Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Premier League v. Football League

Posted by John Beech on May 10, 2010

Once again, the Premier League, or ‘the Wild East’ as Arsenal’s Stan Kronke has amusingly christened them (1), have made clear their naked desire to control football down the pyramid.  They have long attempted to distort competition in the Championship by paying parachute payments (as a reward for failure?!) to their unfortunate ‘old boys’ (see Parachute payments, and Rocket payments?) and more recently have started what they outrageously call ‘solidarity payments’.  If Lech Wałęsa was dead, he’d be spinning in his grave at this abuse of language.

If you do not doubt the sincerity of the Premier League, you might reflect on the fact that the Premier League, threatened by the possible restriction on their money printing press of broadcasting rights, trotted out the argument that “grass roots of sport will suffer and be irreparably damaged through loss of funding” (2).  Threat or promise?  Sky, their ‘partners in crime’, claimed that OFCOM’s involvement was an “unwarranted intervention“.  Warranted by Act of Parliament actually, even if unwelcome by Murdoch’s media empire.  😉  The intervention follows a three-year enquiry by the way.

In 2007 the Premier League offered the Football League a ‘solidarity package’ of over £90m, in the context of almost £3m windfall for their television deals (both figures covering a three year period) (3).   The latest outburst of Premier League hegemony started at the end of March (4).  The ‘offer’ that was put to the Football League was increased parachute payments to PL relegated clubs of £16m per year for four years, and non-parachute payments offered were £2.2m per season (an increase from the previous £830,000) for Championship clubs, £325,000 for League 1 clubs, and £250,000 for League 2 clubs (5).

Now, on the face of it, this may sound a generous offer.  But there are a couple of obvious problems with it.

First, it would at least be theoretically possible that a club might suffer three consecutive relegations and find itself in the Conference with a PL parachute payment of £16m.  Now that would seem really fair to the other Conference clubs.  It’s an unlikely scenario I grant you – the club would have had to have been really bad to have suffered three consecutive relegations with all that extra money splashing around with which to buy players.  But that is exactly my point – this extra money is precisely designed to distort competition and save the PL old boys from suffering too much in the harsh reality of the Football League.

Secondly the Premier League is giving the money not to the Football League but to its clubs, defining how much, and to whom, and when. Surely those are issues that the Football League should have control over rather than the Premier League.  If you doubt this, consider the logical corollary for the redistribution of wealth between the two – the Football League imposing a levy on clubs promoted to the Premier League, for up to four years.  Of course it’s not going to happen – the difference in affluence and hence power is way too great.

Which brings us to the third point.  The rates at which the Premier League has set the payments to Tiers 2, 3 and 4, is likely to increase the wealth differentials and make it harder for the lower clubs to climb the pyramid.

It was a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offer, such is the arrogance of the Premier League, which might perhaps have just nudged the decision to the ‘accept’ decision which the Football League came (6) to at what has been reported as a rather stormy meeting .  Already League 2’s Lincoln City chairman Steff Wright has stuck his head above the parapet:

Wright told BBC Lincolnshire: “It was a take it or leave it deal we were given.

“League One and League Two clubs felt the money should have been more fairly distributed throughout the Football League and that hasn’t happened.”

Wright added: “I think it’s a massive disappointment. Fairness and equality have gone out of the window.”

And he fears the system would create a second-level Premier League by stealth.

“In a few seasons’ time the top of the Championship will be dominated by teams who’ve benefited from these parachute payments”, he said.

“Nobody’s arguing against the idea of more money coming down but it’s the way that that will now distort the Football League.

“Instead of there being a problem between the clubs that have the money in the Premier League and the clubs without in the Championship, you now have that problem moved further down the league.

“It will make it more difficult for clubs like Lincoln to get promoted to League One and eventually find their way into the Championship.” (7)

Well said, Steff.  Let’s hope Spain’s La Liga are listening.  Incredibally they have just announced that they are to form a breakaway copy of the Premier League – “The new system of organisation and development will allow a much more attractive and better-run competition than the current one” they reckon (8).  If only, if only…

PL v. FL UPDATE – 10 May 2010

An interesting example of how the power positions of the governing bodies are viewed – VisitBritain is jumping on the World Cup bandwagon with a series of interviews of players from overseas, getting them to talk about where they like to visit in Britain (1).  To do this, they’ve partnered not with the FA or even the PFA, let alone with governing bodies other than in England, but with the Premier League.

The promotion is online at, but when you click through the URL you are auto-redirected to betrays how VisitBritain, ‘the official website for travel and tourism in the UK [sic] (2) view, and promote,  ‘Football in the UK’ and ‘Premier League’ as synonyms. Mind you, given that they seem to treat ‘England’, ‘Britain’, and ‘United Kingdom’, theyare at least consistently inaccurate.

One Response to “Premier League v. Football League”

  1. Allan Brown said

    An interesting side of this is that with UEFA putting in place a licensing system, the PL was getting pressure to move from above. The FL was about to push forward to put the system they have in league two into league one, meaning that the Championship was the last piece up for grabs. The PL have now bought themselves a buffer against the upward enroachment of a regulatory regime.

    PS – slightly amusing that the World Cup bid stresses the best part of English football is its strength in depth, not the glitzy icing.

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