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Opinion

Premier League financial doping happened long before the…Premier League

1 year ago
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It makes me laugh that supporters of the alleged elite take a virtuous stance towards the nouveau riche of the Premier League.

It is the greed of ex executives of these clubs, particularly Man Utd, that created the embryo of the monster we have now.

Liverpool received their version of financial doping in the 1960s, which enabled them to grow from a below average second tier team into the giant they are today.

They now want rules to restrict financial expenditure.

The Premier League is now trying to put the genie back into its bottle by sanctioning Man City. Good luck with that.

How does the EPL self govern itself?

The 20 members continually change their rules of engagement, largely at the behest of the biggest and most powerful actors in the league.

The EPL was created by the self-proclaimed big five clubs in the early 1990s.

They were; Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. Yes Everton.

Everton’s fall from the top table was rapid. They had legitimacy to being on it as they were a very successful club. They last won the title in 1987, only five years before the formation of the EPL. It was their ninth title.

Man Utd had won “only” seven titles at that point, the last one 1967.

How Spurs made the list can only be because they were, arguably, the second largest club in London. In national terms they were largely insignificant. West Ham could have claimed that crown.

The aim of the “big five” was to hoover up as much money as they could.

Live football on TV was in its infancy. The big five were on TV the most but the revenue they earned from the TV companies, the BBC and ITV, was still at the level they received for highlights.

The money the Football League received for the TV contracts was distributed throughout the league’s structure. All 92 clubs received finance. The money belonged to the league and not the clubs.

The big five did not like this and wanted a bigger share of the pot.

This desire was not entirely founded by greed. Clubs had to adhere to the recommendations of the Taylor report which meant large parts of a club’s expenditure had to be spent on ground improvements.

Football grounds at even the top clubs, were literally hovels. Increased revenue was needed to improve the stadiums.

The Taylor report legislation did not affect clubs in the lower divisions, to the same degree as the top clubs, because their crowds were not as large and therefore the improvements were not mandatory.

The top clubs lobbied to change the league rules which would give them a greater share (all) of the TV revenue, but the other 87 clubs were not going to cut off a lucrative revenue stream.

The big five sides entered into secretive negotiations with the emerging satellite TV companies BSB and SKY. Shamefully the FA backed the formation of the new league, behind the backs of the Football League.

The deal was, the new league would keep the majority of the TV money.

The Premier League was born, to say born is a misnomer. It wasn’t some natural progression. It was created. Created to suit the requirements of the creators.

SKY needed something to get people to buy their product. There wasn’t much appetite for subscription TV in the country. It was, is, expensive and suffered significant technological difficulties. People weren’t buying.

The formation of the EPL and the purchase of the TV rights of the new league by SKY changed the rules and suited both parties. The BBC and ITV were blown away by the might of the Murdoch empire.

SKY and the EPL took off and grew quickly.

With the growth came money. Lots of money.

Football quickly moved from being largely followed by young men, to a family entertainment in your house every Sunday afternoon.

Advertising revenue rocketed for the clubs. The money was rolling in.

The owners of the top clubs saw an opportunity to make millions, not for the benefit of the clubs but for themselves.

Football clubs were, mostly, limited companies. They had limited shareholders, and the number of shares was limited. The shares in clubs were passed on from generation to generation and were largely in the same families of the founding members of the clubs.

In true Thatcherite style, some owners saw an opportunity to make money. Clubs were floated on the stock exchange and became public limited companies.

The owners, of the clubs floated, made small fortunes by today’s standards but the local butcher who was fortunate to have some shares stuck in a drawer somewhere, became significantly wealthy.

The flotation of football clubs on the stock market made them fair game to the big sharks. The game was awash with money and the sharks wanted their piece of the pie.

Clubs were bought up by people wanting to make money. The big clubs’ shares were being bought up. The organisations that bought these clubs wanted a return on their investments. They had to protect their money. The EPL rules regarding the distribution of wealth were under constant review to ensure the clubs at the top received an ever increasing share of an ever increasing revenue stream.

Their threat was; if we don’t get more money we’re off. After all, they had done it before.

The other clubs in the EPL were largely happy to agree to the budget split as they were earning good money. The rich got richer.

Clubs started to spend money to compete with the richer clubs, money which they did not have. Club owners were speculating vast amounts of money, more than their income. They wanted to be at the top table. They wanted the glory. They wanted the money.

It would be unfair to say that these people had no interest in football. It would be unfair to say their only motivation was money. Ultimately who knows.

The problem is that the destruction of the equal distribution of money for the benefit of all, destroyed competition.

Manchester United dominated the EPL until recently. They were the richest club in the country by some distance. Clubs chasing the dream faced financial ruin, especially if they were relegated.

Clubs trying to reach the promised land of the EPL spent money they did not have.

If they did not reach the EPL they were broken.

Financial fair play rules were supposedly adopted to prevent clubs from spending money they do not have. This would protect clubs from becoming insolvent.

It hasn’t worked. Most clubs are losing money trying to keep pace with the rampant inflation in the game.

The rules were not adopted to stop clubs spending money that they do have.

Players salaries and transfer fees at the top of the game are out of control.

This impacts at the clubs at the bottom trying to compete.

Manchester City are not the enemy of football. They are a symptom of the greed emanating at the top of the sport.

The owners of Manchester City own the club to display their wealth, not to earn more money. They are willing to spend a fortune to keep their club at the top, to continue to exhibit the extent of their financial power.

What are the objectives of Manchester United’s owners? Win trophies or create more money? To me, they seem to be more happy with growing the wealth of the business rather than winning trophies.

Which club is more reprehensible? That’s easy to answer, isn’t it?

We now have a situation that finishing fourth in the league has more prestige than winning the FA or League cups.

Why? Money.

Football has lost its way. The accumulation of wealth at the top and the desire to keep as much of the money as possible has brought the game to where it is today.

The charges brought against Manchester City have little to do with the trophies they have won. It is more about the money that other clubs have failed to make because of their success.

Winning money is irrelevant to Manchester City’s owners. Can the same be said of the owners of Liverpool or Manchester United?
They are losing money and furthermore they have to spend more to compete.

They want to stop them. That is what FFP is. A formula to protect the establishment and prevent anyone else from muscling in.

To make significant change in football, to make it a more level playing field there has to be a more equitable distribution of the wealth the game generates.

This will not happen.

The owners of Manchester United and Liverpool are not invested in the best interests of the game. They are interested in their investment.

The difference is significant.

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