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Football News: Is Money Ruining English Football?

Is Money Ruining English Football?
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Made by MonkeyMad:
If anyone chooses to read this then obviously thanks. This is a first draft so go easy on me. Constructive feedback also helps, after all I'm attempting to get as high a grade as possible. Note this is for school however, it is also an examined piece written for AQA (an official exam board). Note currently there is no bibliography or contents.

EPQ- Is Money Ruining English Football?

Money in the world of football has been the subject of debate for now just over a decade. The investment of Abramovich in 2003, a stunning deal worth £140million, something that had never been seen before in the English game sparked a fundamental change causing huge amounts of investment to be poured into the Premier League, igniting a new era for the sport. The initial investment into Chelsea FC by Abramovich, a move that allowed for Chelsea domination for many years, also identified the profitability from owning such a high-profile club. It was this realisation that eventually has led to the huge commercialisation of football clubs specifically within the UK. This change however is not without its critics or backlash, there is the underlying argument that persists to this day, a simple question with a complicated answer, 'Is Money Ruining English Football?'.

One of the key parts of the question within the title is that of 'Money'. 'Money' is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular country or socio-economic context[1].This is significant to the question as 'money in football' is a vague term. Specifically, what will be used to answer this question is money involving the transfers of players between clubs, agent fees and player salary, TV rights, bidding and the hosting of key events such as the World Cup and Euros. The collective events and actions all involve significant monetary involvement, with some bodies, countries and clubs obviously having an advantage depending on their respective wealth compared to their counterparts.

Another part of the question would be that of the 'Ruining' aspect. Ruining is defined as something to 'cause great and usually irreparable damage or harm to; have a disastrous effect on'[2]. This will be assessed throughout the article and will be linked to the monetary aspect, assessing whether money is really to blame for the worsening game of English football or if there are relative positives to the increasing involvement of money within English football. The investigation will also identify whether money is even to blame for the changing states of English football. Furthermore, to address the final part of the question, that of 'English Football', transfers and wealth will largely be focused around the 'English Premier League' and also the 'Sky Bet Championship'. However, there will be an investigation on how this varying differential wealth between leagues is having an impact.

The Background of the Spending
Premier League
The premier league over the past decade has seen radical change in the profile of clubs and their spending in general. TV rights have seen huge amounts of wealth come to the Premier League. When compared to the second wealthiest league in the world, La Liga, the overall pay out to the various teams results in a disparity of around 100million per team. This huge income disparity is highlighted when one of the relegation teams in the Premier League 18/19, Huddersfield Town recorded higher earnings of 109.38Million Euros than 17 of the teams in La Liga in 2017/2018 season, only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid earning more than the Terriers[3]. This has paved the way for the English First division to become hugely successful and very attractive to foreign investment.
Despite this fact however the most significant and clearly influential investments are from Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the key to the huge commercialisation of the English game. The first huge involvement, showing the impact that money could have on the top division, was that of Abramovich. Chelsea were undergoing financial troubles, on the brink of collapse and had the risk of losing their best players. This was highlighted by John Terry, arguably one of the best defenders in the Premier League era, being on the brink of a move to Liverpool F.C. The investment from Abramovich changed this immediately. Chelsea could now afford to keep their top performers, remove their debt and more significantly rebuild their training complex and develop the club into the globally recognised brand that is now considered as one of the Big 6 within England. This sort of investment, ignoring the Blackburn Rovers team of 1994-1995, was a first in the Premier League and had huge implications for the division in the following seasons. This considerable change in the finances of the English game introduced the idea that effectively money equals success, especially in England. This in the early 2000's was highlighted by Chelsea. Following the initial investment from Abramovich the club saw domestic success immediately. In the 2004/05 season Chelsea, with new manager Jose Mourinho, won the League title with a record 95 points and the league cup, a hugely impressive feat. The following season Chelsea produced a title defence, also winning the community shield, all whilst spending vast sums of money on players such as Michael Essien from Lyon[4] and Shaun Wright Phillips[5] from Man City; a combined fee of over £40million.
Further examples of money seemingly leading to success can be seen through the more recent super teams of Manchester City and now, Liverpool F.C in the Premier League. This idea is no more prevalent however than the Manchester City team of the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 premier league seasons. Prior to the 2017/2018 season Man City spent a whopping £223.65million on players totalling a net spend of £-143.96million, the highest in the division on both fronts[6]. This huge expenditure lead to domination of the Premier League and in English football, achieving a record points tally of 100 points to win the title and the attainment of the League Cup. The following year (including the winter transfer window of 2017/2018) Man City spent another £126.171 million, bolstering the hugely successful team of the year before[7]. Following this investment, the team went on to win the 'Domestic Treble', the League title, EFL Cup and the FA Cup. This success was in part due to the appointment of the highest earning manager in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola. Although the ability for this coveted and hugely successful manager to be allowed to sign seemingly any player for any price cannot be ignored as the most influential factor upon City's success. This is further exacerbated by the squad Pep Guardiola inherited and attempted to build in his first year, a lesser amount of funding and therefore a lower league position with no trophies won. Seemingly the combined expenditure of the two seasons of 17/18 and 18/19, reaching a huge £350million, was the ignition of the City domination of England.

The investment of Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour was the new standard for the traditional 'Big 6' in England, all seeing significant investment in their clubs, an attempt to win as much as possible and trump possible rivals. There are obvious anomalies to this ideology, the Leicester 2015/2016 being one squad that stunned the Premier League; however, these are very few and far between. The new involvement of football groups, the most famous being the 'City Football Group', have also entered the picture. This form of umbrella ownership, as of which is now growing, opens multiple doors for multiple clubs, these being that of club trading and the potential movement of funds between different clubs. Whilst at this time the presence of these football groups are few and far between, there is the more significant prospect of more of these groups entering the European markets and effectively shaking up the whole dynamic. For now the involvement is limited[8].
The question stemming from this background of the premier league is that of competitivity and how this has been affected by the surging investment made by some of the top business owners all over the world.

When regarding competitivity for this investigation it would be considering how this will have changed as a result of the injection of significant monetary value. This would take into consideration trophies won, league position and also the assessment of how this money is divided between different clubs.
When viewing the Premier League from the outside and looking particularly at the positions of teams within the leagues there has been the general trend of the same six teams finishing often within the top 8 positions of the League. These six teams, referred to the 'Big Six' by the majority of English football fans refers to: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. When looking at the wage bill of each team in the 2017/2018 season all of the 'Big Six' sit in the top six places of the graph. This can be seen on the next page[9]:
A screenshot of a cell phone  Description automatically generated
A close up of a calculator  Description automatically generatedIn this season the 'Big 6', when compared to the rest of the teams, had significantly higher wages than the rest of the league. When you conversely compare this to the actual league position it shows that, following the trend, all of the top 6 in the Wage chart also finished in the top 6 in the league, Man City winning the title and Man United finishing in second place. This is the prime example of how in some ways it could be considered that competitivity is falling. This idea is further backed up when looking at the richest clubs in England. This is a similar story, the 'Big Six' finish in the top six yet again. This has Man United sitting in first place at £627.1milllion, Man City in second with £538.2million (although this is relatively unreliable) and Liverpool in third with £533million[10]. Therefore, when considering the league positions over the last decade, Jan 1st 2010 to December 31st 2019, the story is yet again very similar and also fits into the idea previously discussed of money equalling success[11]. As seen from the table the same pattern appears again, the 'Big Six', all with the highest income and wage bill, also sit in the Top 6 for league position over the past decade. This could be considered to be overwhelming evidence that an increase in money and income for a specific team can effectively lead to a lack of competitivity for the rest of the league. Typically the teams with the more significant and noticeable amounts of wealth consistently perform better (in terms of league position) than other the teams who don't.

When considering the defintion of the word 'Ruining' it mentions the aspect of 'damage or harm'. Viewing the competitivity of the league this could further be seen as plausible. The competitivity of the Premier League in particular is being harmed by the huge scale involvment of money. The same six teams consistently dominate the league, with only small anomalies being present in some instances. This has been particularly noticeable as a general trend of the past decade and, despite the current blight that some of the 'Big Six' are undergoing, it only seems a matter of time before the normal service will be resumed. In terms of ruining competitivity it has already been discussed that this is an obvious side effect of richer clubs being able to turn their wealth into success, supporting the argument that in this case money is indeed ruining English football. What has not yet been considered is the potential benefits this could have upon the league.

If you look at the bigger picture of the league, taking into account all of the 20 teams, there is an aura of unpredictability when regarding the teams below the atypical top six. In recent years there has been examples where newly promoted teams, from the Sky Bet Championship, have out performed their high spending counterparts. Currently as of the 28/02/20, Sheffield United (a newly promoted team), find themselves in 7th place, level points with Tottenham and only one point behind Manchester United. This is a hugely impressive feat for a team that have been newly promoted. When looking at the league position and the success of some newly promoted teams within the Premier League it could be argued that the gap between these two leagues is becoming ever smaller. By looking at the league position of the best newly promoted teams in the last decade it can be seen that the highest position was infact 7th, this was from Wolves who ended up having a net spend of over £80million. Sheffield however could topple this statistic in this current season, perfectly poised to break into the top 6.

These two teams however are anomalies. In spite of the ever growing money pot for newly promoted sides there is still the general trend that newly promoted teams have a high chance of going down. Only in the 2017/2018 season, 2011/2012 and 2001/2002 season this did not occur; with all of the newly promoted teams retaining Premier League football. This is displayed in the graph on the next page where it shows the amount of premier league retention following the first season of being promoted[12]. The graph fits the pattern described and despite the notion recently that there is a increase in competitivity from newly A screenshot of a cell phone  Description automatically generatedpromoted teams, reallistically this is not the case. With the strengh of the 'Big Six' and the established chasing group that are behind, newly promoted clubs are finding it increasingly more difficult to pick up points and battle against recently promoted teams in an attempt to stave off relegation. As seen from the graph above since the 2014/2015 season there has been a general struggle for newly promoted teams to retain Premier League status, a pattern also shown in the 4 year stint between 2004 and 2008. This is also interesting when regarding the huge financial changes that came as a result of Abramovich taking over Chelsea in 2003/04 season, the 4 seasons following that only having a total of 5 out of a possible 12 clubs retaining Premier League status. Perhaps a subtle yet tentative link.
Interestingly there is a sufficient argument that the increasing involvement of money with these newly promoted teams does in fact aid survival. Historically injections of money into these newly promoted clubs, either to spend on transfers or wages, actually increases the chances of survival. An analysis of the 21 clubs who have recorded a net spend of over £20million on transfers after promotion showed that of these 21 clubs only 5 were relegated. Interestingly 4 of the 5 were past the previously touted 2014 mark. The most significant of these relegations was Fulham who emphatically accrued a net spend of over £100 million on transfers and still were relegated[13]. Therefore when questioned on whether money is ruining fooball regarding the general pattern it could be said that, in the case of newly promoted teams it is rather positive. This however is seemingly a double edged sword argument therefore almost stating that in order to be succesful you have to spend significant amounts of money, this is backed up by the previous statistic. Therefore there is the argument that if you require money to be successful then it could be seen as largely negative.

The void between the two leagues is also becoming more apparent when you look at the difference between the TV rights and the difference in wages and income. As expected the gap is still widening, in spite of the growing belief that the difference is becoming smaller. There is overwhelming evidence against this when you look that in 2017; it was worked out that the average income of a Premier League team was over six times that of a Championship team, the actual figures amounting to average income of a first division team being £157million, a £133 million pound gap when an average Championship team only earns £24million in a season[14]. Therefore there is the recurrring question of how can a team from the Championship compete against that of a Premier League side, with the prior evidence of the majority of newly promoted teams failing to retain Premier League status there could be the simple answer that it is possible but increasingly difficult.
This goes directly against the argument of competitivity, the huge void in earning between the two leagues leading to an inherent 'lack of' competitivity. This in conjunction with the constant 'Big Six' seemingly having a grasp on the rest of the league, with only some anomalies of other teams breaking into these places, not taking into account the group that has grown accustomed season upon season to chasing the top six. Therefore when viewing this there is the obvious and apparent argument that supports the notion that indeed, in this case, money is ruining English football. There is overwhelming evidence that shows the relative lack of compeitiveness that is rife within the modern English game, something that seems unlikely to change.

The 'Soul' of the Game
When approaching this side of the argument it is clear that to understand and provide a coherernt argument it is paramount to explain the broad term of what the 'soul' of the game actually is. When looking at English football it has been long believed that the 'soul' would always be that of the fans and their experiences with football. Despite this however when assessing the impacts of money on football it could be changed to that of encompassing the fan aspect of football and combining it with legitimacy and perhaps how increasing amounts of money have affected this.
Legitimacy has been at the forefront of fooball for a multitude of years, both in England and also globally. It has been seen to be a pressing issue for multiple decades, even before the Premier League was formally introduced. Interestingly when considering the idea of legitimacy, in this case a lack of, there is the obvious pattern that the majority of foul play is centred around money. Whilst in the past there has always been the prevelance of cheating the scale has recently become much more signinficant, this can be seen through specific and very serious incidents within the modern game. The most significant was that of the case of Sepp Blatter. You would be naïve in thinking that corruption is not prevalent in all sports, however within the multi-billion pound industry that is football there would always be this issue[15]. In particular there is the idea that this corruption and illegitimacy has had a huge negative impact within FIFA. Along with the infamous Sepp Blatter case, evidence of over $80million in stolen funds in coordination with two other members was revealed[16]. The more significant part of this case however, was actually findings that members of FIFA had been accepting bribes, kickbacks and selling their votes for countries such as South Africa, Russia and Qatar for the hosting of the World Cup, all for personal gain[17]. This is a significant breach of proceedings, all fueled over the huge sums that countries are willing to offer. Therefore when you view and assess the negative impact that these illegal and fraudulent proceedings take place the idea of money ruining football could not look clearer. In particular this affected England as it was seen as one of the favourites to host the 2022 World Cup; a slew of brand new stadiums, an effective infrastructure that could cope, all backed up by the hugely succesful Olympic games that were hosted in 2012. This was all the arguments put forward by the FA in their 2018-2022 World Cup bid. The presence however of bribery, highlighted in the Sepp Blatter case as prevalent from Qatar, saw the competition unfairly skewed and weighted, minimising the chances that England had in their pursuit of hosting the large event[18]. Therefore from this it can be shown that the significance of money can have a huge detrimental impact and can be seen as largely negative, particularly when assessing the failed World Cup bid that England launched for the years 2018 and 2022.

When looking at legitimacy it is also signifcant to look within the domestic leagues. In the 'competitivity' aspect of this argument and the 'background of the spending' section Manchester City have been assessed to be benefitting from signicant investment, particularly the investment from Sheik Mansour. This however, through recent findings and leaked documents has uncovered fraudulent and illegitimate methods of obtaining the funds necessary to fuel the success that Man City has experienced[19]. This case study covers the time period of 2012-2016, the UEFA Adjudicatory Chamber claiming that City have committed 'serious breaches' of Financial Fair Play regulations. This proves that in a sense the success created by the significant investment was actually created via illegal and fraudulent purposes. The huge increase in prevelance of money could be seen as partly to blame, clubs effectively cheating to be ahead of the game. Despite the 'cheating' that has been uncovered what is worrying is that, particularly in Man City's case, the evidence was not actually found by UEFA through their investigations, rather a whistleblower who chose to leak the documents. This grows concerns that the governing body of domestic league football does not have full control or knowledge over the clubs it oversees. Therefore there is a growing question of whether there are more clubs cheating and perhaps getting away with it[20]. The Man City case thus far has proven how money and income can be manipulated in order to increase the advantage of a club, pointing towards the idea that money is significant in ruining the English game both from a neutral perspective and from the actual definition of ruining, the breaches of 'Fair Play' harming the profile of the league and also the legitimacy.
More worrying is also how some clubs are effectively buying their way out of punishment. The prime example of this is Liverpool FC. When you consider that money is ruining football, the idea it is ruining legitimacy is never more prevalent than when looking at the particular domestic incidents that have occurred. More significant is how Liverpool have escaped punishment following the discovery of the club hacking into Man City's scouting system back in 2013. Following this Liverpool made a payment to Man City equating to around £1million, an agreement that the Premier League were totally unaware of[21]. This meant that further down the line the FA were unable to receive the relevant information regarding the incident as Man City refused to provide evidence, this being due to the settlement back in 2014. This also promotes the idea of money ruining football with the clubs in question effectively allowed to pay 'hush money' in order to avoid punishment. Further evidence of this shrouds Liverpool's attempt to sign Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in the summer of 2017. Liverpool came under direct scrutiny publicly from Southampton after the accusation from the club that Liverpool had 'tapped up' the player in question. 'Tapping Up' refers to 'an attempt to persuade a player contracted to one team to transfer to another team, without the knowledge or permission of the player's current team'[22]. Liverpool however avoided investigation from the FA by paying a heavily inflated fee for the player, along with separate payments, an attempt to coax the club into not directly contacting the FA. Whilst Southampton did formally complain to the FA, the weeks following they did not put forward any evidence[23]. The growing concern when viewing this would be that it seems that clubs with enough money can buy their way out of any relevant and deserved punishment, provided there is not sufficient evidence. From this therefore there is the growing notion that money can cause cheating (evidently) and also prevent those who are cheating to not be caught, harming the legitimacy, competitivity and fairness of the English game.

The Fans
Despite the huge focus on legitimacy what also needs to be considered is the fans and their experiences, also how this could have been both negatively and positively affected by money, specifically in the English game.
Over the past decade the Premier League has seen a huge impact from commercialisation. Noticeably this has spilled over and had a rather large effect on the fans who come to watch their respective teams week in week out. The huge commercialisation has seen the extortionate rise in ticket prices over the past 10 years. It was found that the average price of the cheapest tickes in English football has risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011[24]. This is a huge increase and has had a large negative impact upon the fanbases of many clubs. This follows the idea that often the typical core fanbases of most traditional English clubs can no longer afford to follow their team, whether that be at home or even around England. This has had a hugely detrimental impact on the attendance for some English clubs. Another impact that the commercialisation has seen is the negative impact that TV bidding and TV rights has had upon the consumer. The current channels that broadcast the Premier league involve Amazon Prime, Sky Football/Premier League and BT Sport. It was worked out that the cost of watching the Premier league from your living room equates to over £1,000, £1,019.99 to be exact. This figure is almost five times the cost of buying a Man City season ticket back in 2014. This fee is also growing, Virgin have now introduced the increase of a combined package of BT and Sky Sports going from £77 per month to £104 per month after a whole year. This then increases the price from £1,019.99 to £1,343.88, a significant increase on an already ridiculously high price[25]. This has been seen following the huge increase in profile of the Premier League following investment. This has directly harmed consumers and fans, therefore supporting the statement that money is ruining English football.
Despite the negatives that perhaps the increase in money has had upon the fans there is also the argument that the increase in the money paid is justified by who they are watching. Now, more than ever, the Premier League is hugely attractive to the top players, offering the best coverage, wages and life out of any of the world leagues. Therefore fans watching the league have effectively been treated to some of the best players that world football can offer, along with some of the best managers to go along with it. The commercialisation and profile, created by significant investment over the years could be argued to be the main cause of this. This is a rare example of the huge benefit that money can have upon a league, potentially justifying the rising fees and prices that go along with watching your team play football. This also then seemingly creates the circulation and knock on effect where this money can be reinvested within the club, drawing new exciting prospects, which would then potentially draw in more revenue; allowing for reinvestment by the club. A small positive in the seemingly endless sea of negatives that support the notion that, indeed, money is ruining football.

When looking at the arguments from within the writing there is the recurring theme that money has overall lead to the ruining of the English game. This relates particularly to corruption and illegitimacy, where there is a huge amount that is occuring that has not been uncovered. Within there is also the aspect that there is a lot more to be covered, for example one argument not covered would be that of betting, a direct effect on both fans and in some cases players and coaching staff, namely Joey Barton. This is yet more proof that money has had a negative impact upon English football. The core arguments of illegitimacy and foul play, combined with the negative effect on consumers and the evident lack of competitiveness as a result of the increasing involvement of money within England answer the title fairly and aid the idea that money is ruining English football. It isn't all negative however, in spite of the heavily weighted argument there is the idea that this has had a positive impact on newly promoted teams within the Premier League. Furthermore there is the presence of some of the best players and managers in football due to the presence of huge amounts of money, directly going against the negatives of money within the English game.

From the evidence however, it fits directly with the definition of ruining. From what has been described there is the evidence that there has been irrepearable damage and harm caused to English football, both mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary definition. Looking at this from a neutral standpoint it is evident that 'irrepearable damage' has occurred. This is through cheating and the lack of competitivity. The cheating will always tarnish the league and specific teams and the competitivity of the league, ignoring the anomalies always present, seems to almost be set in stone. Core fanbases and consumers have also been harmed as a result of the increasing volumes of money flowing through the top English division, the evidence being listed prior to this. It would therefore be inconceivabe to state that, by definition, money is not ruining football.

Above would state the logical conclusion. Although the actual answer is hugely divisive in the general football world. There has been countless debates on the topic and reallistically the outcome usually depends on the agenda of the person who is writing it. For example if your club has benefited hugely from large amounts of spending and investment you would be less likely to criticise the involvement of money and its potential negatives, striving to defend and promote the positives it can have. The opposite would be true for a supporter of a team that perhaps has been negatively impacted by increasing involvements of money into a competitor. This would be just one example of an agenda that could change the view and opinion of a fan, or person upon this subject.
Despite this however, by definition it would be true that money is indeed ruining English football.

[1] Frederic S. Mishkin, pp8, The Economics of Money, Banking, and Financial Markets (Alternate Edition).

[2] Oxford Dictionary, 'Ruin', Present Participle: Ruining.

[4] "Essien saga nears completion". BBC Sport. 15 August 2005.

[5] "Wright-Phillips signs for Chelsea". BBC Sport. 18 July 2005.

[6] 'Premier League Summer Signings 2017-2018 Season', Statistics.

[7] 'Manchester City Signings 2017-2018 and 2018-2019', Statistics.

[8] Jamie Spencer, 'City Football Group: Which Clubs Around the World Are Now Owned by Manchester City?', 2019.

[9] Bobby McMahon, Forbes Contributor, 'Premier League Wages Are A Disgrace - Except When Your Team's Winning', 2019

[10] Deloitte, 'Deloitte Football Money League 2020', Official Document.

[11], Football Statistics, 'Premier League Table over the Decade'.

[12] Adam Smith, 'Premier League: Newly-promoted teams and the battle to avoid relegation',2019, Sky Sports.

[13] Adam Smith, 'Premier League: Newly-promoted teams and the battle to avoid relegation',2019, Sky Sports.

[14] Alex Homer, 'Record TV rights deal saw gap from Premier League to EFL widen to £133m in first year', BBC News, 2018.

[15] David Conn, 'Sepp Blatter after the fall: 'Why the hell should I bear all the blame?'
David Conn', 2017, The Guardian.

[16] History Editors, 'FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces resignation amidst corruption scandal', 2015,

[17] David Conn, 'Sepp Blatter after the fall: 'Why the hell should I bear all the blame?'
David Conn', 2017, The Guardian.

[18] Duncan White, 'David Beckham will kick off England's 2018 World Cup bid', 2009, Telegraph.

[19] David Conn, 'Manchester City could face Premier League sanctions over FFP breaches', 2020, The Guardian.

[20] David Conn, 'Revealed: the scale of Manchester City's FFP breaches before 2014 Uefa deal', 2020, The Guardian

[21] Connor Dunn, 'FA step into Liverpool 'hacking Manchester City scouting system' controversy, 2019, Liverpool Echo.

[22] David Miller, 'Clough's cockiness and principles live on', 2005, The Telegraph.

[23] David Hytner, 'Liverpool to escape punishment for alleged tapping-up of Virgil van Dijk',

[24] BBC News Editor, 'Price of Football: Ticket increases outstrip cost of living', 2014, BBC Sport.

[25] Tom Morgan, 'Cost of watching football from your sofa to top £1,000 per year', 2019, The Telegraph.

Written by MonkeyMad March 03 2020 13:39:07


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