A catchphrase made famous from a milk advert before the Premier League existed, and best sums up attitudes displayed by that organisation this week. Accrington Stanley’s chairman, Andy Holt, attempted to highlight how life in the lower leagues was a struggle while those in the top flight lived in luxury. The response: a veiled threat to remove all financial support for Stanley and the other members of the EFL.
Mr Holt also suggested in this tweet, that the Premier League was a destructive force:
To begin with, let’s deal with an insinuation the Premier League levelled at Andy Holt. Since the new TV deal (with oversea rights, this now exceeds £8bn) the Premier League upped its contribution to the EFL and grassroots football by 40% to £1bn. Okay, that sounds a very large figure but it needs be placed into context.
The increase in TV revenue was 70%, so already there is a disproportionate redistribution of money. On the bottom line, the Premier League donates a smaller – albeit larger final sum – percentage of its revenue to those below them in the nation’s football pyramid.
Of that £1bn “donation,” the majority of it actually goes to teams relegated from the Premier League in the form of parachute payments. Suddenly that large cake on the table has a big chunk missing.
Before the deal, 3% went to grassroots, now the twenty clubs in the top flight agree to invest £112m a year into this programme. Again, context is required here. Grassroots is a place the top clubs circle like predatory sharks without fronting the sizeable bill. Between them they can just about muster £112m when Manchester United alone are willing to give an agent £41m for a single transfer.
This is where Andy Holt’s fears about the state of football hold the most water. Top clubs are able – and have no qualms – to allow money to leak from the game. Just as boxing promoters act as vampires on the sport, financially benefiting from the skill of others as the grassroots decay, football agents walk away with money that could prop-up entire divisions.
With the best fiscal management in the world, the harsh reality for lower league clubs is a yearly battle with rising costs and increasing debts.
The Premier League has gone past the tipping point when it comes to moral obligations. The desire to be the NFL of soccer has made it lose sight of certain facts. The NFL model works because there is nothing beneath it other than college football.
By the time the Premier League is finished, there won’t even be suitable football training in our schools. They have allowed a cancer to enter the revenue stream of the beautiful game and failure to ignore the final cries for help from people like Andy Holt, is like refusing lifesaving treatment.
Such is the arrogance and disconnect with the real world, the Premier League thought ensuring all staff members at top flight clubs were on the minimum living wage was a show of grace. It was the absolute least expected.
It has made no efforts to control ticketing prices for fans, meaning the working-class man in the terraces hasn’t seen the benefit of increased revenue passed down to him.
Too many clubs in the EFL, like Leeds, Blackburn, Nottingham Forest, cripple under their own weight as they take massive infrastructure into a landscape that can’t provide. It’s a wonder teams haven’t already started dropping out of existence. But that day will come, and it will affect the big and the small in the EFL, because they all have one thing in common: they have been made to sit on the poor table.
The tone of the Premier League’s reply gives the impression they enjoy teams coming to them like Oliver, bowl in hand, begging for more.
The Premier League has forgotten that the football pyramid in this country used to be a symbiotic relationship. That’s what the FA Cup used to symbolise: all ninety-six professional teams and all the non-league ones below that enter, on a level playing field of equal importance.
Nowadays the notion is played with by the Premier League in the same way a cat toys with a dead mouse. The idea of a shared national game is just a novelty to those at Lancaster Gate. They’re not bothered about Andy Holt’s opinions on the matter because they’re not bothered about the EFL, grassroots, or Accrington Stanley.
Who are they?