That’s how much Sky and BT Sport have taken out of their pockets to buy the right to broadcast 168 Premier League games over the next three season.
It’s an astronomical figure, and on first glance, should be a welcome sight to all fans of clubs in the Premier League, as an extra £20m a year in revenue can’t be a bad thing.
Or can it?
£20million is obviously a huge amount of money, but if everyone in the league gets the same amount, then the value of having that money diminishes, due to the fact that the market values of players and their wages will rise because of the extra money now available to clubs.
Take Theo Walcott for example.
He’s currently got 18 months left to run on a contract that pays him £100,000 a week. If you’re his agent, and you now know that there are more clubs who can afford his wages today than there were yesterday, how much do you ask Arsenal to pay your client? £120k a week? £130k? More?
Theo’s a fine player, but should he command a wage close to what world-class players like Mesut Özil or Alexis are being paid?
But because the threat of him leaving on a Bosman is now greater, Arsenal will have to cough up the extra cash. Add in the signing-on fee, plus agent fees, and almost half of the extra money has now gone, just to keep a player at the club.
Then there’s the issue of ticket prices.
I doubt I’m being overly controversial by saying that fans are paying too much to watch their team play in person.
Stories of away fans paying over £50 for restricted views at a ground are becoming the norm. If a parent and child go to watch Manchester United play in the Emirates, they’ll be lucky to have change out of £200 by the time they go home.
To watch a game of football.
It’s an obscene amount of money.
But we pay it.
It’s because we care too much. We know that it’s too expensive to go to a football game, but we pay up anyway, mainly because we believe it’s our duty as fans to support our club in any way possible.
All clubs know this, and have exploited that feeling endlessly throughout the years and it doesn’t matter which club it is, the excuse for doing it is always the same: “We want to be better. Don’t you want us to be better?”
For almost a century, we tolerated this because the cost wasn’t that high. But now, because of all the extra revenue, keeping up with everyone else is becoming more and more expensive. A quick look at how clubs are reacting to each other’s growth is telling.
The following is a summary of how screwed up football is right now, in one unpunctuated sentence.
* breathes in*
West Ham are moving to a new stadium in order to make more money because Spurs are building a new stadium in order to make more money because Arsenal built a new stadium in order to make more money because Manchester United built a worldwide business empire so that they could make more money because Barcelona and Real Madrid were making immense amounts of money so that they’d have more money than everyone else even though they’ll never have as much money as Chelsea and Manchester City who have more money than God.
*faints from oxygen deprivation*
As the distance between the rich clubs and poor clubs in the world increases, then the pressure on those lesser clubs to exploit their main revenue stream, i.e. us, grows concurrently.
Puma doubles the money that Nike were giving us to make our kits, suddenly the club is selling new home AND away AND “cup” kits every year instead of one per year.
Why? Because Adidas will be doing the same with United next year, for three times the money.
Want to watch Arsenal play at home? Well you’ll need both Sky and BT Sport to do that, and if you don’t get your broadband with them, expect to pay extra next year.
Why? Because Barcelona and Real Madrid’s TV deals are so big, PL clubs are “forced” to take more money in order to keep up.
And whose money is that, again?
That’s right. Yours.
So as long as the richest clubs in the world are trying to maintain their financial advantage over other clubs, the “poorer” clubs won’t agree to sacrifice ticket revenue because they’ll say they need that money in order to compete with the richer clubs, who also won’t agree to cutting revenue because they don’t want to lose the significant advantage that all that added revenue gives them in the first place.
The only way that this problem will ever be fixed, is if FIFA put in place a hard revenue cap that no club can exceed.
We’ll use a figure of £100m for arbitrary purposes.
If clubs need “only” £100m a year to operate at a competitive level, then the TV deal and one major sponsor could cover the whole cost by themselves. The need to bleed fans dry would be virtually wiped out.
But even if they somehow managed to convince all the world’s major clubs to do it, what would stop the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi setting up their own football league and then pay the players to play exclusively for them?
How would those same players react to what, in essence, would be industry-wide wage-capping? I
n the rush to keep key players, they would be taken care of first, meaning that those not lucky enough to command a huge salary in the first place will now be artificially barred from doing so. Good luck getting any players union to vote for that.
All the new TV deal manages to do is push football fans closer and closer to their financial breaking point, without affecting the competitive balance.
This is being accomplished despite fans wanting to see the exact opposite happen when they spend money on football.
Sooner or later, this will change.
Either football will realise that it has too much money, or fans will realise that they don’t have enough.
Unfortunately, the former seems as far away as ever, and the latter creeps closer by the day.