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The Future of Professional Football

By: Ted Fred Franky, Refuting misinformation, January 10, 2024  5 months ago

The big clubs and their lust for more money is going to ruin football if we are not careful.

In this section I analyse the evolution of football. Whilst the enduring appeal of football has always been a combination of tradition, entertainment on the pitch with jeopardy, the intricacies and intrigue of league and cup football, like most things in life it comes down to time and money in the end.

The biggest clubs have adopted an elitist approach to the game and through successive changes we are now at a cross roads, where if the next change happens it will kill the game. The European Super League will the death-knell of professional football in England if it ever happens, for the following reasons:

Manchester City MCFC Scarf
Manchester City MCFC Scarf

  • Local rivalries will disappear: Everton would no longer play City, Liverpool or United. Sunderland would no longer play Newcastle, West Ham would no longer play Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. In the 60s and 70s Everton were the biggest club in English football, and Sunderland were once known as the Bank of England because they were so wealthy as a result of huge support compared to their rivals. This ends tradition.
  • The European Super League, has a share structure where Real Madrid are the biggest shareholder with 18.77%, then Barcelona 17.61%, Manchester United with 12.58% and Bayern Munich with 8.29%. How on earth can you have fair and equal competition when the league is majority owned (57.25% – source) by just 4 clubs, and who gets the league profits, the shareholders? – This means the competition from day one is heavily biased to ensure, these four clubs get all the profits, dominate and are the only ones that would ever win it. There is a suspicion that the shareholders agreement of the Premier League effectively means Liverpool and Manchester United own the Premier League.
  • Having a mixture of 12 Permanent and 6 Half Members (who can be expelled every 10 or 20 years) totally distorts competition. Only the Permanent Members are viable long terms investments, and as D-Day approaches the Half Members become worthless. What player would sign a contract knowing in one year the club won’t be there?
  • The tradition of travelling to away games disappears. No one but the idle rich can work and go to away games if they are all in Europe. It is the presence of young exuberant away fans that adds a special frisson to the atmosphere at games found in no other sport. The atmosphere would be destroyed.

Yet money talks and primary driver for the The European Super League is to make more money.

So what are the alternatives?

  • Maintain The Status Quo
  • What about National Leagues?
  • Adjust the Champions League and other European Competitions
  • The FIFA Club World Cup Becomes the Premier Club tournament
  • The pre-season-friendly Champions Cup becomes the defacto European Cup
  • Saudi Arabia
  • An Alternative Format is found

Maintain The Status Quo

This really isn’t an option. There are simply too many competing actors from the European Super League to UEFA to Saudi Arabia to expect things not to change.

What about The Football League?

The Football League has walked a tight rope since its inception, and has only survived this long because wealthy owners have poured money into all of the clubs over the years.

Manchester City MCFC Scarf
Manchester City MCFC Scarf

However, with each change the stakes get bigger. The launch of the Premier League in 1992/1993 shafted the remaining 72 clubs financially. They had already been pushed about in the 60s, 70s and 80s but this could be the straw that finally broke the camels back. On the surface is seems strong but the Covid Pandemic proved how vulnerable it is.

For some reason they have appointed Rick Parry to run it after a series of unsuccessful Chairman, and he has simply pointed out that they need more money form the Premier League, and the parachute payments should cease (you know for come the glorious day City get relegated).

Rick Parry is wrong, money is not always the answer, creating a compelling entertaining profitable format is.

What about National Leagues?

Virtually every nationally league has become dominated by one or two sides that compete in the Champions League each year, this is purely because of the money generated by playing in the Champiosn League. It is so bad many leagues are broken and no longer are competitive. This situation was inevitable and the involvement and lobbying of the G-14 simply exacerbated the situation, rather than solve it.

The only league bucking this trend is the Premier League, although if Manchester City continue to dominate, this too will fall into the same category, for the same reasons.

The Premier League is the most lucrative competition (roughly £170m for those at the bottom, £250m for those at the top), followed by the Champions League (roughly £30m for getting out of the group stage to £110m for winning it). The others are some way behind, with around £20m being the highest elsewhere i the Bundesligue. Notably the French Ligue Un, failed to even sell its TV rights. This creates an obvious advantage to English Clubs competing in Europe. The tensions this cause are the drivers behind the European Super League, clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid are struggling to compete, and they do not like it.

Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA 2
Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA 2

Adjust the Champions League and other European Competitions

The group stage of the Champions League is so boring now with virtually the same teams every year, with the same 12 making the knockout stage every year that it is almost pointless. The new Swiss Style System may improve this, only time will tell. However it seems to me the Champions League has run out of life in its current format.

Thisis all because, the same teams dominate domestically and qualify virtually every year. In one way it is already a European Super League.

The FIFA Club World Cup Becomes the Premier Club tournament

This tournament contains 12 European sides along with 20 from the rest of the world. Only time will tell how much money is on the table, but if playing in it has the distorting effects of the Champions League, then this will supersede the Champions League.

Initially it will be every 4 years, however this is FIFA, and they want a big tournament every year. Infantino is talking about having the FIFA World Cup every two years, which would destroy the Euros. They will no doubt wan to fill the other alternate summers with the FIFA Club World Cup every two years. This is so obvious, and will ahppen if the tournament is successful.

Interestingly, it will allow some other elite clubs to emerge from say Argentina and Brazil, and then ruin their domestic leagues in the same way European leagues have been decimated.

The pre-season-friendly Champions Cup becomes the defacto European Cup

Link: Champions Cup

Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA 2
Official Manchester City Scarf – PUMA 2

This competition is in name only, there is no trophy (yet) or formal structure. However, it enables the top European sides to play each other in very lucrative pre-season friendlies. These matches meet a need all over the world to see the big European clubs play live locally. Tickets are over £100, lots of merchandise is sold and there are TV rights too. Each matches raises revenue of around 3-4 times what a Premier League or Champions League match does. If this is organised into a competitive tournament with a trophy then this could take over.

Saudi Arabia

No one really knows what the intentions are with the Saudi Arabian investment in football. They have enough money to totally distort professional football and seem prepared to do so. We have seen with the LIV Golf endeavour how they have muscled their way into the professional golfing structure. They also have invested heavily in Boxing, and now dominate all the big fights, so something will happen here.

They own Newcastle United, and have spent over £1Billion in recruiting stars from Europe and South America to play in the Saudi Arabia National League.

These are significant investments and there must be an overarching plan to turn this into something tangible. Clubs like Al Ittihad and so on, will not compete with the big European Clubs in the short term, but they can long term, if the investment continues and they are crafty in other matters.

I suspect there will be a Saudi Arabia International Club Competition, where the top Saudi Arabia teams compete alongside European sides in a formal pre-season tournament, with plenty of prize money. If they can spend £30m-£50m on numerous players and buy and invest in Newcastle United, they can easily run a competition with an appearance fee of say £50m per club, plus up to £100m in prize money. Which top European club is going to turn down that invitation?

So initially, all they would need to do would be to run an eight team tournament, with two groups of four, with semi finals and a final. Have four teams from Saudi Arabia plus Newcastle and 3 other European sides. Whoosh! In one fowl swoop you have extra revenue for Newcastle to compete under FFP, and you have a competition which will be taken seriously by all entrants. Which European club wouldn’t want an extra £150m? You then have TV rights you can sell, and so on. Once you have established the format, then you expand it to 16 clubs, then 32, increasing the prize money at each stage and bang you now run the most lucrative tournament in the world with eight or more Saudi Arabian teams competing…..

That’s just one way Saudi Arabia Arabia could do it, but they will have their own ideas. They could take over the Champions Cup mentioned above and formalise that with matches played all over the world, and the finals in Saudi Arabia. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. In football money talks, and an attack on taking hold of the game has started and seriously who is going to stop them?

An Alternative Format is found

I am not too sentimental about the European game, it isn’t why I became obsessed with football. That was playing the game at school and playing in the street after school, the FA Cup Final, the World Cup, The Junior Blues and of course Figurine Panini, Bubblegum Cards, Striker, Subutteo and so on. When I went to my first match, I was transfixed by the noise and emotion of 50,000 fans roaring Manchester City on. It was in 1983, against Luton, we lost 1-0, got relegated but I was hooked.

I am passionate about domestic football, and as a City fan, have watched my team in 3 of the 4 divisions and love the lower leagues as much as the top division.

I believe that due to all of the above points football is going to change dramatically because big business is now involved. Unless we take the lead, what we know and love could be destroyed for ever. We need to embrace change but do it on our terms, putting English football, and the original clubs first.

I would propose we change the structure of English football so that:

  • The Race for the Premiership – The Football League is rebranded as “The Race for the Premiership” and restructured.
    • Teams will play in three or four leagues of equal stature with the top twelve teams across the leagues proceeding to three Champions League style home and away groups at the end of the season.
      • These matches would all sell out, and be a fantastic TV spectacle for the neutral in the UK and to sell abroad, to see who enters the Premier League next season.
    • So either the top 3 from 4 leagues or the top 4 from 3 leagues would make up the 12.
    • Then the top 2 in each group contest 3 play off finals at Wembley.
      • The play off final at Wembley is often cited as the most lucrative game in football, so why not have 3 of them?
    • In future, 16 teams could participate with 4 being promoted.
    • The extra TV revenue could help fund and support the Football League Clubs going forward.
    • You can read more about this and why it makes sense here
  • Premier League Home, Away and Neutral fixtures – The Premier League reduces initially to 16 clubs, before expanding to 32.

Obviously these are radical changes. However, the changes to the Premier League would ensure that the threat of a European (or World) Super League ruining our domestic game is put to bed. The additional revenue from the Neutral games would dwarf the Champions League revenue and allow all Premier League clubs to develop fan bases all over the world.

In short, it would properly exploit the world wide appeal of English football. There are around 30-40 English clubs that could hold their own in the Premier League and expanding the format to allow them all to develop has to be considered.

An expanded league to 32 clubs would also allow fixtures to be adjusted, so that the weaker teams play each other more than the stronger teams, who in turn play each other more. This would in effect be a handicap to help churn the teams that win the league, to help stop one team dominating.

Bridging the Financial Gap Between the Two Competitions

There would also need to be a mechanism to move players from one relegated club to other clubs, to satisfy the players right to maintain their wages versus the cut in revenue clubs have on relegation.

The current system with parachute payments just distorts the league, so we often have the same six teams bouncing up and down on a bi-annual basis. This is not healthy for Football League Clubs in general.

For example, say the top ten earners at a relegated club could be TUPEd over to the Football League during the summer. Then the Football League can sell them on to clubs promoted to the Premier League, then any other Premier League club, before offering them on loan for the duration of their contracts to the lowest finishing teams from last season (or the last few seasons). This means the relegated club has to start again, and does not get a passport straight back to the Premier League. Again helping vary the teams that get promoted.

Any revenue generated from player sales plus the parachute payment fund, must be used equally to settle outstanding transfer fees for the relegated clubs, and pay the players on loan in the Football League.