The GoatyGav Column
For some time now I’ve wondered how long player’s fees and wages can carry on increasing. In any market economy growth is essential. If you, or a market, are/is not growing then, at best, your’re standing still and, at worst, going backwards. Once a market stops growing it’s in big trouble.
The Premier League, under Richard Scudamore, has seen incredible levels of growth. Such is it’s success the screening rights for it are sold to forty one regions as well as a ‘Global’ deal to be aired on ships and planes in transit. It’s the forth biggest sports media franchise on the planet (by revenue), behind the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA, pulling in just over £4.6bn GBP. That’s the tip of the iceberg, however, with sponsorship deals, fans purchasing club merch, tickets and on site sales of food, drink and corporate hospitality. At the very highest echelon of the game players now command their own sponsorship deals outside of the clubs. Clubs also look to global markets to attract customers – not just to sell goods but also to the growing ‘football tourism’ sector.
When looking at the vast sums of money that are earned (in many cases I use the term ‘earned’ loosely) by players and agents it’s those revenue sources listed above that drive the continued growth. As I take the couple of hours or so to write this article a single Manchester United player, who hasn’t appeared for in the team for some time, has ‘earned’ just shy of £6K. Presently these wages are still heading north but for how long?
The aforementioned trio of major sports, in the USA, continue to grow but I do wonder if the same conversation is being had across the pond about how long their growth can continue. Natural competition for the best players is always going to ensure that those at the top of their games are the highest earners but, with the top Premier League stars now beginning to outstrip their American contemporaries, in earnings, perhaps there’s been some ‘wising-up’ by the clubs Stateside compared to Blighty?
Amongst all this I wonder how much the Premier League is doing to ensure the continued interest in it’s main asset – the matches themselves. Known for it’s frenetic pace and incredible atmosphere the product of the Prem has been a relatively easy sell. Take away those two factors and you have to wonder if the appeal will disappear at the same time. The one factor that continues to drive the Premier League’s income is the paying fan. Sitting in stadia full of tourist fans who, admittedly spend more money in the club shops and popcorn stands than the traditional fan, don’t add to the atmosphere the same way that the hardcore club support does. The more football is sanitised, and hardcore fans are pushed out by rising ticket prices, the less the appeal of the product of the Prem. The same might be said about the foreign influence on playing styles. Does a more measured build up get people switching on their TVs? Bearing in mind the point made in the opening paragraph I believe that the moment the growth stops the bubble will burst. With the increase of long-term season ticket holders giving up their seats and tourist fans taking them up how long until that tipping point? In all candour I expected this point to have been reached some time ago however I was wrong – it continues to grow apace. Will a player get to the £1M a week level beforehand? Are these wages being pushed up by the huge spending of the Chinese? There’s certainly more questions than answers but I’d be really interested, as a knowledgeable body of contributors, to hear your opinions. It would also be great to hear the perspective of those ‘across the water’.
A small offering on last weekend’s game. I thought that the team, overall, showed much more desire and work-rate than the Everton fixture. I was impressed by Mark Noble’s shift and also Artur Masuaku’s contribution – even in defence (for the most part). Surprisingly Lucas Perez impressed and should, as it turned out, have been credited with the winner. Yes, VAR would have given us the points for the second week in a row but once again, unfortunately, defensive frailties let us down. The shape for Leicester’s second goal was all over the shop. This was especially annoying considering that it was at a time the lads should have done everything to shut up shop. With four at the back the best pairing, in the middle, is Balbuena and Diop, IMHO, and I’d like to see them both start until the end of the season.
I paid a fiver, yesterday, to go and watch a 1-0 Risborough Rangers win against Wodson Park in the Spartan South Midlands Football League (tier 10). It was my first time there and I spent much of the afternoon chatting to the club Vice Chairman, while he wasn’t retrieving balls from the trees and shrubs surrounding the ground, and the linesman who, jokingly, asked me to get him a can of Carlsberg as he jealously eyed the one in my hand. Second weekend in a row I’ve seen live football where the club employees were accessible and made the experience a most enjoyable one. By comparison pretty good value for money. Despite that, on Saturday afternoon, I responded positively to the question being asked by the regular ST holders in our section “Are you renewing next season?” Looks like we’ll all be there again and I’m pleased about that. They’re a decent bunch who I enjoy the shared experience with even if Amazon are joining the party for broadcasting rights and potentially upsetting the SKY & BT Apple Cart while offering me a more flexible armchair option.