Dubai: The English Premier League is the world’s richest domestic competition in club football, making an estimated £3.1 billion (Dhs 14.2 billion) per year from television rights alone.
And yet, some of the clubs have been lamenting over their financial troubles in the wake of coronavirus pandemic bringing all sporting action to a halt.
Perhaps, none of this would have possibly surfaced if Liverpool had not retraced their steps and availed of the UK’s furloughing scheme to vouch to pay its non-playing staff during the suspension of the Premier League action.
And to think that only in February, the reigning European champions had announced a record turnover of $688 million for the 2018-’19 season. Understandably, there was a lot of flak from the vociferous fans demanding an explanation for the so-called betrayal of the club’s traditional socialist values. The brutal backlash was followed with an apology from the Liverpool owners.
But even more importantly, the question remains: Where has all of the Premier League money gone?
The CEO of the EPL, Richard Masters, has gone on record to admit that there is a “very real threat” of some clubs going out of business despite play being suspended for little more than a month now. What comes into focus is the business model adopted by each club wherein some of them – even the elite ones - are now unable to even pay sums of under $3 million in annual wages to non-playing staff.
In the EPL, a club like Tottenham Hotspur, for instance, has less than 40 per cent of its annual income going as wages, leaving it with very little justification for availing of the furlough scheme. Further, the difference between finishing 13th and 14th in the Premier League is $3.1 million in prize money. This simply means the clubs should have had the resources.
Still, a whole load of them seem to be bogged down by financial troubles, forcing fans to think that the club managements were not astute enough in running the clubs. The fat pay purses for the big players is being seen as a possibe reason to lead to the current situation.
But there is hope. The effects of the COVID-19 crisis have thrown the scanner on the Premier League’s fragile financial model, prompting widespread calls for change among the fans, who could finally realise that they hold the power over gate receipts, merchandising sales, TV subscriptions and of course, broadcasting deals.
If the fan power finally prevails, it will be eventually because of an unseen virus!