Is football being turned from a sport into a business?
'Money wins matches.'
James Wilton | 8 November 2015

The Summer Transfer Window 2015 was a brilliant example of the type of game football has turned into. According to the official Barclays Premier League website, the total net spend of Premier League clubs in this window was £432.6m, a significant rise from the two previous years (£386.5m in 2014 and £378.8m in 2013). This is around a 12% increase from 2014 compared to around 2% between the two previous years. These staggering figures illustrate how money is now flooding the top domestic league, in a desperate attempt from clubs lower down the table to compete with those that have already spent huge amounts of money, such as Chelsea and Manchester City.

Money is not the only thing that is changing the modern game. Advertising and revenue from television deals have both played a pivotal role in the evolution of football. A prime example of the use of lucrative advertising deals is Newcastle United FC, and their owner, Mike Ashley. On 10th November 2011, Mike Ashley attempted arguably his most daring stunt as owner of the Geordie club: he decided to officially rename the great ‘St James’ Park’, to ‘the Sports Direct Arena’ in an attempt to showcase budding advertising power to potential sponsors. This did not go down well with the local community and when Wonga controversially became NUFC’s main commercial sponsor, they changed the name back to ‘St James’ Park’ in an effort to regain favour with their supporters. This is an example of an owner of a club being more preoccupied with their money-making potential than the pride and passion one feels for their own team. At the time of the proposed renaming of Newcastle’s fortress, widely regarded as one of the greatest sporting stadiums in the UK, the fans were disgusted, and while they eventually managed to get their way, the interests of Mike Ashley are still called into question.

The nonsensical spending of money, usually on foreign players, has created havoc within the domestic market, now that the majority of Premier League starting XIs are dominated by overseas players. It has also led to a decline in the quality of the football played by the English national side, perhaps explaining why we have been left behind in the world of international football, or why we are now currently 10th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. This puts England firmly behind nations such as Germany and Brazil, whose domestic leagues are filled with home-grown players. German sides in particular are run so efficiently that the clubs have financial restrictions and guidelines which they have to follow. As a result, the Germans have to rely on these home-grown players to compete on the European pitch. This efficiency, as enforced by the German football authorities, has led to German success in European football, as their national team wins major trophies. I hope that the FA can learn from the German model, as it is clearly so effective.

Football is definitely being turned from a sport into a business, especially for the top leagues in the world, such as the Premier League. In my opinion, the lack of focus on the pure essence of the sport could ruin the game for the supporters. It no longer becomes a tactical battle where training, sheer work rate, commitment and managerial expertise win games. Simply put, nowadays money wins matches. Supporters also directly suffer from this ideology. For instance, despite the new hugely lucrative television contracts that were announced last season, ticket prices are still increasing.

I regret to admit that, along with many supporters who hold a similar view, the beautiful game is being ruined by money - a problem which may sadly get worse for future generations of football fans.


Image used under a Creative Commons license

James Routledge 2016