Is The Premier League Killing Football As We Know It?

November 16, 2012 2:00 pm

For every club in the Football League, the Premier League is the promised land of milk and honey, luring teams in with the prospect of playing in the footballing world’s most popular and richest league. No other division can compete, and promotion from the Football League can mean a one way ticket to the big time. But ever increasingly clubs are spending more money than they can afford pursuing the dream of promotion, recklessly building debts and tax bills that they will pay when the windfall comes.

But what if it doesn’t come? The owners wash their hands of the club and the fans are left to pick up the pieces. Point deductions follow and the predictable dive into the lower leagues begins. Episodes like that of Luton Town, Bradford City and Portsmouth FC will become ever more common as the Football League becomes a slave to the top flight and the FA turns impotent in the face of such financial and popular clout.

Football is driven by money more than anything and thanks to TV rights and sponsorship the Premier League received £2,271m in revenue in the 2010/11 season, compared to a total of £626m in the three divisions that constitute the Football League. This allowed the twenty Premier League clubs in that season to spend £697m collectively in transfers, compared to the (paltry by comparison) £44m spent collectively by the seventy two clubs of the Football League. The financial gulf that separates the Premier League grows larger and larger every season, and ever increasingly competition is killed off. Teams in the second tier have to spend and borrow mammoth amounts to try and gain promotion and put out of a team capable of avoiding relegation the following season. The waning popularity of second tier football and falling attendances adds to the financial choke-hold that clubs find themselves in, creating a perfect storm for the Premier League to hand financial aid to teams in the Football League and subsequently gain power over them.

How can a club make it out of the sporting wilderness without spending money they don’t have? Nurture local young talent? Well, that’s what most clubs have been trying to do, until the Premier League introduced the EPPP and compelled the Football League agreeing to it by threatening to withhold funding. The Elite Player Performance Plan gives those clubs with the best academies the ability to reach far outside of their current catchment area and entice young players away from their local clubs. This means that all the best young players go to the clubs with the best facilities, which cost a lot of money to build and maintain, and almost completely belong to teams in the Premier League.

Ever increasingly Football League teams are suffering from debts and shrinking fan bases. Young fans are turning their backs on their local teams, and terraces are every increasingly populated by an aging fan base. Thanks to the likes of Sky Sports and the Premier League a small amount of successful teams have stamped themselves all over the footballing identity of this country and who can blame them? It offers unrivaled excitement, drama and stars from all over the world. What fledgling fan would want to pay out and travel on a miserable Sunday afternoon to see Barnet take on Cheltenham when they could stay at home on the sofa and watch ‘Ford Super Sunday’ on Sky Sports.

The Footballing landscape is changing and who knows what position the Football League will be in in the future.

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