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The Premier League fights back

The Premier League fights back


The MP Tracey Crouch’s fan led review is creating waves. Is one of the world’s most successful leagues under threat?


Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker. 

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today… the Premier League fights back.


Yesterday’s episode featured the former sports minister, Tracey Crouch. Her review into the way professional football is run in England is creating waves. 

We heard what it is, and why many think it’s a good idea. 

Today, the review that threatens the world’s most successful league.

When the balance of power is challenged, there is always going to be some pushback.

“I don’t think the problem lies in the Premier League, I think the solution lies with the Premier League. It’s the… it is the… everything good in English football sits in the Premier League.”

“Right… OK.”

“And so can we work with Tracey to try and fix some of the problems further down the pyramid? Of course we can. Do we need to appoint somebody, take a year to find them, give them the name regulator… probably not!”


That was the Aston Villa chief executive, Christian Purslow. He posed an interesting question: do Tesco – the country’s biggest supermarket chain – give financial support to the corner shop? 

We know the answer: of course not.

You can see why the boss of a Premier League football club would make the point… but is football really comparable with other businesses? 

The Leeds United CEO, Angus Kinnear, is challenging the Crouch Review – and in particular its proposal for a ten percent levy on Premier League transfer fees to fund clubs in lower divisions. 

He says the Premier League already goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to supporting the clubs.

And he argues that with football flourishing, self-regulation works.  This despite Leeds losing money every year bar one since 2001.  Last year, their losses amounted to 66 million pounds.

Kinnear maintains that spreading the wealth will only reward poor governance in the lower leagues.  

“Football,” he wrote in the programme notes for Leeds’ game against Crystal Palace this week, “is a private sector business… enforcing upon football a philosophy akin to Maoist collective agriculturalism… will not make the English game fairer.” 

Well, speak your mind Angus.

But hold fire a minute. Let’s take the emotion out of the argument. 

If we look at the issues from an economic standpoint, the Premier League is the wealthiest and most successful football league in the world.

Some would say… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

And it doesn’t stop with the top flight.  The Championship is by far the most prosperous second tier in world football.

And it all started when Sky bought the TV rights to the old Division One in 1992. 

The league was renamed and rebranded. And it caught fire.

“How big it was going to be, I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted.” 

“The money became so vast, I did change.”

“Footballers became sort of like rock stars, overnight.” 

Amazon Prime

It was inevitable the Premier League would take issue with Tracey Crouch. But others have too.

Take Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs – a free market think tank. 

Writing in the Sunday Times (whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, ploughed billions into the Premier League through his other media business, Sky), Littlewood raised the possibility of reforms here resulting in leagues elsewhere – in Spain, Germany and Italy – being able to compete more effectively in the transfer market.  

The flow of top talent to England could be reversed.  

And anything that undermined the enormous success of the Premier League, he argued, could have an impact on clubs further down the pyramid. 

In his Sunday Times column, he asked, what’s to stop the new independent regulator in charge of football becoming power hungry over time?

His words were “could independent simply be code for unanswerable?” 

There’s nothing in the review document to indicate that might be the case but it’s question that needs answering. 

And there’s another factor we might also consider.  

Aren’t the clubs accountable to the fans rather than anyone else?  

Fan power was attributed to the rapid demise of the European Super League idea. 

But should it always be down to fans to make sure that football is run properly? 

If we go back to the Tesco analogy… it’s not up to their customers to make sure that supermarket business practices are above board. 

Isn’t the idea of an independent regulator to make sure the fans’ views aren’t bypassed in the first place?

“Most Liverpool supporters I’ve seen, and as you can imagine, you know, we talk to a lot and we sort of you know, are having conversations all the time with Liverpool supporters and just a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, and the fact is again, you know, the owners of our football club have gone ahead and done something, you know, without a proper consultation with supporters. And if they’d have asked supporters, they would’ve realised just how strong the feeling is about something like this.”

Sky Sports

There’s also the question of whether it’s realistic to expect an independent regulator to solve football’s problems.   

With such a lot of vested interests in the game, there’s going to be plenty of people afraid to lose something… power, money, influence.

“Reading that report, that is the kind of future they see for football. It is going to be this great future where everyone is going to get on, no clubs are going to go out of business, the fans are gonna be happy, ticket prices are going to be sensible, replica shirts are going to be cheap, you can drink in the stands… everything’s going to be marvellous. Now, that’s great. But we live in the real world and I’m not sure whether all this will come to pass.” 

Sky Sports

So who’s going to shape professional football?  Will it be the clubs, the TV companies, the fans or the government?

Watch this space.

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Matt Russell.