Premiership: Not all teams are actually ‘participating’ in the same competition

Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News has a great piece on how gross forms of inequality drive out competition and depress open markets.

Of course City, if they close out this season, have bought the Premier League. But then again, which Premier League winner hasn’t?

The problem that United fans have got is that, under the austerity of the Glazers, they HAVEN’T bought the title, as they have been doing for the past 20 years. In the history of English football, United have broken the transfer record five times. City have done it three times – and one of those was on super-flop Steve Daley 32 years ago.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, the Reds have set new highs in the transfer market to bring in Andy Cole (£7million), Juan Veron (£28.1million) and Rio Ferdinand (£29.1million). Since the Abu Dhabi takeover, City have done it twice, on Robinho (£32.5m) and Sergio Aguero (£38m).

And if that is not enough, United’s team on Monday contained the most expensive goalkeeper in English history, as well as the most expensive defender and the most expensive teenager, not forgetting the fact they had a £30million striker sitting unused on the bench. Monday’s game pitted a £300million squad against a £250million squad, hardly prosperity versus poverty.

Brennan notes:

The bottom line is that the top flight of English football ceased to be a pure football competition many years ago. If you want to win the title, you need a top manager and top players, all of which cost. City didn’t ruin football, as some sniffy fools have suggested. They have just joined the game, and started to play by rules not of their own making.


No-one should forget it was the greed of United, who were instrumental, along with Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham in forming the Premier League, which led directly to where we are today. To win the Premier League, you need to be both financially stacked and football savvy, and the two are inter-dependent.

What’s actually shocking about the English Premiership is just how far the two Manchester clubs are ahead of everyone else. As Brennan points out the damage was done with the establishment of the Premiership. The gap between the top and even the residents of mid table mediocrity is impossible to bridge without a sugar daddy of epic proportions.

The uncompetitiveness of the Premiership is a cumulative function of its original structure; with rewards for clubs being graded from top to bottom. The further influence of European money has created an all but invisible cliff edge between those top clubs who regularly make Europe and those who don’t.

That does not mean that ‘poorer’ teams cannot beat ‘richer’ teams on the day. It’s perfectly feasible for City to fall this weekend to a passionate and gifted Newcastle side (that Cisse goal in their last match was pure genius). But money and spending power is the last word at the top of English soccer these days.

In aggregate, it is almost impossible to outgun the big money clubs over the full spread of a season. Call it what you like, but for me (and despite my own club’s recent success) that means most clubs who nominally participate in the Premiership are not actually doing anything of the sort.

For the vast majority, the only concern is only to stay inside the Premiership bubble (where earnings are something like 5 times that of the altogether more open and dynamic Championship league…

* To declare an interest, I’m a fair weather City fan of some considerable standing (though mostly sitting) who can remember his club getting repeatly shaded out of the old first division championship by Cloughie’s great Derby County teams…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty