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…

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  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t need to come up with policy change; hough it ought to be obvious that if you want to create more open, participatory league, you might want to create fewer financial penalties for those clubs which don’t win every time…

    Paying the first place team 20 times the last placed team is intended to kill off domestic competition and keep people and clubs in their place. The lowest unrelegated team pulls in 2.2mill compared to Man U’s £15 mill in prize money alone… No amount of good management and wise spending gets you out of that man made hole.

    Getting the wealthy to undo some of that advantage, even though it is transparently disabling, I suspect, will be as tough as it is in real life…

    But it is important to notice these things, not least because policies matter and they can affect outcomes very deeply…

  • DC

    Extra time maybe, but you’re more than ten nil down mate.

    Who – me?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, you. Oiche maith!

  • DC

    Paying the first place team 20 times the last placed team is intended to kill off domestic competition and keep people and clubs in their place. The lowest unrelegated team pulls in 2.2mill compared to Man U’s £15 mill in prize money alone


    However the sting is taken from the tail somewhat by the TV money. Even so, year on year, the differential between top and bottom is huge.

    Top overall earnings was Manchester United: £60,429,052. Bottom club, Blackpool: £39,080,036.

    Mick, that’s a 3:2 ratio.

  • DC

    Am I 10 – 0 down?

  • DC

    I need a Sheikh??

  • Mick Fealty

    Or £20 million… A deeply non trivial sum… Th”en add the Euro millions… And you have an artificially created gated community at the top of the league… Which is where, if you remember, I came in…

    [“back a the net!” – Ed]

  • HeinzGuderian

    This all smacks of a ABU whinge to me.
    Like it or not,Man U are a world wide product,with Millions of supporters. Do they have a monopoly on buying the best players ? No.
    The best players play in Italy and Spain,despite Sky’s insistence that the EPL is King.
    (Benfica anyone ?)
    A.C. Milan,Barca,Real Madrid,always had a policy of buying the best players,no matter where they hailed from. Until the formation of the EPL,those clubs had the monopoly.

    M.V.O’Brien trained a racehorse in 1969/70…….after his exploits on the course,it quickly dawned on him that something unique was happening.
    He went to John Magnier and Robert Sangster and told them,” At all costs we must buy these Northern Dancers.”
    So they did……largely unopposed,until Sheik Mohammed stepped into the ring.
    What was Vincent to do ? Let the Yanks and the Japanese have a chance,because they couldn’t match Sangsters/Magniers money ?

    The analogy being it’s the same in every sport.
    The most successful clubs,be that Football/American Football/Rugby Football,or any other brand of Football,will always have the money to buy the best players.
    It’s nothing new.

    The EPL is structured to favour the winning most teams ?
    Get away.

    Having just read through this thread,and being an impartial observer,I would have to conclude,(and this is taking into account various nibbles off the ball)that DC ran rings around you Mick.

    Spurs/Liverpool/Newcastle can all win the EPL next season…….they have the players……..they just need the belief. 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting… You are wrong about NFL:

    As for the rest, I’ve more than had my spake…