The politics of Premier League football: Scudamore’s divisive proposal.

The Premier League has long held a reputation for its competitiveness, its unpredictability, though perhaps above all, the sheer equality of contribution that all PL teams make on an annual basis to the collective product of Premier League football.

It is therefore somewhat surprising; or in financial and political spectrums unsurprising, to see the publication of proposals made by Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore regarding the distribution of overseas TV rights to its member clubs.

Scuadmore’s proposal cries out to the appeasement of the top-six; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Liverpool, and centres around the premise of a greater quantity of money being distributed on the basis of the final PL standings in each season. The higher you finish, the greater the end of season pay packet for your club.

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There is a credible argument to suggest Scudamore is within his rights to make this proposal. The top-six are valuable contributors to both the quality and global reach of the Premier League, and whilst the relegation battle is one that attracts attention, ultimately fans, viewers and consumers are innately attracted to the top of the table: an echelon from which the top-six have long been and will likely remain ever-present attendees.

Alongside the top-six, the only other Premier League clubs to support Scudamore’s proposal were Everton, West Ham and Leicester City. There is an evident divide and correlation in the clubs supporting or rejecting this plan: predictable league positioning. Everton with their £145m spending spree will looking to make the top-six a top-seven in years to come, whilst Leicester City have already tasted the financial rewards of finishing at the top of the pack.

Though herein lies the issue for Scudamore: appeasing 20 Premier League clubs with a proposal that from the perspective of AFC Bournemouth, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, Swansea City, Stoke City, Southampton, Watford and West Bromwich Albion – financially discredits the contribution from all 11 of them.

As the CEO and figurehead of a business and product that is thriving on the global stage, Scudamore is faced with a dilemma. It would appear unlikely on the basis of reports that he is able to achieve a two thirds majority (9 for, 11 against) and therefore the proposed alternative division in equity looks unlikely to be passed through.

Though this has highlighted a far deeper-rooted point of political pressure in the cohort of Premier League member clubs. Scudamore clearly feels there be a need to make such proposals leaning towards the elite Premier League clubs – and whilst they have been sustained contributors to the Premier League’s success in spectrums of growth, finances and reach; (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton present for all 26 PL seasons), the obligation Scudamore clearly feels towards catering in their favour is evident.

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You could almost describe it like an employee loyalty system disagreement – one which the long-term, ever-present employees feel they should be paid better, owing to their wide-spread contribution to the business and the fact they’ve been with the Premier League since its inception. Though in this case, they are in a minority – and it is this key division in voting attitudes that looks set to stump Scudamore’s ambitious appeasement plans to the Premier League’s top-six clubs.

It is understandable, it represents a rational proposal from Scudamore, though in this instance he looks set to fall short of the required voting quorum to put through his plans. The equitable division of Premier League TV tights looks set to remain as previously arranged, though the political pressure that Scudamore unquestionably feels in order to make this proposal in the first place serves as a telling reminder.

The Premier League’s top-six race on the field looks set to be closer and more competitive than ever – though as is evidenced in the latest proposal, there are perhaps silent rumblings within the Premier League’s top-six towards their perception of deserved financial reward, and most importantly in acknowledging and accrediting the silent political power held by the top-six – Scudamore is acting in accordance.

Written by Tom Newman.

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