Ronnie Corbett still struggles to upgrade
While munching on my croissant on Sunday morning, I was greeted with a familiar sight on the Sunday Times’ sport pages: Chelsea players celebrating yet another cup triumph.
This was an unprecedented double for the club, but Nick Harris kindly juxtaposed their achievement with a rather striking statistic – the rundown of revenue generated by each Premier League club.
Although each team is rewarded on how they perform during a season (each place in the league is worth an extra £800,424), there is a rather less-than-equal jackpot reserved for the elite.
TV rights in the top tier are not distributed evenly, and something must be done in the upper echelons of the Football Association to address this trend.
Clubs towards the bottom are having to gamble to try and make leaps forward towards the higher reaches of the league, while those at the top are being spoon fed extra revenue.
Of course football clubs should be more responsible when managing their books. As a Portsmouth butcher told me this weekend, at the end of the year, the books are weighed up and budgets made accordingly, so how the farce at Fratton Park has been allowed to take place is anyone’s guess (perhaps it is something to do with the club having four ‘owners’ in the past 12 months).
The totals demonstrate a clear correlation between the ‘Sky four’ and the mega bucks. Manchester United were top earners, despite finishing in second place to Chelsea. They came away with almost £53m in total, meaning they earned £37.8m in TV revenue to supplement the £15.2m merit payment.
By contrast, Portsmouth propped up the league, earning £800,000 for their final league standing and £31m in television rights: 31.8m overall.
It boils down to the ‘bigger’ clubs being aired more on TV. Aston Villa finished in sixth position, one place higher than Liverpool in the league, and yet were shown on television 16 times, six fewer than the Anfield club. Indeed, Tottenham finished three places higher than Liverpool, and were shown twice less.
Each Premier League club benefits from a £14.6m equal share of domestic television money and a £10.1m equal share of overseas television money. Therefore there is equality to a certain extent, and no doubt FA bigwigs will point to this.
However, the more times clubs are shown on TV, the more they benefit from “facility fees”. The Times reported Portsmouth pocketed £6.3m from such fees; a staggering £630,000 a game.
Everton, who finished just one place below Liverpool in the league, were shown 13 times – nine fewer than their Mersey rivals. Although facility fees differ from Sky to ESPN and from Premier League games to the Champions League and Europa League, Liverpool earned £13.8m in domestic facility fees alone, compared to Everton’s £8.2m.
From Stoke in eleventh place to Portsmouth, not one club in the bottom half of the league was aired more than twelve times domestically. Yes Chelsea should be rewarded financially for finishing on top of the pile, but this should be reserved to merit payments, and not carried onto other gains. The fact that Portsmouth were aired less than half as many times as any of the top six is a shocking indictment on the uneven distribution of TV revenue.
This week, yet another scandal broke in the FA with Lord Triesman having to stand down from both his positions as chairman of England’s 2018 World Cup bid and chairman of the FA.
But distribution of TV revenue is arguably the bigger scandal and, since the conception of the Premier League in 1992, has so far gone unnoticed.
If things continue the way they are, the rich will only get richer, while the poor will get left behind, sucked deeper into the red, and possibly extinction.