If there’s one thing that I cannot stand it’s the number of smug English football fans who you encounter online and who are convinced that they follow “massive clubs.” What they are celebrating is an accident of geography and a quirk of fate.
Without disparaging their clubs and their histories, very few of them have a legitimate claim to being bigger than Celtic, yet today the Deloitte Football Money League saw an historic change.
For the first time ever, more than half of its top twenty is made up of teams from one competition – the EPL. It’s worse than that. If you look at their top thirty, more than half of it is also comprised of teams from the bloated English Premiership.
This has led to warnings from football finance experts across Europe about the suffocating effect of one league being in possession of some much wealth. Not that many of them can keep it in their hands; prices for players continue to soar down there and wages are spiralling to the point where they are seriously out of control.
Still, the disparity between their league and almost every other in Europe continues to be enormous, and it is growing. We are the most unfortunate league of all because we’re the one right on their doorstep, we’re the one their TV market share is calculated alongside, and divided against. Of all the leagues in football, none has suffered more than this one.
And it will continue. There is no sign whatsoever of this slowing down, with all talk that some crisis would bring their TV contracts down proving utterly groundless.
I don’t see any sign that it is going to happen, so we either need to get really good at negotiating – and I mean the SPFL – or something legislative has to change. That’s the reality here.
The thing is, every league in Europe is suffering to one degree or another because of this. Agnelli, at Juventus, clung so fiercely to the Super League idea because he genuinely doesn’t believe that his club has a choice if they are to stay competitive.
It was a dreadful solution to the problem, but this guy and those in Spain at Barcelona and Madrid think this is an existential crisis … they see English clubs earning enough to tempt away their own stars, the first time that’s ever happened, and recognise that even trying to compete puts them deeper in debt.
Their current trajectory can’t be sustained if they are to compete with the most cash-rich league on Earth, even one where insanity reigns.
The one thing that might yet hold that league back is Brexit – and yet paradoxically, it may even help to make this problem worse.
Because if EPL clubs can no longer just go and sign the best young talent from around Europe they are more and more forced to go after the finished article, those players at the top who qualify for work permits … and if teams elsewhere on the continent can’t compete with the money on offer then the drain of those talents from other leagues will be almost unstoppable.
That’s what the rest of the continent is worried about.
And it remains something for us to be wary of, because whilst the work permit situations in Scotland and England are slightly different there is scope for English clubs to keep raiding our best players up here, because they’ll already have work permits … and so this weird geographical and political anomaly – where both countries are regarded as part of the same political entity but have separate leagues and thus different TV deals – will continue to haunt us.
I think it’s to the credit of our club that we’ve thus far managed to steer a difficult path through that situation. Whether we can continue to, and as I say, Brexit does confer a small advantage on us, remains to be seen.