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Is the English Premier League a Super League?

“There should be a Super League without English clubs. A footballing Brexit, if you will. Monza receives $32M while Nottingham Forest gets $159M. How can we compete with the Premier League?”, lamented former AC Milan director and current Monza owner Adriano Galliani.”

His frustration is shared by executives from the other top four leagues in Europe, namely La Liga President Javier Tebas and Bayern President Oliver Kahn, over the widening disparity between the Premier League and Europe.

The ever growing gap is evidenced by the recently concluded summer transfer window where the Premier League flexed its financial muscle on a whopping $2.3B on transfer fees, eclipsing the previous record of $1.6B during the 2017 summer window. Chelsea were the single biggest spenders, paying around $319.6M on transfer fees, a Premier League record for a single window.

In fact, the Premier League spent nearly 3.6 times more than its closest challenger, Serie A ($645.5M), 4.8 times more than the Bundesliga ($481M), 4.6 times more than La Liga ($502M) and 4.2 times more than Ligue 1 ($554M).

The widening disparity between the Premier League and the other top four leagues is mainly down to the EPL’s enormous overseas TV deals, which is a benefit of the EPL’s global appeal and outreach as many broadcasters scramble to have a share of the pie.

The Premier League rakes in an estimated $1.9B annually from local broadcasters and $2B annually from foreign broadcasters. The combined amount is then distributed amongst clubs thus sustaining the spending muscle of the league, which makes it possible for the league to continue attracting top talent and maintain its appeal to global fans.

It is a well-oiled machine when compared to the other European leagues. For example, in the US, the Premier League rakes in an estimated $460M annually, compared to La Liga ($169M), Serie A ($72M) and the Bundesliga ($32M). These disparities also exist in other markets like Africa and Asia.

The ambitious nature of Premier League owners also partly explains the spending behavior of the clubs. Almost 50% of Premier League clubs are owned by American investors and the lure of Champions League football is too much to ignore due to the commercial benefit it brings.

Within the current so called “Big Six”, owners need to splash the cash to remain competitive. In the early 2000’s, the Premier League had only four traditional teams known as the “Big Four” comprising off Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

With the arrival of free spending owners like former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in 2003 and Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour in 2008, and now supplemented by Newcastle’s owner, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the arena for competition and dominance is rife as clubs scramble to attract the best talents to their teams.

Additionally, there are only four slots for qualification to the lucrative Champions League every season up for grabs and now with Manchester City and Tottenham among others joining the Big 4, this means clubs need to strengthen to achieve their ambitions.

A leaf that the other top four leagues can pick from the Premier League is to work aggressively on their marketing strategy to attract new audiences and broadcasters to their brand, so that they can reduce the gap from widening further and work as a collective.

Social Media Marketing has done wonders for the Premier League. The rest of Europe could engage in it as it is very effective and makes a significant contribution to marketing and commercial performance by clubs, especially struggling ones.

The top four leagues from continental Europe can also target young fans because they consume football related content in the immersive world of social media, particularly those pertaining to their teams.

Capturing the loyalty of the younger audience and converting it to future dollars is a critical opportunity for them. For example, in the Premier League, West Ham run a promotion called Kids For A Quid, in which kids under 16 can buy a ticket for $1.15 for certain matches. Arsenal on the other hand organizes a junior supporters club known as the Junior Gunners. Membership in this club comes with an app which allows young fans to design their own avatars and play Arsenal themed mobile games.

Additionally, top European clubs need fan engagements to make fans feel closer to them. This can be done through supporting supporter groups by giving them official recognition because they help with game screening and other fan activities which help to keep fans dedicated and engaged.

Reconciliation between the Premier League and the other top four leagues is not going to happen any time soon and it seems like there is no solution being put into action at the moment.

With the gulf getting ever wider, echoes of a ‘football Brexit’ have been heard far and wide, though it seems unlikely as Premier League clubs are a must have in any new competition due to their global appeal and outreach to any potential investors.

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