TV Rights Cash: Don’t Blame the Players, It’s the Rules That Suck – Martin Gritton

February 11, 2015

Is the Premier League the best league in the world? Hmm that’s probably questionable but it’s undoubtedly entertaining and showcases the best array of top players.

This means that week in, week out The EPL offers football fans worldwide an unrivalled spectacle. If you base worth on what someone is willing to pay, then TV rights exceeding £5bn may seem steep but clearly are legitimate.

What yesterday’s deal did, however, was launch open season on attacking players’ wages. It is an old, weary and easy debate. More importantly, it completely misses the point.

As a former footballer I should declare an interest in defending players’ wages but for my money (which was never on par with the figures touted today), the inherent issue lies not with the players but with the way the  game is governed in this country.

Probably the biggest crisis in English football right now is the disappointing state of the national game. With so much money pouring into the sport there must be a duty of care with the law makers to ensure that it is distributed more fairly?

I have seen first hand how the smallest clubs in the Football League have struggled to survive, social media has been alive with images of flooded grassroots pitches, the much needed support and encouragement of the women’s game – those who rule football must accept that they have cut a rod for their own back with the way they have allowed the sport to evolve over the past 20 years.

The England team should be better and the need for home-grown players has never been greater but too many aspects of the game seem to be encouraging the opposite of what is happing right now.

The words ‘Financial Fair Play’ have barely been mentioned throughout this TV deal but, as has been proven so far, it has made clubs’ spending in the transfer market anything but fair. How will the smaller clubs compete for players when the biggest pots only get bigger?

Increasingly the big clubs are forced to buy the best talent immediately in fits of crazy kleptomania, the thirst for victory with the most coveted players never ceases.

The US has shown England the way for cash-rich sports to produce something sustainable with wage caps, shared revenues from advertising and sponsorship. No one can argue that these systems are flawless but they certainly work better than the models we currently adopt.

What is exciting is seeing teams which buck the trend, such as Southampton. Having been asset stripped of talent and repeatedly told doom is nigh, the club proved its metal by producing a line of players through excellent investment in facilities and coaching, with an ambitious but solid five year plan.

It may not sound sexy but its success was undeniable – and achieved without any obvious help from the rule makers.

It would be great to more ‘Southamptons’ throughout the lower leagues and non-league structure and it would be even better to see the national governing bodies lead and support this endeavour.

Martin Gritton is a media relations consultant at Sports PR Agency ENS Ltd, who previously played professional football for over 12 years at various clubs across the country.

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