THE PARADOX THAT IS THE EPL

A Berlin-based company recently conducted extensive research on the football price index of 25 major leagues in the world. The study intended to document the football entity that offers the best value for money. The quality of the game in each league was measured using known standards from UEFA, FIFA and third party databases. England was fourth. The price per match was highest in the Premier league at an average of £53.76 a ticket. A similar ticket in Germany averaged just £23.02. According to the ranking, the top ten leagues were: Germany, Spain, Portugal, England, Argentina, France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey and Brazil. The USA league was found to offer the least value.

The question of which the best league in the world has always been there. The English Premiership is the most sought after league in the world. From villages in Africa to Tokyo. It’s ranking at 4th position is huge upset. So what exactly is going on? It’s not unusual to see British Fans travelling to watch German games. It’s much cheaper to travel to watch Dortmund play than pay a ticket to attend an ordinary Arsenal game. Tickets are simply too expensive in the EPL. Fans in England pay as much as four times the Germans. Arsenal takes the crown for this expensive pricing; a single game ticket costs £97. The cheapest seasonal ticket goes for £1,014. For the VIP, you will have to pay £2,013.The most inexpensive Club card belongs to Manchester City at £299 all season.

The high ticket prices are ironic when you consider the recent televisions rights deals EPL teams just signed. Since the EPL is screened all over the world, it attracts huge advertising revenues. Clubs are swimming in a cash windfall but every season average ticket price keeps going up. Despite the high ticket prices, aggregate attendance levels are at an all-time high. Why should clubs exploit their fans’ loyalty? Can a business be built on loyalty alone? An Arsenal fan pays on averaged £27.36 per goal. It also seems they have lost touch with their fans. The spending spree that is seen each buying season is unmatched. Last year they spent a record £835m during the summer transfer window alone! Of the total revenue collected, they are paying 71% of wages. The average fan sponsors such expenses.

Another significant issue is the premier league quality. EPL has marketing geniuses that have branded it as the best in the world. But a curious look at the league shows contradicting revelations. The European competition has seen the best of EPL white washed by Minnows in other less rated leagues like the French Ligue 1. The richest clubs don’t necessarily produce the strongest or best on-field performances. Marketing can only go so far. The EPL has consistently proved the second rate. The best teams now play in the La Liga and the German Bundesliga. It’s no wonder these two countries have won the world cup in back to back tournaments respectively. They have the ability to produce top quality indigenous Talent.

The English top flight is left playing catch up with the best in the world; this has seen the best players lured to the best leagues. The calibre of the average player in the EPL is simply small. Paul Scholes recently questioned the quality of all EPL talents, saying that only Manchester City’s Sergio Kun Aguero would slot into the starting teams Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid. Former Liverpool defender and pundit, Jimmie Carragher has also expressed similar sentiments. The declining quality has seen English clubs fail to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the past three seasons. The few that are lucky to play so far also lack the quality to make any further impact.

The premier league seems built on a scattergun policy. Teams just buy players expensively and make a squad; In fact most top players in the league are imported. The best coaches have also come in from across the continental. Spaniard Rafa Benitez and Portuguese Jose Mourinho are classic examples. Sir Alex Ferguson built a solid Manchester United team but his exit 25 years later has left the club in managerial crisis. The Red Devils are no longer the best in Manchester any more. A sad reality for a team that won the European silverware a few years back.

But despite all its negatives, the EPL is the most competitive. This factor more than anything else drives the sold out stadium tickets. Even newly promoted teams can beat previous year’s champions. The season winners are determined to play to the last minute of the last game of a season. There are no longer favourites in the EPL nowadays. The league has a fundamental honesty that drives sportsmanship. No team builds around one player. It surely is the toughest league to win in Europe.

The above factors play against the level of quality of the EPL. At the 4th place in the world in terms of quality, ticket prices should be much cheaper. It also seems fans are most interested in the intricacies and shenanigans of the game rather than on the technicalities of the sport. Managers have turned to drama queens aided by the all-seeing lens of the hungry media. Ultimately though, there is a big room for improvement.

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