Admittedly, the two Manchester clubs may not be heavily motivated by the Europa League. Nevertheless, the Premier League’s two leading teams put full teams out last week and still crashed in Europe’s second competition. Of its two representatives who made it through the group stages of the Champions’ League, one mounted a decent but ultimately failed comeback, and the other has its work cut out this week to survive.
It is only four years since the European Cup Final was an all-Premier League affair. It may be a while before that is repeated, however. Indeed, it may not be long before England loses its fourth Champions’ League place.
The Premier League’s decline in quality has been obvious ever since, particularly when compared with representatives of La Liga in Spain. Yet it has not been much remarked upon – the media have preferred, essentially, to put their fingers in their ears and hum!
The real problem is this: if the decline continues, the best players will drift away – not just to Spain, but also to a surging Russian League (and even some neighbouring ones in Eastern Europe). The attraction of buying Premier League clubs, or even remaining at them, will also decline – after all, why would a Russian oligarch bother with Chelsea when Zenit St Petersburg or Dynamo Moscow can win European trophies?
The issue with all of that is, I have warned repeatedly on this blog, the Premier League is not sustainable in its current form. Clubs consistently make heavy losses, television revenues cannot possibly hope to match salaries of six figures per week, and in any case the overall “marketing” of football will inevitably decline in hardened financial times. (For the first time in 23 years this season I did not possess a current Arsenal home shirt at the start of the season!)
The 100,000/week salaries depend on 60-quid tickets and 45-quid shirts – a financial model which no longer adds up. Thus, they depend on Arab billionaires, Russian oligarchs or American super-investors – but they have other options now. Just like the real economy, it’ll only take one drip to create the flood. Losing a club or two (even down the food chain) or a fourth Champions’ League place will soon create the trickle…