“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked.
“It’s full of -” I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
When I think of the Premier League the above quote from ‘The Great Gatsby’ frequently pops into my head.
The league, while incredibly compelling for so many reasons, is ultimately all about money. Every time I find myself getting wound up about the game I inevitably come back to that earth-shattering realization – it’s not a game, it’s just a business.
And man, business is BOOMING.
Today it was revealed that the combined annual revenue of the 92 clubs in England’s top four divisions has eclipsed £3 billion ($4.64b) – that’s ‘b’, as is business – for the first time ever. The numbers come virtue of Deloitte’s most recent finance review from 2011-12 that shows revenue from the Premier League’s 20 clubs increased 4% to almost £2.4 billion ($3.71b), capping yet another astounding year of commercial growth.
By means of comparison, these number dwarf those of the Bundesliga (£1.58 billion ($2.44b)), La Liga (£1.4 billion ($2.16b)) and Serie A (£1.3 billion ($2.01b)). Signs did, however, indicate that the Bundesliga is fast catching up where operating profits were £161 million ($248.84m) while in the Premier League they were £98 million ($151.47m), up from £25 million ($38.64m).
Adding further intrigue to the economic efficiency of German football (or, the inefficiency of the Premier League) is that the revenue-to-wages ratio average in the Bundesliga fell to 51%, while the Premier League’s ratio hovered at 70%. Of course, in a league where clubs like Manchester City are permitted to run riot spending more than £200 million ($309.12m) on players’ salaries, this can hardly come as a shock.
Dan Jones, a senior partner at Deloitte, spoke of the Premier League’s huge boom in revenue:
The £3bn is a big stat. Likewise is the growth in the Championship itself – sometimes the Championship gets overshadowed by the Premier League. The reality is they’re both great successes. It’s just the Premier League is the bigger success.
The Championship performance is extremely strong again. It’s the biggest second-tier league in Europe by a street. No one else has a second-tier league that comes anywhere close. People are pushing very hard to get in the Premier League. What is imperative is that clubs do that in a way that is sustainable. The Football League is bringing in its financial fair play rules precisely to address that.
The Deloitte report does not cover the most recent season. With the significantly larger amount of TV broadcast revenue (£5 billion spread over three seasons) that will be coming the way of Premier League clubs beginning in 2013-14, Jones believes that while there is some uncertainty as to how team’s will react, player wages could begin to skyrocket.
The big test will be what happens to the new TV money, how much of that finds its way into the wage bill. It will also be interesting to see how the new financial regulations will affect clubs’ behavior.
Once the new TV deal kicks in I think you’ll find the total spent on players will be up at a record level. There’s no intrinsic problem with that but it’s all about spending being balanced and not being excessive to the point that it endangers the club.
How seriously the Premier League is taking phrases like “spending being balanced” and “not being excessive” will be key to the league’s continued development. While higher player wages should make England an even more desirable destination for the world’s most sought-after footballers, league officials must be concerned over whether such staggering growth is sustainable.
Regardless, it’s remarkable how far England has come since the installation of the Premier League in 1992.
What do you think?
Is this all good news or is the Premier League’s voice a bit too full of money?