If, like me, you sat and watched the rather drab 1-1 stalemate between Newcastle and Stoke last Sunday then you too will probably be scratching your head as to why BT and Sky have decided to pay £10m per game they broadcast when the new TV deal, up a massive 70%, kicks in in the 2016-17 season. Newcastle vs Stoke isn’t worth £10m and it’s hard to justify any football match being worth that amount but it comes as little surprise that the flow of cash coming into the Premier League has risen astronomically yet again.
We now face a situation where financial fair play becomes a matter of irrelevancy for every single club in the league. Some would argue that the increase in revenue can only be a good thing, potentially making the playing field more level and giving smaller sides a better chance. However, in reality, it will do little else other than widen the gap between the big clubs and those lower down the food chain. The elite will become even more difficult to break into.
There are potential, yet unlikely, upsides however. We may finally see clubs succumb to the pressure from fans to freeze the ever increasing ticket prices and make the game more affordable for match-going fans. If we were really to broaden our horizons and get carried away we may even sees some of the money be put into local communities and grassroots football. Some would say this is the stuff of dreams but with clubs already spending ludicrous amounts and flashy new signings can the money really go anywhere else? Well, unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, with the influx of foreign ownership and increase in debt-ridden clubs, we are unlikely to see the revenue from the increased TV deal be spent on what it should be spent on. Instead we are likely to see it go into the hands of the already wealthy owners and on interest on the millions of pounds of debt that Premier League clubs have amassed.
The question is when will the bubble burst, or, rather will it? Most likely not and the opposition to such a deal extends beyond the fans, with the club president of St Etienne being rather scathing in his criticism of the deal saying the Premier League is in danger of ‘becoming the NBA of football.’ To put the deal in context, more money will be spent on the TV rights for the Premier League in a single weekend then will be spent in an entire season of TV rights in the Eredivise in The Netherlands. Minnows Burnley will instantly become richer than three-time European Cup winners Ajax. While the prospect of seeing an influx of global stars to the Premier League is exciting, it is indisputable that the damage this deal does to the rest of football and even to the fans is severe. While those at the top may finally come to the realisation that such obscene wealth amongst few clubs is damaging, what is more likely is that the bubble will continue to grow.
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