Football, the world’s most popular sport, accessible to almost anyone, and bringing smiles to the faces of so many since its creation in the 18th century. The 2018 World Cup showcased just how loved ‘the beautiful game’ truly is. Over 3.5 billion fans tuned in to support their team, or simply enjoy as a neutral. The final alone racked up an astonishing 1.12 billion viewers, according to FIFA statistics. In comparison the Super Bowl averaged a ‘mere’ 123.4 million viewers. The scale of football’s popularity is simply unimaginable. All of which makes the ‘beautiful game’, a very attractive proposition for media outlets, and colossal multinational corporations. Many of these companies view football as a way to make soaring profits. Not only is football already the most popular game in the world, but it continues to grow! A prime example being the Women’s Super League (Women’s English top division) which has seen a 60% increase in revenue in just the last 3 years. A sport previously adored as a means to an end, now sadly envisaged as a business motive to many.

Football: Now just a money game? Source: @cper.og VoxEU

Multiple companies pour millions, even billions into sponsorship and viewership rights. The Premier League, the most watched league in the world is currently being paid a sum estimated in the region of £6.7 billion, over a timeframe of only four years. Sky and TNT Sports, the contributors to this colossal money pile, understand that although the price is hefty, football provides them with a platform to make phenomenal profits.

So, all of this money… how does it impact this wonderful sport? Increased viewership, sponsorship, and use of media impacts influence clubs massively. Being the best is no longer the lone standing ambition of many teams. Our perception of money in sport, and football in particular has been completely warped over the last two decades. The all-time Premier League top goal scorer – none other than Alan Shearer – went for a record fee of £15 million, in 1996 when he transferred from Blackburn to his boyhood club Newcastle. A phenomenal player, his goal scoring record of 260 Premier League goals still yet to be broken. A large amount of money for a quality player, who was inevitably going to be effective for many years to come. In the modern day we have seen some massive fees being thrown around, Paul Pogba transferred from Juventus to Manchester United (2016), for just shy of £89 million pounds. However, Pogba struggled with injuries and poor form during his spell in England, and ironically returned to the Italian giants this year, on a free transfer.

Paul Pogba | Midfielder | Juventus FC. Source: @paulpogba on Instagram

Spending rules and regulations massively favour the more popular clubs. They become a more attractive commodity for brands and businesses as they are more likely to be profitable. When the English Football League was run with integrity, and without selfish motives, money would trickle down to the clubs in the lower leagues from the higher leagues. However, due to selfish governors, ambassadors, and business motives, money has become more important than the health of the footballing pyramid. Many clubs have struggled massively with finances, leading to their demises. In the last 5 years two clubs from the English Football League have been disbanded – Bury (2019) and Macclesfield Town (2020).

The rich clubs are getting richer and the less funded clubs are being given little to no support. A game that was previously won on the field, is now won by those with the biggest wallets. Manchester City, an English giant over the last decade have been charged with 115 breaches of financial fair-play, but to date there have been no repercussions. In comparison, Everton, who broke Premier League profit and sustainability rules just twice were deducted 10 points this season. Everton, founded in 1878 a staple of English Football, are being more harshly punished than others. Why? The simple answer, money! Teams that have bigger budgets, have more leverage with those who rule over them.

Not only are teams with more money able to dodge such allegations and charges, but they are also able to buy the best talent possible without having to sell their superstars. Financial fair play favours ‘bigger’ clubs as they can generate larger revenue and sponsorship funds. Meaning they have a much larger budget to spend on players during transfer windows. A glaring example being Todd Boehly’s Chelsea, the standout spenders over the last two years, with over £1 billion pounds spent on transfer and loan signings. In comparison their neighbours Fulham who sit just one place below Chelsea in the current Premier League standings, have spent £208 million pounds on players in the last two seasons. Does money always lead to success? The evidence is clear with this Chelsea side that undoubtedly, it does not. However, if Chelsea spent their money more wisely, the gap between the clubs would be colossal. ‘Fair’ according to the ‘rules’ for sure, but if Chelsea continue this spending spree how will Fulham be able to keep up? This is just one example of many! 

Evidence like this echoes the current footballing climate. Those who generate more revenue are able to spend more than the majority. The gap will continue to grow, and the equality that was once shown on the field, will no longer exist. The clubs with the most money will raft away leaving the others to drown. Hopefully, the playing field levels out over the next few years – football fans can only hope that greed from the top will not overcome the love fans have for the game!

Edited by Grace Hughes


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