The basic essence of any good competition in sports is its nature of unpredictability and uncertainty
Football as a sport has changed overtime, in terms of sporting infrastructure, club management, team management and commercial aspects. Not so long ago most of the major European clubs relied on the history and culture of the club, which continued since the club was founded. Many clubs started of by earning only by selling stadium tickets and maybe a few grants given by businessmen who were strong supporters of the club at the time. Sport was not at all commercial and was only played for the passion for the club and sport. The big guns of Europe such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and PSG focused on their youth academies to build future players at the club.
Today we live in a time where money has not only changed the game but is controlling it as well. Spending power going up in the sporting world has urged many football clubs to change management and teams every year in order to win titles and trophies. The focus on academy products has minimised. Although all clubs do have youth academies but only 1 or 2 percent of the players from those academies make it to the first team. Be it Manchester United, who produced a whole title winning team from its academy “the class of 92”, or Barcelona who undoubtedly have the best youth academy in the world “La Masia” produced great players such as Xavi, Iniesta and five time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi. Even though La Masia continues to do a good job and produce players today but we have not yet seen another inclusion of an Iniesta or a Messi in the Barcelona first team with now even Barcelona indulging in buying players from other clubs.
With spending power going up, the Big five leagues in Europe namely, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England are becoming highly predictable.
England was an exception this season due to Leicester’s historic title run. But the question is will this kind of unpredictability be repeated in the Premier League? That’s a million dollar question.
DOMINANCE OF MONEY POWER
Earlier football was not a profession and many players worked alongside while playing for a club but today football is a full fledged profession where by a footballer not only gets the money but a celebrity status that comes with the club, because of the new digital age through social media and television broadcasting.
All professional football clubs right from the lower divisions to the top tier have sponsors and owners supporting them financially. Furthermore thanks to the digital age clubs now sell their broadcasting rights to TV channels to show their games all over the world which eventually gives the clubs a huge money package to take home. Clubs in Europe sustain a stadium attendance of at least 30-80,000 per game through out the season, which again adds as another revenue stream for the club. Official club merchandise is another way football clubs make revenue.
In 2010, Real Madrid made over 100 million euros in revenue just by selling Ronaldo’s shirts in the city of Madrid alone.
RICHEST BY REVENUE STREAMS
Match Day Revenue – Arsenal (101.84 m pounds)
Commercial Revenue – PSG (228.8 m pounds)
Total Revenue – Real Madrid (444.5 m pounds)
Kit Deal – Manchester United (750 m pounds)
The dominance of money power has to come down and regulations like financial fair play have to improve so as to bring more evenness into team formation
EFFICIENT LEAGUE MANAGEMENT
The spending power of the big European clubs gives a great advantage to the Champions League; the unpredictability of the competition becomes higher as the competition progresses. But here too unpredictability is limited to 3-4 clubs.
There are many possible ways by which league management can increase unpredictability and uncertainty, which will only strengthen football further. One way to do it is, Europe can control its transfer’s outside Europe where every club should be allowed to register a fix number of players from outside the European continent.
All disparities in the system have to be minimized else a time will come when certain leagues will hardly attract masses
Big clubs will always have a higher purchasing power but creating a level playing field is very important.
Introducing a draft system for players or bringing in caps is not the answer. There must be some regulation whereby homegrown players find better opportunities to be part of the first team as it used to happen in the early 80’s and 90’s where clubs were more dependent on their youth systems rather than buying foreign players. There must be some regulation whereby a fixed percentage on each signing (transfer money) of the first team players be invested in youth development by the club. This percentage shouldn’t be less than 10 % to provide greater thrust in local player development, which might help clubs in many ways in the future - seeing more home grown players, less expenses on transfers, more local connect and most importantly a competitive national team.
The time will come when the broadcasting right revenues will be stagnant and in no way will it increase as it is today.
To meet future challenges from the TV revenue side, clubs and leagues should adopt a better safety mechanism.
When money dominates it also puts huge financial stress on approximately 10-15 % of the clubs in the league as the overall expenses to manage a club increase to stay competitive, and that only leads to bad situations for clubs, where debts are getting higher and becoming a bad example in the community going down to the administrative roots.
World wide approximately 60% of clubs are in debt and some clubs are in a greater crisis which the football world has to avoid. This scenario of predictability is not only existent in the Big 5 leagues but in many parts of the world including other parts of Europe as well.
This situation can definitely be overcome by good governance, good financial management, improving regulations, bringing all stakeholders to one table to find a solution. The main motto should be how to increase unpredictability and uncertainty in the competition.