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Corporate FC. vs. Establishment Athletic – What has the Premier League become?

Sunday 16th April 2017
Money has played a part in football for years, but there's a point where the money becomes possibly too important to clubs and the “football club” element diminishes to a point, where all you can see is the suit men driving merchandise sales. Is this the future of the Premier League?

These days there's a clear divide between in the Premier League. There are your top teams with money, there's Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, etc. The ones that are in contention for purchasing world class players. Then there's everyone else, that doesn't have the opportunity to directly purchase this calibre of player. There are varying degrees of their wealth, i.e. Everton can still buy better players than Burnley – but either way, they are both below the financial barrier allowing them to access the world's superstars.

The bigger clubs we spoke of; are no longer football clubs. They are brands. The Premier League's reach is global; but why? Why would a team from the back end of Salford have any appeal to Thai audiences? Just like Coca-Cola or Nike, marketing. The corporations landed their stalls on any shore available and started selling their products to the natives, whether they needed it or not. Manchester United, are a prime example of this. They've sold more replica football shirts than anyone else this year; and unveiled their new kit in China.

Having a kit launch itself is ludicrous enough, but to have it outside of the continent – is an absurdity and clearly a sales-driven activity to tap into new markets. Might I add, as well, it's also trying to defuse popularity from the Chinese Super League. It's certainly not the Ilkeston F.C. experience, where the club shop only had two shirts left to sell and they wouldn't be re-stocking. The Manchester United gravy train of lucrative business will continue to sell you these shirts at £65.00 a pop until the end of the season, probably after too. Without showing my disdain for the Salford Reds too much, I'll just remind you as well that this is the same club which announced an official mattress and pillow sponsor at the start of the season. Anything for those dollar bills, I guess.

The big clubs also are the ones that are constantly piped through the television screens. Should you watch any football round-up show on the Premier League (Match of the Day, etc.) then it's quite often the brands at the top of the show, with more analysis than any other. It takes quite a score line from the non-brand sides to make it to the opening match. This is just like the advertising that you see in the commercial breaks, but altogether more dangerous. It's the show itself and they don't pay for it. It's free advertising; what the actual companies would do for that.

Whilst money being piped in football clubs, isn't exclusively an activity for Premier League sides – it's certainly where it is most prevalent. Clubs are becoming the property of wealthy businessmen like nobody's business. The two Milan clubs are evidence of that, two separate Chinese consortiums have acquired the ownership of the two hallmark Italian teams. These clubs are historic, with a multitude of trophies between them and a worldwide appeal. A sound investment all around for the owners. Yet, investors from the same country also decided to buy West Bromwich Albion. With the greatest respect to the Baggies, they aren't at the same footballing level as either Milan club and definitely don't enjoy as much support on a global basis. It's strange that clubs of this particular level (not top four, not contesting top four) would now be the target of such investment. A frightening sign that eventually, every club will become the property of a wealthy company and become a brand. Just the We all eagerly await the deal between West Brom and their favoured bed company of choice.

Whilst there's technically nothing wrong with such activity, after all – we don't complain at their being at McDonald's everywhere (well actually…), it's just an unnatural state for football clubs. The game is developing all the time, and money has played its part in that – but it doesn't mean we have to like it. This constant money merry go round could result in our beloved football clubs becoming mere brands.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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