One should do what one does best and I am fairly good at worrying and being a bit pessimistic. Maybe that’s why I caught on to the Icelandic problems ahead of some optimists, and maybe that’s why I’ll miss out on the first signs of an upturn.
When I finally read the intro and highlights of the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance that was released in June (the whole report is £600!) I couldn't stop myself from worrying about the future of English football in financial terms, which we all know is intimately related to the quality of football.
The report discusses the reasons for the relatively low impact the financial crisis has had on economics of football in general and the English game in particular. This is very encouraging indeed especially as there are quite few economically strained clubs at the moment who are relying on an increasing, or at least not a shrinking, flow of money to sustain their existence. It also says that the English Premier League is one of the most equal of leagues with an internal revenue spread of “only” 6 times between the richest and the less fortunate clubs. As far as I understand the reason for that being the equality in the division of TV-money. It does "bite the hand that feeds it" as "The Swiss Rambler" says in his article on the same subject by pointing out that an unhealthy part of the money made is going to player wages, threatening the financial stability of teams. The Guardian also ran a decent piece on the report.
One of the sentences that made me a bit uneasy was “A key driver to the Premier League’s success is that it’s revenue enables member clubs to attract the world’s best players, who in turn help to boost the leagues popularity”.
But are the teams in the PL attracting the best players in the world presently?
The answer to that one is not easy for anyone to give as the term “world’s best players” is more than a little subjective as well as unclear. How many players falls into this category?
If you’ll accept the votes of the international Journalists 2009, however, the 7 best players in the world all played in Spain. These were, followed by a handful of Premiere League players (although Torres and Fabregas are both linked with a move to Spain).
The 2009 Fifa Pro World XI – a world all star team based on the votes from 50000 professional players - include 5 players from the EPL (Terry, Vidic, Evra, Gerrard, Torres) and 6 from La Liga (Casillas, Alves, Xavi, Iniesta; Ronaldo, Messi).
One can conclude that the fight to be the most attractive league in the world is a two horse race, something that is further emphasized by a “most attracting league” poll done on Fifa.com where La Liga and EPL gets 41 and 36 percent respectively (yes La Liga won the poll), followed by the German Bundesliga with a distant 13 percent.
Another way to look at it may be to see if a top-class player is working in a league outside his own country. All England players in the WC get their wages from EPL clubs whereas 4 in the Spanish team found offers from foreign clubs more pleasing – premiership clubs.
‘Nuff said about this, I think I made my point that there is hardly a solid argument for the thought that England is undisputed when it comes to attracting the best players.
To get back to the original thought – if “A key driver to success” is highly debatable, isn’t there reason to worry?
The Engish cause may recieve unexpected help from.... La Liga! La Liga seem to be in an even worse financial state than the Premiership, reducing the power of the worst competitor, at least that is what Stefan Szymanski, football economics guru at the Cass Business School said in a radio interview. He said that, with the possible exceptions of Real Madrid and Barcelona, all the teams in La Liga are in financial trouble…
All but Madrid and Barca? He must be having a laugh. Barca, the team paying the wages of 5 of the 7 top ranking players in the 2009 Ballon d’Or, revealed in may that their debt was € 489 million, and that was before signing David Villa! I thought that the general consensus, and one of the main reasons for Platini’s initiative to straighten out the finances of football clubs, was that Barca and Madrid are financially unsound.
Now there are obviously other "drivers" to PL-success. The fact that the league has established itself on many foreign markets is one. These foreign markets are so important that the EPL is tipped to soon make more money abroad than domestically.
But are these markets faithful?
We may be right back where we started - what league has the most attractive players?