The Premier League is by far the richest football league in the world, with the 20 teams involved earning over £4.5 billion between them in the 2016-17 season. That’s £2 billion more collectively than the German Bundesliga, which is the second-richest division on Earth.
This wealth is thanks to the massive TV rights and sponsorship deals that the Premier League has secured domestically and overseas. In addition to that, clubs that have been bought by wealthy investors are able to pump millions of funds into buying players in each transfer window. With all this considered, the gap between the top flight and the Championship is widening, and it is getting progressively harder for clubs to break into the top tier and remain there.
The gap between the top flight and the Championship is widening, and it is getting progressively harder for clubs to break into the top tier and remain there.
Premier League dominated by wealthy owners
In recent years, the Premier League has been dominated by big-money clubs with incredibly wealthy owners. Chelsea, for instance, are owned by the 13th-richest person in Russia, Roman Abramovich. Manchester City are another financial powerhouse bought in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour, a man with a net worth of $38 billion, as are Manchester United, who are owned by the Glazers. At the beginning of each Premier League campaign, it’s these clubs that continuously top the outright betting markets for that season’s winner.
Similarly, at the start of each term, it’s the newly promoted sides who are constantly favoured for the drop. That’s because it’s such a huge step up from the second division to the top flight. One only needs to look at some of the players who have flourished in the second tier and fallen flat at the top to realise this.
Strikers such as Andre Gray, Chris Wood, and Dwight Gayle, who have all set the league alight in the Championship, have failed to make a significant impression when playing at England’s highest level. These are players who previously scored for fun in the second tier, but aren’t even considered by punters in Premier League top goalscorer markets. Instead, the highest scoring players are often brought in for large sums of money from overseas. Think players like Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, and Luis Suarez.
FA need more than FFP rules to bridge gap
It’s clear that something more needs to be done by the FA to bridge this huge gulf between the divisions, which is growing every year. The Financial Fair Play rules state that clubs can’t spend more than they earn on players, but now that the big clubs in the top flight are raking in so much from TV deals, this isn’t really an issue.
But the FA could stop so much money being spent on overseas players by saying that more first-team members need to be homegrown and rise up through the club’s youth system. This would force clubs to invest in their academies and nurture English players from youth level. It would also mean that young players who have grown up through the academies of smaller clubs in the Championship have less chance of getting poached by wealthy Premier League clubs.
Unless something like this happens soon, the unfortunate reality is that the chasm between England’s top two tiers is set to widen exponentially.