With the Albion sitting 17th (at the time of writing) and with the team surpassing most fans’ expectations so far this season, it might be interesting to gaze into the crystal ball for a moment.
What does the future hold for the Albion?
A few months ago there was a vote by the Premier League clubs to respond to the demand of the so-called ‘big six’ for a greater slice of the burgeoning overseas revenue currently flooding the division’s rather large coffers.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool demanded a bigger slice of the action and muttered their usual threats of forming a breakaway European Super League if they didn’t get their way. Does any of this sound familiar? As Ron Manager might have said: “It’s Déjà vu all over again, Brian.”
So here we are again, with a gigantic new TV rights deal in the offing and the ‘big six’ bashing out their greatest hits of such as: “We’re the glamour sides so we should get bigger slice of the pie”, and “overseas viewers want to see the Man Uniteds the Man Citys the Chelseas the Arsenals and Spurs, not the likes of Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Brighton”.
Are they missing the point? Surely the fact ‘smaller’ teams can beat any of the so-called ‘big teams’ is what makes the Premier League so compelling and saleable?
So how did we arrive at this unseemly juncture? In short, the formation of the Premiership in 1992 as it was then branded, was a breakaway from the structures that had governed the game, albeit amateurishly, for over a century. The then threat was existential, the ‘big six’ then wanted the TV money that was about to explode into the game and if they didn’t get it they were going to take their ball and play with their mates in a breakaway European Super League, so there. That we have the Premier League now was down to the FA giving in and letting the new league cream off the bulk of the mind-boggling sums then being dangled by the broadcasters, a paltry sounding £191m paid by Sky in 1992. The current deal is worth £5.136bn to the Premier League and the next one threatens to surpass even this figure.
What would this mean for the Premier League and assuming for a moment that the Albion manage to stay in it, what would that mean for us? Well, let’s gaze into that crystal (money) ball for a moment and examine the possibilities. A number of Championship clubs (which may or may not include the Albion) could be invited to join this elite division in their place to create a new top flight. But there is a net benefit here. The new domestic league may become even more competitive with a more level playing field, the very USP the ‘big six’ would be walking away from.
The fans of these ESL teams would be free to enjoy their Milan v Man Utd and Real v Man City games every week, with all that expensive travel and insipid atmosphere, not to mention the difficulty of working out how to get your post-Brexit visas sorted in time (didn’t think that one through, did you Boris?).
Then as the resurgent and evenly matched domestic league thrives, the ESL would surely follow the logic of all this greed and become dominated by it’s own ‘big six’, arguably any six from Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Man City, Man Utd and Bayern Munich, Chelski et al, whilst the rest are bored and constantly losing also-rans. But that’s OK isn’t it, because the foreign owners and Sky/BT will be making serious money and that’s the name of the game, right?
Here’s a radical thought: let them. Perhaps our domestic game should collectively get together and tell the so called ‘big six’ to bog off to their expensively leveraged promised land and let us return to a more equable game? Where any ‘small’ team can beat one of the big beasts on any given Saturday/Friday/Monday/Sunday lunchtime (delete as appropriate).
Or possibly even dare to dream of winning a title playing with young English talent that also happens to be part of a thriving national team; a league where fans can once again afford to watch their local side at the unfashionable time of 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon!
Big six my behind.
Arrivederci, auf wiedersehen, adios, and au revoir to the lot of ‘em.
The future’s bright – the future could be blue ‘n’ white.
Mark is the founder and head honcho of The Treason Show, Brighton’s favourite satirical show.