Interesting comment, let me pick up on the economic part of it (I’ll leave the emotional side to you ). You’re absolutely right. Empirically the clubs who make the most and least money are also those who are the most and least successful respectively in terms of league position and winning trophies. There is a high correlation between a club’s economic power and success on the pitch. What’s more, these two factors also strongly reinforce each other. Success on the pitch facilitates economic success and economic success (in terms of available funds) will buy you sporting success.
This dual relationship of correlation and causation is due to some unique circumstances in the industry of professional football. First, there is the special role of the player. Football is a players’ game. In the long run, the teams with the best players usually have the greatest success on the pitch. Thus, if a club wants to stage a serious challenge for titles not just once but season after season, they must maintain a strong squad of players consistently. At the same time, there is also a very strong relationship between the quality of a player and his price because of their limited supply and a fiercely competitive market for the greatest talents, young and old. There are just so many Christiano Ronaldos and Aaron Wan-Bissakas to go around. In short, if you want to win games (and trophies) consistently, you need strong players, and the stronger a player, the more expensive he is.
Second, in professional football the ‘Matthew effect’ is hard at work. “For to every one who has will more be given.” It is not just that successful clubs who play the most attractive football and have the biggest stars tend to sell more tickets, have more lucrative sponsorship deals, and sell more merchandise all around the world (all of which you would expect), but they also earn the most money from their sporting success directly. There is a high correlation between league position and the amount of money you are able to make.
This relationship is not linear but proceeds in steps. The crucial factor here is “getting into Europe”. Participating in the European club competitions regularly, the Champions League (CL) in particular, separates the poorer clubs from the richer ones. This is because such participations provide a club with substantial revenues directly – Bayern for instance earned €70.5m in CL price money in the 2017/18 season alone – as well as indirectly because as an event of global interest the CL promotes the participating clubs’ brands all around the world resulting in even bigger sales of merchandise and even more lucrative sponsorship deals.
What this means essentially is that you need a lot of money to buy the players who will allow you to compete for the European places in order to make the money there you need to buy the players who will get you into Europe next year as well. The problem with this virtuous or vicious circle (depending on your point of view) is that it rather quickly converges to a steady state of a closed shop system. Only the teams that are strong enough to compete for the European places on a regular basis earn the money that is necessary to reliably keep doing so. Even a team which manages to break into Europe every once in a while won’t be able to generate the requisite financials from this to keep up with the usual suspects, you have to be there season after season if you really want to become one of the big clubs.
Incidentally, UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP), which was brought in to level the playing field among the clubs, is achieving just the opposite. UEFA FFP stipulates that clubs must not spend more money than they earn from their day to day operations over a certain period. As a consequence, those clubs that already have the highest operating revenues also have the most disposable money to spend on the kind of players who will guarantee them to keep generating their high revenues in the future.
These are just the fundamental economic rules of the game as it is now. The question is, what to do about it?
Two ideas come to mind immediately. I won’t go into greater detail here and now, this posting is already long enough. I’d rather open it up for discussion to and with you!
(1) Allow external investors and get rid of UEFA FFP, that is to say get rid of artificial limits for how much money investors might put into a club. This would allow weaker and smaller clubs to obtain the funds they need to break into the closed shop system I’ve outlined above.
(2) Leave UEFA FFP and restrictions on external investments in place but implement some kind of financial leveller between the clubs, e.g. a ‘success tax’ on the high-income clubs or a radical reallocation of the TV and broadcasting revenues among the clubs. (The TV and broadcasting rights are an obvious candidate for redistribution since they are bargained collectively and collected and allocated centrally by the DFL (or PL in England) and independent of any particular club.)
Other ideas? Objections? Comments?
Looking forward to your response!