The Football League Turkeys Vote Christmas For The Premier League

By on Oct 20, 2011 in English League Football, Latest | 8 comments

Everybody, we are sometimes told, loves a bargain, and this morning an agreement was reached between the Premier League and the Football League which will likely mean that England’s biggest clubs will have an unlimited supply of one of the most valuale assets in the game: young players. The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) was an agreement which hinted at the Football League being led by clubs that are run by eunuchs, but their defenders will claim that the forty-six clubs that voted for a revised youth academy – which will mean that a selling club is paid just £3,000 per year for every year of a player’s development between the ages of nine and eleven, while the annual fee for a player from the age of twelve to sixteen will range between £12,500 and £40,000 – because the Premier League effectively held a gun to its head by witholding the £5m that it is due to pay the clubs of the Football League to help cover the cost of funding youth development until it voted in favour of the decision.

On top of this, the geographical boundaries which prevent clubs from signing players from a radius greater than ninety minutes’ journey from their own ground will also be removed. In other words, the new rules will allow a “free” market in which clubs take players on from anywhere, with the amount of money that they have to pay smaller clubs for them in compensation being slashed. This will obviously have an effect on smaller clubs who treat the development of young players as being central to their financial income stream. The very best young players will most likely gravitate towards the biggest clubs, and with the amount of compensation money to be paid having been reduced, it is not difficult to imagine that the biggest clubs will simply circle like vultures at smaller clubs, picking up players for a song. The dominance of the Premier League over all else will be entrenched to such a point that it isn’t difficult to imagine some – if not many – smaller clubs taking the heart-breaking decision that it will not be worth their running youth academies if they are to be, at best, merely serving the whims of the Premier League.

It isn’t only smaller clubs that will be affected by this. For every one player that does succeed at a bigger club, there are scores of players that will not make their grade, and being able to identify the very best players for the future at the age of fifteen or sixteen is a notoriously imperfect science. With little financial reason to not gamble on hoovering up as many players as they can elsewhere, it seems likely that a lot of players when it is discovered that those concerned will not make the grade at the highest level. Some of those players will find their level lower down the football food chain, but how many, after years of having convinced themselves that they are good enough to play for, say, Manchester United or Chelsea, will simply drift away from the game altogether once their usefulness has been exhausted.

Those that will wave their banners for this scheme are, perhaps predictably, using the increasing of standards for the England national team as their defence for this decision, but the cynics amongst us will see a parallel with history, here. When the Premier League was formed in 1992, the argument put forward was very similar. Two decades on, it is impossible to argue that the Premier League has been benefit to the England team, and that with club sides in the professional game more hostile than ever to international football (as evinced by their at best lukewarm enthusiasm for the FA’s 2018 World Cup bid and their anxiety to hack and slash away at the international calendar), the idea that they are concerned with the well-being of the England team feels laughable, to say the least.

This, however, is the great lie of the Premier League. Just as carving up football to keep the television money themselves in 1992 was hidden behind a PR campaign about the good of the national team, so it is with this proposal, and, just as the FA were utterly supine in allowing that to happen, so the clubs of the Football League have hoist themselves by their own petard in agreeing this, and it will become that much less likely that we can continue to have any sympathy whatsoever for clubs that didn’t stand up to the Premier League and say enough is enough should they plead poverty in the future. Meanwhile, the hostility of seen today towards this decision has felt particularly vicious, as if we are approaching the tipping point for the popularity of the Premier League amongst some, if not many, people.

It is starting to feel as if the scales are falling from many eyes, as if the realisation that the Premier League doesn’t care for anything but its own avarice is starting to become horribly, bitterly apparent. It has been possible in the past to dismiss those that have sought to attack the Premier League from every angle as leaning towards being conspiracy theorists. This vote, on top of the recent comments of Liverpool’s Ian Ayre on the subject of the sale of television rights and those of David Bevan of the League Managers Association that there are now several club owners that would like to end promotion and relegation into the Premier League, add to a growing feeling that this isn’t our game any more. Under normal circumstances, we could try and argue that this has all been a public relations disaster for the Premier League, but it feels as if they genuinely don’t care about this, that they feel as if shedding a few supporters from England will be more than offset by the financial advantages of adopting an imperialist attitude in the future.

One of football’s greatest strengths in recent years has been its degree of unity. With the European Super League looking at least as likely as not, the threat of casting clubs below the Premier League asunder and the possibility of rewriting the rules on the sale of television rights to suit the wealthiest, it feels as if the final days of football as a single, unified sport are now upon us. And perhaps the most depressing aspect of it all is that there will probably be no significant protest, that some will drift away from the game altogether and that the wishes of the plutocrats will, sooner or later, come to pass. And we will all come to miss those days when they have gone. This evening, it feels as if the days of suggesting that we should stand and fight to save our game from these people are a long way away. Twenty years ago, the Premier League was waved through with too little protest from supporters. Today, it is probably time to wonder aloud whether we are going to be a part of the problem, or whether we are going to a part of the solution.

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    8 Comments

  1. I can empathize with players that feel restrained by the old geography rule – but definitely agree that the fixed compensation is an utter joke and may turn youth academies into bargain bins (assuming they don’t all close)

    Elliott

    October 20, 2011

  2. I can’t articulate how upset I am by today’s news.

    I’ve had a season ticket at my club (Preston) since I was old enough to walk and talk and taken to Deepdale by my Dad, who I still go with to this day.

    However for me this is the straw that has broke the camels back. I’ve had enough of the monster that is the Premier League, the spineless FA and the bending over of the Football League.

    This years season ticket will be my last as I am totally heartbroken by what football in this country has become.

    Cruyff_des

    October 20, 2011

  3. What Des said, I am now an ex-consumer. The brand is no longer palatable.

    Damon

    October 20, 2011

  4. Let me get this right, Des. You’re so disillusioned by the prospect of your (non-PL) club losing out that you won’t renew your season ticket to your non-PL club.

    Either I’m not getting this or you aren’t

    Harry

    October 21, 2011

  5. An outrage – although I need to leap to the defence of fellow Football League blogger David Bevan of The 72 – it’s Richard Bevan who represents the League Managers Association

    Lanterne Rouge

    October 21, 2011

  6. Harry – When I first started going on football the things I loved about it were standing on a terrace with friends and family, cheap enough that I wasn’t paying my season ticket off by standing order every month, and the thought that anything was possible, even for a side like mine. None of the above applies anymore. The prices are ridiculous, the last time I stood at Deepdale I was thrown out and the only way a team can emerge to challenge the elite is if a foreign billionaire turns up on your doorstep. And that’s only if he arrives before they close off promotion to the Premiership.

    I actually welcomed our relegation last season as I was tired of watching a bunch of 10k a week fanny’s strolling about the pitch, they were mostly sold off and replaced by lads from the youth set up. One of the few pleasures I’ve enjoyed in I don’t know how many years was watching local Preston lads put on the shirt and fight for our team. Will they take us up? Probably not, but it’s not about that for me. And then yesterday I read the Premier League has blackmailed the FL who have simply bent over to keep the money coming, so these big clubs can simply hoover up any crumb of talent they like? So what’s the point exactly? What is there left for me to enjoy?

    I spoke to a teacher at my old primary school last week (in Preston) who said Man City had been on the phone asking the headmaster if some of the coaches could come down from their academy to run a few coaching sessions and run their eye over the 8-11 year olds. If this is the future then I’m sorry, but it’s just not for me.

    I still love football but this isn’t football. I’d rather put my money into the non league game where the top flight has little to no interest.

    Cruyff_des

    October 21, 2011

  7. Well said Des.

    Utterly disgraceful some of the developments on planet premiership this month. I’m a Halifax fan so the premiership relegation thing will obviously never affect me. Reading about it still makes me sick to the bone though. It CANNOT be allowed to happen.

    As for the youth thing, well, more fool the premier league when they one day cotton on to the fact nobody’s bothering to nurture talent for them anymore.

    Adrian Stockwell

    October 22, 2011

  8. This would appear to render the awareness raising walk undertaken by Jez George, Cambridge United’s then academy director and now 1st team manager, a complete waste pf time. He was campaigning for the non-league clubs that still run proper academies (such as Cambridge United) to be entitled to the same level of funding as those in the football league. However it now seems that we are all going to be shafted equally badly rather than the non-league clubs getting better recognition and reward for their efforts.

    Neal Cannell

    October 25, 2011

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