographical position plays its part. Our time zone means fans in the Americas can watch matches over breakfast, while Asian fans can watch the same matches in their evening. The Premier League’s afternoon kick-offs are more convenient for Asian fans than Spain’s evening fixtures.
An open market
The Premier League has been very open to foreign managers, players and owners. When Arsène Wenger became Arsenal’s manager in 1996 he was only the fourth foreign manager in English history. Today? Now let’s see. Pep Guardiola. Jurgen Klopp. Jose Mourinho etc etc. There are only six British managers in the Premier League.
More foreign players has led to more foreign fans. South Koreans love tracking the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur’s Heung-Min Son; the Senegalese follow Liverpool’s Sadio Mané while the club's Egyptian wing adore Mo Salah.
Foreign money has poured into the Premier League. From Roman Abramovich at Chelsea to Manchester City’s Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, from Maxim Demin, the Russian owner of Bournemouth, to China's Gao family, who own Southampton. Almost two thirds of Premier League clubs have foreign owners. It can be reasonably argued that this inflow of capital has increased competitiveness in the Premier League, which in turn keeps it more exciting.
Selling soccer to the world
The Premier League was quicker off the mark in terms of spotting the potential of international markets. Manchester United started making regular pre-season trips to Asia in 1995, whereas Real Madrid did so only in 2003. They are expanding with business ventures in new corners of the globe. The City Football Group, which owns Manchester City, also owns clubs in New York, Melbourne, Yokohama and Montevideo.
Youth, not youthless
Youth development, which has been an historic weakness of the Premier League clubs, is beginning to improve (just witness the rise of England’s young national team). Clubs can save money (rather than splashing out for expensive, older players) but a good pipeline of youth players can provide a strong return on investment as they are sold on. This is known as the Southampton syndrome.
Electronic Arts has announced a partnership with the English Premier League as part of its FIFA 19 esports programme. The ePremier League starts in January and UK-based players will compete against one another on Fifa 2019. The final in London from 28-29 March will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and represents a considerable advancement in the mainstream acceptance of esports.
“The success of the Premier League, which is grounded in the quality of the football competition, has created a cycle of growth. This should help ensure that the significant contribution to the UK economy and society will continue to increase in years ahead.”
Mark Gregory, Chief Economist, EY
Brexit 1, Premier League ?
While sterling’s weakness may be manageable, there are worries about migration and talent. After Brexit, Europeans may face the same immigration rules as everyone else. Star players will have no trouble clearing these hurdles, but lesser-known talent may be excluded.
Perhaps as big a challenge will be its own leadership succession. Its long-standing boss Richard Scudamore is standing down - the new man (now that would be a big surprise if it were not) has yet to be announced.