Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018 | Last Update : 05:09 AM IST
TV wealth has made the Premiership a global brand. Leading English teams have fan clubs from India to Iceland, China to Chile.
The 25th season of the English Premier League, kicked off on Friday. The unusual start on a week-day shows that the broadcasters are calling the shots. It ultimately is reflective of the Premiership’s strengths, the burgeoning wealth due to massive TV deals, The £10.4 billion TV rights for this season, has allowed clubs to spend extravagantly. TV wealth has made the Premiership a global brand. Leading English teams have fan clubs from India to Iceland, China to Chile.
Undoubtedly, the Premiership has changed infrastructure at stadiums. They are all seater stadiums, with corporate boxes, slick marketing and shops selling merchandise. The training facilities are far superior and players have become millionaires.
In the 1980s, English football was affected by fights between rival gangs of supporters, that spilled on to the streets and made the vicinity near the stadium dangerous. It was still the era of working class supporters.
Fighting on the terraces has stopped and the game in England is now mostly watched by middle class fans. Now the working class supporters have been priced out of most stadiums. People who watch Premiership matches are mostly middle or upper middle class who have bought season tickets at a whopping price.
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane aptly described them as the prawn sandwich eating fans. Another cause for concern is that despite the wealth, glamour and global brand image, what has the Premiership done for England’s national team. With clubs strengthening their squads, by buying players from all over the globe, young English talent are not getting ample opportunities to be developed.
Consequently England’s performance in the recent World Cups and European championships have been quite dismal. No young English players are being developed. Many like Harry Kane, Delli Ali and Adam Lallana, have great potential but either due to injuries or easy contentment, due to their lucrative pay packages, tend to stagnate.
In its silver jubilee edition, it is vital for English football that players like striker Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) and midfielder Harry Winks (Tottenham Hotspur), described as the young Iniesta by Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, develop into world class players. This would be a welcome value addition to the Premiership.
Also a major paradox is that despite the massive wealth of the English clubs, in the last five years, only two of them have reached the semi-finals of the prestigious Uefa Champions League. The European elite still remain Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
With three weeks of the transfer window still left, the top English clubs have already spent about £1 billion. Manchester City have revamped their defence and already spent £200 million, followed by Manchester United with £147.9 million and Chelsea £110.5 million.