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European success but are dark clouds gathering?

Wednesday 29 May 2019

AS ENGLISH Premier League Clubs make history this week by taking all four spots in the European finals, Professor Simon Chadwick, sports enterprise expert at the University of Salford Business School, looks at how English clubs have come to dominate and asks if it can continue.

Professor Chadwick said: “The truth is that Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea’s passage to the European finals has less to do with history, nostalgia and sentiment than with industry, money and politics. English football’s success is a production nearly three decades in the making, and is the result of smart commercial management, international free trade, developments in broadcasting, and globalisation, all of which have been helped by a prevailing free market ideology. 

“The EPL was established in 1992 to do exactly what it is now doing. The essence of its formation emphasised improved performance (both in international competitions and financially), stronger management, and its commercial development. Nobody should therefore be surprised about the position English football now finds itself in. However, it seems fanciful, disingenuous even, to claim this years successes as being an English one. 

“Only one of the clubs is British owned. All four team managers are from overseas. The shirt sponsors take in a Japanese tyre brand (Yokohama), a Middle East Airline (Emirates) and a Hong Kong insurance company (AIA). Most of the players appearing in the semi-final games were from elsewhere; indeed, in the four starting elevens, only eight players were English. The EPL’s inception coincided with both the European Union’s Bosman ruling (which resulted in the free movement of footballers), but also with globalisation, which have dramatically impacted upon all manner of its activities from talent recruitment to securing commercial partners.

“Yet in the league’s brand constellation, it is not just the football business that has benefited, Brand Britain has become a star turn as well. Indeed, in rankings of soft power, Great Britain’s often pre-eminent position is partly attributed to the EPL effect. Football’s biggest entertainment franchise helps sell what the rest of Britain also has to offer. Indeed, so compelling has the EPL’s economic and industrial impact become, that it now publishes details of its contribution to national income and employment.

“But clouds are gathering on the horizon, one outcome of which has been the EPL’s failure to recruit a new chief executive. An unfolding new drama has made this difficult, with Brexit, changes in broadcasting technology, shifts in the consumption of content, and growing competition from rivals such as Spain’s La Liga, all threatening English football’s global competitive advantage.” 

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Sam Wood

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