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The inequality game

11 June 2013

What the Mail on Sunday's Patrick Collins wrote...

Writing in this week's Mail on Sunday, columnist Patrick Collins makes some interesting, and highly pertinent, observations...

 

93.27% of TV billions goes to the Premier League


When the Premier League revealed that its new television deal was worth £5.5billion over three years, the news was met with a popping of corks and a dropping of jaws.
For this was the ultimate proof of English football's ability to accumulate riches beyond reason.
So hands were pumped, backs were slapped and, amid the orgy of self-congratulation, a whiff of injustice was largely ignored. Which was a pity.
For as the Premier League revels in its extraordinary wealth, the clubs outside that magic circle are increasingly reduced to the status of paupers.
Statistics can be tailored to suit any story but the figures which have emerged over the past few days carry an ominous message for the weaker members of football's 'fraternity'.
While Premier League clubs have secured £5.5bn from their television contracts, the Football League will be paid just £195m from its three-year deal with Sky.
In addition, it will receive £240m per annum in 'solidarity' monies from the Premier League - a yearly increase of £40m or 20 per cent.
But - and it is a crucial 'but' - of that £240m, £177m will be reserved for relegated Premier League clubs in the form of 'parachute' payments, up from £144m under the current deal.
The outcome of the new agreement is genuinely dramatic and hideously unfair.
If you reasonably consider that parachute payments to relegated clubs are, in effect, monies retained by the Premier League, then football's total broadcasting income will be split in the following proportions: Premier League - 93.27 per cent Football League - 6.73 per cent.

Now, this column has long argued that the primary purpose of the Premier League is to create a competition in which the rich grow ever richer while the poor are cut adrift.
In past seasons, the odd, indiscreet chairman has given the game away by demanding a more exclusive Premier League, by ending the threat of relegation.
Although the idea was hastily dismissed, it would represent a logical progression for an institution which was conceived in greed and has grown still more rapacious down the years.
But the effect on the weaker, poorer clubs would be calamitous.
For the strength of the English game has always been found in its healthy diversity. The giants have always been with us; big-city clubs, well capable of looking after themselves.
But the smaller clubs also belonged to the broad family.
And they knew that if they organised shrewdly, invested intelligently and involved their players and fans, they could work their way to a higher level.
The odds were always stacked against them, even in those distant days when the Football League was a broad co-operative, embracing every club.

 

Television fees were laughably modest by modern standards but they were distributed in a roughly equitable and inclusive fashion.
The paupers could indulge in princely dreams.
But when the Premier League came sailing in on a sea of satellite television money, those dreams effectively died.
Such were the stakes that the clubs were driven by an obsessive desire to thrust their noses in the trough and keep them there.
I once asked a chairman why he was prepared to cut so many corners and pull so many strokes in order to win a place among the elite.
He reacted with blank incomprehension. It was obvious, wasn't it? I was reminded of the notorious American criminal Willie Sutton, who was asked why he robbed banks.
He replied: 'Cos that's where the money is.'

Having reached the land of plenty, clubs immediately start to worry about what might happen if they fail to stay there.
Their answer is to take out insurance in the form of those parachute payments. The object of these handouts is to ease the pain in the event of relegation. Always shameless, this time the ploy is particularly offensive.
The payment is £23m in the first year, £18m in the second and £9m in years three and four; thus the total reward for failure amounts to £59m.

Crucially, in the first year after relegation - a club's best chance to muscle their way out of the Championship - that will equate to an increase of almost 44 per cent.
Under this formula, Reading, relegated after only a year in the Premier League, will receive £23m next season. While Millwall, say, who have not played in the top division in recent years, will be paid £1.8m from the Football League television deal plus their £2m 'solidarity' payment from the Premier League.
So £23m plays £3.8m: the inequity is staggering.

I do not suggest that vulgar self-interest is confined to the members of the Premier League.
For instance, last week, at the Football League AGM in Portugal, Yeovil Town celebrated their promotion to the Championship by fiercely opposing a move to share extra money with clubs from Leagues One and Two!
Nor do I argue for a return to the days when media revenue was shared relatively evenly among the 92 clubs.
Desirable though that might be, we have come too far to turn back.
But I do believe that avarice is now completely out of hand, and that the disproportionate distribution of income is seriously damaging the health of the game.


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