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Premiership 'a cancer'

The Premiership has become a cancer

By Tony Kleanthous
Last Updated: 11:20am BST 30/05/2007

I bought Barnet Football Club in December 1994 and, at 28, became the then youngest chairman in the Football League. I was fortunate enough to have had a successful business career and when my telecoms company bought Ryman, the stationers, I started to look around for a fresh challenge - and buying a football club seemed a good idea at the time!

Barnet FC had come into the Football League just a couple of years earlier and, after going into administration and being told all their players could leave on free transfers - something which has never been forced on any other League club - they had reached breaking point.

There were some much bigger clubs for sale requiring less time and money, but when I saw the sorry state Barnet were in I felt I had to do something. I relished the challenge of turning this little club around but I now know that I was foolish not to take into account the changing landscape of the industry and the vested interests that lie behind our national pastime.

I love football as a sport but, after 13 years' experience at the sharp end, I have some serious reservations about the future of the game. Have no doubt, the Premiership clubs now control everything in football but I have yet to see them take any decision that can be construed as being for the good of the game as a whole. The small clubs are just there to prop up the football pyramid and are considered as no more than an irrelevance.

It is not so long since Oldham and Notts County were in the old First Division and, on any given Saturday, no result was a foregone conclusion. Sadly, I don't think we can say that any longer about the top tier.

In my opinion, the Premiership has become a cancer, slowly devouring the purists in the game and seeking to consume everything in its path by wielding a huge wallet which divides its clubs from the rest of football.

Do we really want to see the same four clubs competing for the title each year? Do we really want to measure a successful season by a club's ability to stay up? Do we want clubs going bankrupt and losing all their players the moment they get relegated?

The competition now benefits a privileged few while the rest of football wait for scraps off their table. In the boardrooms of the Football League and Conference I find some of the most dedicated football supporters, chairmen and directors who, week after week, put a fortune of their own money into the coffers. But we are now all tainted by the adverse publicity generated by those at the top and some of their ridiculously highly-paid staff, so when things go wrong we get the grief.

Until 1992, the relatively small amount of TV money the game received was shared equally among the 92 clubs by the Football League. Today, the Premiership gets about 90 per cent, seven per cent goes to the Championship and the remaining three per cent is shared between Leagues One and Two.

Everything is disproportionate and a good example of this is the introduction of parachute payments. If ever there was a case of two wrongs failing to make a right, it was when they came up with this silly idea.

Now, if a club drop out of the Premiership they receive £20 million, over two years, as compensation. How are their Championship rivals, who are earning £1 million a year from television, meant to compete? It's no accident that the clubs that are relegated generally get promoted again, maintaining the yo-yo effect between the divisions.

Of course, this payment was devised so that the public would not have to witness misfortunes such as the one which befell Leeds United, who could not sustain their cost base in the Championship when their TV income fell of the side of a cliff. A sensible solution to this would be to ensure a more equitable share of income through the Leagues.

This is all a recipe for disaster for an industry that has survived for over a hundred years, and which now has more income than anyone could have imagined, yet is in danger of failing in the long-term.

The Premiership clubs have a duty, as the new guardians of our national game, to protect its long-term future, but by taking advantage of the quick buck offered by TV they are behaving like spivs.

So come on chaps: next year you will have an extra few hundred million to spend, so help the sport, help the industry and do something good for a change.

Because of the money involved at the highest level, the fear factor is strangling the entertainment out of the game - witness the FA Cup final - and unless somebody does something about it soon, the game I fell in love with will die.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/ma...30/sfntal30.xml

Comments

  • Totally agree with the PPL is a cancer argument.
    The parachute payment is not as clear cut as he argues because it is not just Leeds that mismanaged their affairs so badly that even a parachute payment failed to save them from another relegation after dropping out of the PL: Sheff Wed, Bradford, Barnsley, Man City.
    And there are those that haven't made it back up: Wolves, Ipswich, Southampton.....
    Without a parachute payment very few clubs (if any) which had become acclimatised (in terms of wage structure) to the PL would make it back up. It is the yo-yo clubs that had 1 season in the PL and kept their Championship wage structure that are disproportinatley benefitted. This was CAFC's situation in 2000 and, for this reason, Watford are my favourites to go straight back up.
  • Great article.

    I would also add that as well as the inequity the Premiership is bad for the purist as it has Americanised and sanitised a 'product' at the same time as stripping it of much of what the true football fan actually wants to see. (Exciting football, passion from the players, the odd fight now and again, some unpredictability, no fricking Premiership anthem shaking hands boll*cks etc etc).

    This isn't sour grapes at us dropping out of the league as I've said it for years. Part of me hopes the whole thing goes tits up and the true football fan gets their game back from middle class prawn sandwich eating TV execs and overpaid primadonna footballers who're far more passionate about honing their image than their first touch.
  • if there was better distribution of the funds throughout the league, plus all contracts must include revised wage levels in the event of a relegation, then there would not be such a big short fall necessary in reducing wage bills.

    Its wrong we will start with a 12m headstart on other clubs, and its criminal that that head start won't be fully utilised as it will be swallowed up in reducing our wage bill.
  • the rich get richer , the poor get poorer , it's the greedy society we live in
  • I totally agree with the article, at Arsenal now you have to pay over £4 for a burger... A f*cking BURGER!!!

    The fans kicked off and the arses response was that they were getting prime angus beef and all that bullshit, but to my mind football fans don't want that. If you go to football you either don't eat the cheap muck in the ground or you take your chances with a rat burger for a couple of quid outside.

    Now we're out of it I won't pay any attention to it as it's so sanitised an cautious and mind numbingly predictable
  • Report out today suggesting the opposite, that the fact the clubs in England are becoming so wealthy that teams outside the top four - teams like Everton, Spurs, Villa, West Ham, Newcastle can compete for more players and offer more money that the super teams of Euro football, while they can't compete will the illustrius history of the likes of Real, AC, Inter they can when it comes with wages... in turn they will improve their squads and start to challenge the top 4.

    The Championship is the 5th largest division in terms of turn over, bigger than Holland, Scotland, portugal it's not all doom and gloom it's just that the distance between the Prem league and the CCC is huge...
  • I thought that was a good article.
    It was telling last season that I was hoping we would stay up, but I was also strangely comfortable with the thought of being away from the cash/celebrity driven Premiership.
    It is no longer a fair league in any sense, it is over exposed and overblown, and manages to tread an unpleasant line between ugly corporate business and national soap opera.
    And whilst there is an abundance of talent on display, somehow the enjoyment of watching it is lessened. Playing football is a sport, it is not really anything to do with money, and yet at any premiership game it is all pervading.
    And it is somehow dull and predictable.
    If I had the choice between going to watch Chelsea, Welling, Sittingbourne, or my son's team in Charlton Park, Chelsea would be last on the list.
    Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.
  • [quote][cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite]If I had the choice between going to watch Chelsea, Welling, Sittingbourne, or my son's team in Charlton Park, Chelsea would be last on the list.[/quote]

    So true for me as well
  • edited May 2007
    [cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite]I thought that was a good article.
    ....Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.

    Spot on
  • [cite]Posted By: PeanutsMolloy[/cite]
    [cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite]I thought that was a good article.
    ....Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.

    Spot on

    but will that really solve the problem ? or just push it further down the line ? Won't then a new top 3-4 be established a couple of years on and the gulf open again ?

    Would the Euro league become a closed shop, with Man U, Liverpool etc never falling back into the English Prem again ?
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  • edited May 2007
    [cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite] Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.

    With sky about- this, unfortunately, is about as likely as me scoring the world cup winning goal for England Scotland
  • [cite]Posted By: PeanutsMolloy[/cite]
    [cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite]I thought that was a good article.
    ....Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.

    Spot on

    I don't think this is the answer IMO or all we'll see is the TV money going into a European League and draining away from the national leagues.

    Benitez said it all when he was saying that last season Man U spent close to £20m on a midfielder, as they look like doing this season, and Liverpool, a club with a lot of resources compared to most, spent no more than £8/9m on a Striker.........

    You only have to look at the overseas money that is being actively attracted to the likes of Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle, Villa etc to see that the game has gone from being the working class mans Saturday outing, to a multi-billion pound industry with all the negatives that go with that. No wonder lots of us feel disenchanted and ostracised.

    The argument is though, what would have happened had Football not changed into the pompom shaking, family day out is these days? Would many a club have gone to the wall? Perhaps, and I'm confident that not many of us here would still be attending games had CAFC not been back at The Valley, in a smart 21st Century Stadium. Would those that take their kids do so if we played in a crumbling ground? Probably not....

    So yes the PL is a cancer in so much as it feeds the top clubs more and more money and makes it difficult and very expensive to even try and keep up, but there have also been a number of positives that the PL, and SKY, have provided and ensuring that the game survived is just one of those.
  • Fulham as an example, this was published today on Accountancy Age (don't ask !)

    Fulham FC is facing significant financial risks, after suffering a £15.8m loss for the year to 30 June 2006, the clubs auditors PKF have warned in Fulham's latest set of accounts.

    PKF did not qualify their audit of Fulham, but did decide to add an 'Emphasis of the Matter' note to their audit report, where they raised concerns about the future of Fulham as a going concern.

    'The company has incurred significant losses in recent years and has accumulated a significant deficit of shareholders funds.

    These conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty, which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern,' PKF said in the audit report for Fulham Football Leisure, the company that owns the football club.

    Over the last decade Fulham has sustained losses of £125m, but has managed to survive because of the ongoing financial support of chairman and Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed .

    The Fulham board said that it was relying on 'reassurances' from Al Fayed that he would continue to support the club financially.
  • Bring back the days of Hackney Marshes and washing in the horses trough and football pitches with real mud, not some immitation carpet with mutant grass. I would swop my football shirt and flag for a football rattle and rosette, swigging from a light ale bottle at half time and not some chemical ladened australian pee water served in a plastic glass, and of course use jumpers for goal posts and not those plastic crossbars with plastic netting (actually they aint bad cos it saves running miles down the road to fetch the ball back).
  • To be honest I doubt that a super european league would help either.
    But something will have to change at some point. Seems it is going to be via other big investors coming in to create other big clubs to compete at that level.
    Not the right way for football to go in my opinion, but I can't see it stopping at the moment.
  • Its a good article but, with respect to Mr. Kleanthous, you did not have to be Mystic Meg to know (even back in 1994) that the die had well and truly been cast in terms of the future of English football. The formation of the EPL was the start of the greed machine and it has got worse with every TV contract that has been signed which, together with the collapse of the ON Digital deal for the Football League, signalled the creation of the chasm that now exists.

    The biggest mistake the Football League made was choosing ON Digital over Sky back in 2000, they could have got at least 200 million per season out of Sky (which is what Sky bid) but crazily chose the 315 million deal from ON Digital who were clearly never going to be a sustainable pay TV operator.

    Of course, once ON Digital went bankrupt Sky were able, as the only bidder at the table, to pay the peanuts that they now pay the Football League.

    If the FL had stayed tight with Sky back in 2000 then they could have negotiated a "no contract reduction" clause with Sky meaning that Sky would have to pay more for the next rights package than they did for the initial one (as they do for the Prem) which would have guaranteed the FL at least 200 million per rights package and rising.

    So, as bad as the Prem greed is the bad business conducted by the FL management in 2000 is a lot to blame for their current woes.
  • [cite]Posted By: CharltonDan[/cite]
    [cite]Posted By: PeanutsMolloy[/cite]
    [cite]Posted By: 3blokes[/cite]I thought that was a good article.
    ....Maybe it would be good if a super European League was established so our "top" 4 teams could disappear into it, and the national game could become a proper competition again with money being dispersed much more equally between the leagues.
    I am sure this is what most football fans would want.

    Spot on

    I don't think this is the answer IMO or all we'll see is the TV money going into a European League and draining away from the national leagues.

    Benitez said it all when he was saying that last season Man U spent close to £20m on a midfielder, as they look like doing this season, and Liverpool, a club with a lot of resources compared to most, spent no more than £8/9m on a Striker.........

    You only have to look at the overseas money that is being actively attracted to the likes of Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle, Villa etc to see that the game has gone from being the working class mans Saturday outing, to a multi-billion pound industry with all the negatives that go with that. No wonder lots of us feel disenchanted and ostracised.

    The argument is though, what would have happened had Football not changed into the pompom shaking, family day out is these days? Would many a club have gone to the wall? Perhaps, and I'm confident that not many of us here would still be attending games had CAFC not been back at The Valley, in a smart 21st Century Stadium. Would those that take their kids do so if we played in a crumbling ground? Probably not....

    So yes the PL is a cancer in so much as it feeds the top clubs more and more money and makes it difficult and very expensive to even try and keep up, but there have also been a number of positives that the PL, and SKY, have provided and ensuring that the game survived is just one of those.

    Some good points there Dan.

    I think that we'd all be happy to accept some change and even a modicum of razzmatazz in exchange for getting back to the Valley and some of the other improvements that you alluded to. It irks me though that so much has been done so wrongly. Premiership football's losing its soul and along with it alienating its stupidly loyal fan base. When the new breed of fan remember that they actually prefer dropping their kecks at Twickers or quaffing Piper Heidsieck at Lords to slumming it at the 'soccer' then I wonder who it is exactly that's going to prop the game up?

    I know I've been a bit flippant and the divide shouldn't actually be a class one (I'm certainly no class warrior, strictly speaking I probably I am middle class, I'm a professional and own my own home) but it really worries me that football in this country, under the stewardship of the Premiership, is forgetting its roots and season by season it shifts further away from a working man's passion and closer to a general entertainment product where money, results and greed are pretty much the only currency. There's too much money going to all the wrong places, be it the ridiculously inequitable allocations between leagues and clubs therein or the fact that so much of it eventually lands in the wallets of mediocre primadonnas (to be more accurate I guess it EVENTUALLY lands in the laps of page 3 models, Aston Martin showrooms and behind the bars at poncey celeb hangouts).

    I'm not really one for ranting but it really concerns me that something I've loved for so long has been and continues to head in such a misguided direction. I used to feel like the most die hard of fans, a relegation was serious stuff, it hurt my mood for weeks - this season, yeah I'd probably have rathered we stayed up but for me the whole relegation was surrounded by a palpable relief to have gotten the hell out of there.
  • I'm not really one for ranting but it really concerns me that something I've loved for so long has been and continues to head in such a misguided direction. I used to feel like the most die hard of fans, a relegation was serious stuff, it hurt my mood for weeks - this season, yeah I'd probably have rathered we stayed up but for me the whole relegation was surrounded by a palpable relief to have gotten the hell out of there.

    Well said - this relegation has not brought the normal suffering we have experienced in the past. Of course we want to go back up, but a season in the Championship may be a breath of fresh air ... as long as it is only one season!
  • this season, yeah I'd probably have rathered we stayed up but for me the whole relegation was surrounded by a palpable relief to have gotten the hell out of there.

    I tend to agree, but the problem is mate we're now geared up to be a PL side with PL overheads and PL wages.......... And achieving success in the CCC means re-entering this "hell".

    However, the CCC, as I see it, is all about gambling on large outgoings, timed to coincide with a promotion, such as Brum and Sunderland did. Difference being is that they have huge financial backing.

    If you don't achieve this you are in deep trouble and have to drop your outgoings again or possibly do what lots of other clubs have done..... Such as Leeds, QPR, Leicester, Coventry etc and then you'll really struggle to get back up. It could take 5/10 years to be a realistic contender again.

    Essentially you have PL costs, top of the CCC costs (which will make you a financial loss) and then the rest of the CCC.

    IMO The CCC isn't really that different to the PL. Money talks...........
  • Yep. Again I don't disagree with what you're saying Dan, and I obviously want Charlton to play their football in highest league possible. I realise the risk of getting stuck outside of the Premiership and that the grass is always greener and when we're playing Blackpool in front of a half empty stadium on a Tuesday night in January I'll be longing for the promised land of the Premiership.

    None of it alters the fact that the Premiership is becoming increasingly dull by the year and that the entire structure and distribution of revenue across the leagues is fundamentally flawed and a key reason as to why the Premiership is as dull as it is. (Though 'hell' is a bit strong - I said get the 'hell out of there' not 'get out of hell'!). Neither does it change the fact that the TV money now rules football to the detriment of the true football fan. Sky know they've got their real football fan as a captive audience already, that's why we see the ever increasingly hyped, sanitised and Americanised version of the game looking to attract the non-traditional fan into a Sky subscription.

    Basically mate I don't disagree with anything you say, I know the Championship isn't some grass roots back to reality division where training methods and team spirit are going to completely outweigh money but it'll be less prevalent and a much more competitive division than the Prem.

    It's a tricky one, I guess as a football fan you're wrestling with a number of wants, primarily I guess you want your team to do as well as it can but you also want it to be done in the spirit and with the passion that lured you into the completely illogical world of football fandom in the first place.
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  • Have to agree PITL. Depressing isn't it? A club works hard to get promoted, running the risk of financial difficulties in the process, just to find out that they have to spend £10-20m pa just to stay there.....

    The only way of it being more even is for a total PL fund to be distributed equally throughout the whole of the PL and also a sliding scale percentage to be given in ever decreasing amounts down through CCC, L1 & L2.

    I just cant see it happening when the likes of Man U, Arsenal etc are also trying to keep up with AC Milan, Real et al.
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