The Future of English Football is in the Balance

Brentford v Arsenal - Premier League LIVE
Brentford v Arsenal - Premier League LIVE

The future of English football is in the balance and decisions made in the coming months could make or break the beautiful game in the nation it was invented.

There is more money in football in England than in any other country and it’s not even close. The Premier League is a financial juggernaut and is a monetary monster on the European stage.

The debate of how that money should be distributed is one older than the Premier League itself. This has come to the forefront again, though, as the Premier League and English Football League have failed to come to an agreement on this.

While the Premier League is continuing to flourish on the whole, the cracks are beginning to show in the top four leagues of English football. So, how did we get into this situation? And what’s likely to happen next?

The Future of English Football is in the Balance

Professional football in England is at a crossroads and what happens next will determine the future of the sport for at least the next few decades. In the wake of the first proposal of the controversial European “Superleague” in 2021, a fan-led review took place into the funding of the English football pyramid.

This was also off the back of the demise of both Macclesfield and Bury FC, as well as financial crises at Derby County and Wigan Athletic. The fan-led review concluded that there should be an independent football regulator to determine how the TV revenue should be distributed in the Premier League and EFL.

Image credit: Football365

Beforehand, the Premier League and EFL determined how the pie was split between them. Now though, if they cannot agree on how that should be done, the regulator will step in to settle the debate. That has already come into effect, as the EFL and Premier League haven’t agreed on how to share the TV revenue.

In 2023, the UK government weighed in on the debate by saying that the split in revenue between the Premier League and EFL Championship was too great.

What’s likely to happen next?

The independent reviewer has the power to impose revenue sharing regulations in any way it seems fit. The EFL clubs want to make significant changes to the current model, including the abolishment of parachute payments, which they believe make the competition unfair.

The EFL clubs also want more of the revenue from the Premier League’s TV deal. Unsurprisingly, the Premier League disagrees on all counts, especially with most of its clubs losing money each season.

Image credit: ESPN

There are also strong rumours of the Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) being changed to allow for larger losses, especially in the wake of points deductions to both Everton and Nottingham Forest.

What the regulator will propose is anybody’s guess, but given the financial issues at the likes of Reading and Sutton United as well as Leicester City’s alleged PSR breach, there is a strong chance that more TV funds are heading to the EFL.

However, knowing the Premier League, they’ll likely appeal any decision that negatively affects them to keep it in limbo for as long as possible. This wouldn’t be dissimilar to what Manchester City are doing with their 115 charges of PSR breaches. Oh, the irony.

Is English Football on the verge of collapse?

It might seem a little melodramatic to think English football is at the tip of an iceberg, but there is a very strong case to be made that it is.

The spending in the Championship is quite frankly ludicrous and isn’t sustainable in the slightest. The average Championship club spends 108% of their turnover on wages alone in an effort to get to the promised land of the Premier League.

Image credit: Football365

For those that get promoted, the spending is justified, but when a club doesn’t make the step up, they sink like a stone. The likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Hull City and Reading have all overspent but failed to gain promotion and all three have spent time in League One, the English third tier.

Clubs like Huddersfield Town, Swansea City, Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers have all flirted with relegation and others such as Norwich City and Watford will go a similar direction if they don’t go up before the parachute payments run out.

The gulf between the Championship and the Premier League has never been bigger and the abysmal performances of Burnley and Sheffield United this season prove that.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as feel-good stories such as Luton Town’s rise to the Premier League and Ipswich Town’s challenge at the top of the Championship prove why English football is so popular domestically and abroad.

The money has to be shared more equally if English football’s professional leagues are going to continue to flourish. Otherwise, we better get used to asterisks being attached to every points totals for each league table going forwards.

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