An Accident Waiting To Happen
Aug 13, 2014 5:23 PM EDT
Barclay's Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has again hit the headlines for the wrong reasons as he labelled Luis Suárez "an accident waiting to happen", whilst firmly stating "I can't say that I'm sorry to see him go". The man who made headlines for sexist remarks, just weeks before the new Barcelona striker, should probably learn when not to speak.
Scudamore incurred the wrath of the English public in 2008 by declaring his vision of a 39th round in the Premier League. This would turn the Premier League into a travelling circus as ten games would be held in ten cities across the world, which he has again spoken in support of this week. The game would be a slap in the face to season-ticket holders and fans that pride themselves on going to every single game. His comparison to the NFL at Wembley, and Major League Baseball beginning their 2014 season in Australia, bore no relevance to the situation at all. Jacksonville are a terrible team with an empty stadium, and a game that does not have a real culture of away travel, so there is no real damage by their choosing to host a home game abroad. Major League Baseball is a 162 game seasons. No-one goes to all 81 home games, let alone away series. Football in Europe is as much about the away days as anything. On a small island, where every corner of the nation is within a few hundred miles, away travel is a huge culture. Luton Town took 1,077 fans away to Carlisle for the season's longest trip last Saturday, a relatively low number for the Hatters. Most fans back in England despise the foreign pre-season tours as a money-making exercise with no real benefit on the pitch, even more so that they are denied the chance to watch their team live.
There is also the competitive element, in that a team playing in the heat of Qatar would face a much tougher challenge than a team playing in a climate like that of New York. The 39th game would be made from a seeded draw, would you really want your relegation, or European aspirations decided by some balls in a velvet bag? Taking the past season's teams as an example, if Livepool drew the bottom-club Cardiff and Manchester City drew mid-table Crystal Palace, there is an unfair chance that the league title would be on display at Anfield right now. Perhaps Norwich would be gearing up for the Premier League while West Brom would have already started in the Championship. The play-in game for the second wildcard in baseball drew a response about unfair advantages. That would pale in comparison to the 39th game.
When Scudamore took over the Premier League in November 2009, the league had just seen Manchester United crowned European Champions. Thierry Henry was still just a mere mortal and Robbie Keane was a few months shy of that strange move to Inter Milan. Kevin Phillips was on the way to becoming the only Englishman to win the European Golden Shoe, with four of the top five scorers being English. The total wage bill for the Premier League was $662.6m and you could watch 60 lives games in the UK.
Fast forward to 2014, the league has seen a further three Champions League winners. The last two winners of the FWA Footballer of the Year have left for Spain, for a combined $267.5m. Three of the top ten scorers were English. The total wage bill rose to over $3b and you could watch every single game live in the US.
The real problem with the Premier League is its 'them and us' attitude. The league operates against the FA rather than with it, it's not fond of sharing the wealth with the Football League. It simply doesn't share a penny with the Conference or below. The Premier League forced through the controversial EPPP plan which, in essence, is a ruling that the Premier League can cherry pick youth players from lower level teams without paying. Clubs like Crewe Alexandra and Luton Town have thrived and survived off the back of their youth academies. Luton produced the likes of Jack Wilshere, Curtis Davies, Leon Barnett, Matthew Upson, Emmerson Boyce and Matt Taylor, who have all played in the Premier League over the past two seasons. Transfer fees from those players are a big deal to a club that is losing money and doesn't have the same flexibility with debt as a Chelsea or United. All of this is designed to create a regular set of clubs to challenge in Europe, but it is also going to create 15 Premier League teams and a further 10 that will just yo-yo between the Premier League and Championship, whilst everyone below suffers.
The debt that Premier League clubs have been allowed to build up is quite frightening. Football League clubs will go into administration with a $250,000 debt, while Chelsea alone have a debt of $1.6b. Whilst the clubs totalled $4.5b in income generated, they still managed to make a loss of $486m. Contrast this to MLS, where half of the teams at least broke even, or in Germany where the total profit was $512.5m. We've seen Portsmouth get dragged into a long struggle for survival that sees them now struggling in League Two. That was over $225m in debts, which no club should be permitted to get to, let alone a club of that size. Real Madrid and Barcelona are virtually untouchable, in that the Spanish monarchy writes off debt in Madrid and Barcelona are supported by Catalonia. Unless HRH Queen Elizabeth II wants to cut checks to her beloved West Ham United, we will not see anything remotely close in the United Kingdom.
The Premier League is one that the fans love and the financial analysts worry about. It is the great big bubble that drifts ever closer to a pin, albeit in an entertaining manner. Richard Scudamore took the world's leading league and made it bigger at the expense of the national team it provides for, as well as its own future. Is Luis Suárez really the accident waiting to happen, or is it the Frankenstein Scudamore has unleashed on the villagers?