There appears to be a fatalism and acceptance concerning our beloved game of football in the sense that the artificially created Top 6 are now cemented in place pretty much for ever. As things stand at the moment, the governance of the game appears to be designed to ensure no one can disturb the Top 6 — or should they be called the Sky 6?

They reached the top being allowed uncontrolled investment and then rules were created to prevent competition. Why did clubs or authorities allow this protectionism? There does not appear to have been any pushback. Where were the FA or the adults in the room?

At the risk of being controversial, are we the fans guilty to a degree of complacency? Why have we not been more vocal and attempted to make our voices heard — that is, if any media channels would be prepared to air our concerns?

There are big clubs in this country that are being prevented from challenging for top places in the Premier League — to name a few: ourselves, Leeds Utd, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle Utd, West Ham Utd, Derby County and let’s see where Aston Villa (there may be others) finish this season but they are already talking about staying compliant with financial rules. 

Last season, Newcastle Utd broke into the Top 6 and Champions League but weren’t allowed to make the investment required to fight on two fronts and this weakened them; they are now gamely fighting for a lowly European place. Is it fair that Chelsea under Abramovich and others were allowed years of unfettered investment to build a power base of almost two teams while Newcastle aren’t?

The clubs I have mentioned and others are in the worst of situations where there is little hope of winning the Premier League or likely gaining a Champions League place on a consistent basis. They are in never-never land, banging their heads against a glass ceiling.

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Taking our club as an example — since the beginning of this season, pretty much all media outlets have us selling Branthwaite and Onana and sadly it is likely to happen at the end of the season. Sadly, this is now meekly accepted as the norm for any club outside the Sky 6. Again, how have the football authorities allowed this situation?

In a proper league, a club of our size would keep these players to build around or be adding them to Lukaku, Richarlison, Stones, Barkley, Gordon and we would be in the process of building a team to seriously compete. Clubs outside the Sky 6 are now not allowed to build a team and – I hate to say this – are now just feeder clubs. 

I often ask myself what is the point of supporting a game where clubs aren’t allowed to compete because it doesn’t fit the Premier League and Sky business model? We now have many large clubs of potential who are disenfranchised. Again, where is the governance?

This is particularly damaging to many clubs, and I feel the game as a whole, as it is likely to further build the fan base of the Sky 6 to the detriment of a host of formerly big clubs. Youngsters looking to support a team are more likely to choose a team at the top end of the table; but, as this group don’t really change, then clubs like ours will miss out on this potential fan base.

This further builds up the Sky 6. Is it likely fans from abroad would look to support West Ham or Man City? We all know who the majority will gravitate towards…

I am asking who allowed the game to be taken from clubs like ours? I don’t remember being asked if it was okay that my club would not be allowed to compete for honours but be part of a league to fill the coffers of the Sky 6. This was a massive change and is reality but surely there should have been discussion as it is a momentous change to the game in this country.

There are 86 clubs not in the takeover and how many clubs and supporters of clubs outside the Football League? Why no fight from the clubs not in the chosen elite? Where was the Governance, where were the FA, or the Government?

Let’s remember, the Sky 6 are nothing without other teams who can put up some resistance on the field and give the pretence of a competitive league. But be sure: we and others are merely cannon fodder.

In my view, the FA must take much responsibility as their role since 1863 is responsibility for all regulatory aspects of the game of football in England — and it was the FA who handed to the Premier League the control of the top flight of English Football.

I am not going to go into detail about the formation of the Premier League but, for anyone interested, a readable source can be found — The Guardian: Deceit, determination and Murdoch's millions: how the Premier League was born.

The Premier League is a commercial entity which runs the top flight, making decisions regarding the commercial side of the game, sponsorship, TV rights and distribution of money. Regretfully, it now appears to wield all the power and amasses the colossal revenues and pretty much decides where it is distributed.

The Premier League does stream some monies (grudgingly) to Football League clubs, if the current situation is anything to go by. Why are the FA not at the forefront of these important decisions? Unfortunately, they handed power to the Premier League.

Did they actually have the right to make this decision legally or morally? Well I guess they did… but it beggars belief. The FA have a “Golden Share” which appears to give them some influence and authority but I truthfully don’t know the power of this Share. I think they were going to use it when the proposed Super League was mooted.

A proper Governing body back in the early 1990s would have ensured that the issues in English Football were addressed but they would keep control. What professional organisation would have just handed what is virtually complete control of the top flight to another body who they don’t now appear to have any control over? The Premier League are a commercial entity and bring in £Billions but the FA appear to have no control over how it is distributed. It’s frankly beyond belief. 

Certainly the Premier League has been massively successful in terms of the revenue it has brought into English Football but it has come at a cost and destabilised the game – certainly at the top end. I feel a reset is well overdue.

The trick will be to make changes while maintaining the Premier League's worldwide popularity and keeping revenues from TV at a high level. Is this possible while making the Premier League more inclusive in terms of broadening the number of clubs who can win the Premier League? For example, a bad season should have the jeopardy of relegation for Manchester United not finishing in 6th position and a European place.

I feel that the time for change is well overdue in the governance of our game and the all powerful Premier League is no longer fit for purpose. It is no longer discharging its duties equitably to its 20 member clubs and is it acting in the best interests of the rest of football? The Premier League and many of its clubs don’t appear to display much responsibility to the greater football family.

For example, do the owners of Manchester City or Arsenal know of the difficulties that Lincoln City or Bristol Rovers face? If they did, would they care? To be frank, on a certain level, I don’t blame them as they are only concerned with the running of their club… but that is why adults in the room are required and a proper governing body looking at the whole picture.

The Premier League were recently voting on whether to allow movement of players between multi-ownership clubs. Obviously clubs voted for self-interest — not what might be right for football.

As a football fan, I want changes to allow more clubs an opportunity to realistically compete — and by this, I mean compete for Champions League, win the Premier League, and have the chance to build a team without the pilfering of talent that is prevalent at present.

Carlisle Utd were in the top flight in 1974-75 and I think in defeating us twice cost us the League Title, if memory serves me. The dream was once there for many clubs in English Football… but not now.

I would like to throw out a few ideas for thought and discussion; anyone reading this article, please understand that I am aware there is the likelihood of employment legislation and other factors that might never be negotiated.

What follows is something of a ”brainstorm” working toward a footballing utopia and a much-needed reset, in my humble view. As always, some readers will completely disagree while some might agree with the occasional point. It’s just great to have ToffeeWeb where views like this can be exchanged.

Changes I would like:

The time has come for changes regarding governance  - who is going to run our game?

An equitable distribution of money.

A full investigation into the running of the game by an independent body – possibly the Government.

I would be interested in ideas from our ToffeeWeb group, there are many able people posting on this website.

In terms of Football Governance: 

Why do we need 3 organisations- The EFL, the Premier League and the FA? If we need 3 organisations, should we not have a ruling body overseeing them, taking in the whole picture, and acting in the best interests of all football? This body would be to the ultimate authority. I thought we had such an organisation — the FA.

Such a body to conduct a far-reaching review of football and have close detailed consultation with fans, supporters clubs, representatives from all leagues, and not just fans of the Sky 6.

Academies: it appears in the current situation that a club can develop players only for a cash-rich club to prise them away and not necessarily have to pay a large amount of money. The Liverpool team that were lauded for recently winning the League Cup with several youngsters did not find these players but they were in fact signed from other teams, probably from lower Leagues. This needs reviewing.

The Chelsea model (used by other clubs) of hoovering up many young players and loaning them to clubs at a fee… Is this in the spirit of the game? Is it to the possible detriment of players and the game in general?

Finances: Rationale — clubs to be equally valued

The nature of a league requires clubs to be genuinely competitive. At the moment, many clubs can only battle against the odds when playing against the Sky 6, with minimal possession and usually losing in the latter stages. This gives the false impression of competitiveness. In reality, they are cannon fodder.

All TV revenues to be allocated fairly. At the moment, overseas TV money is not a collective distribution as more goes to the Sky 6. Well done, Mr Scudamore.

Follow the American Football model regarding sale of club merchandise. Clubs keep revenue from goods sold within a radius of say 50 miles from their ground. All other sales go into a central fund for distribution where the governing body feels is appropriate and needed. Rationale: the competitiveness of a league requires all clubs to be equally valued.

A salary cap which might help clubs keep players long enough to build a team. Look at what happened to Southampton a few years ago and Brighton last summer, while commendably building competitive teams, their key players were pilfered and this negated any threat to the Sky 6.

Transfer of players: if a club makes a bid for a player and the player's club say he is not for transfer, then that is the end of the matter. If the player or his agent try to force a move, the bidding club will abide by the selling clubs' decision. If the player does not accept the decision and becomes disruptive, the governing body intervenes. There may be sanctions by the governing body. No club will be allowed to break this regulation. Contracts become meaningful. 

The Champions League:  I have to confess I am not sure what is required. It certainly has played a part in destabilising the competitiveness of our top league and the money to be gained. Perhaps clubs involved are awarded less from TV revenues. Any ideas to be gratefully received.

I would like to see a petition of 100,000 signatures handed to the Government and they may just discuss the inequalities of the Premier League model. Possibly the millions of fans not linked to the Sky 6 may at last be granted a voice.

Reader Comments (50)

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 03/03/2024 at 22:54:59
I've said for a long time a more interesting sport evolving would see football vanish from the TV and with it the last vestiges of popularity.

It's living on past glories and been in terminal decline regarding supporter numbers for decades; as entertainment, it is utter shite. You never used to see gaps at Old Trafford but you do now and the failure of Man City to develop an equivalent fan base despite their incredible success is another indicator.

Yes, clubs declare capacity crowds based on season ticket sales but the grounds certainly aren't full. The numbers for the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock have been set in the low 50k region for good reason – we've lost so many supporters it's doubtful we will fill that regularly after the novelty of the first season.

Bring back Covid — it was great without footy.

Brian Denton
2 Posted 03/03/2024 at 23:41:44
Very interesting article, but I fear only external pressures may change the Premier League. The European Super League may come back in some guise or other.

If the Saudi League takes off, it may be able to coax some top players in their prime to forego Man City, Liverpool etc by paying more than they can.

Presumably even if City's oil sheikhs can match Saudi cash, the FFP rules would prevent them doing so. Which would be quite ironic

Brendan McLaughlin
3 Posted 04/03/2024 at 00:25:23
Can't help but think it's us... the begrudgers and the naysayers.

We've grown so old but it's the game's fault... all that VAR, complicated offsides... handball... don't even get me started.

But when Everton run out onto that pitch... it doesn't matter... I believe again.

I've done it for 50+ years... I've no problem for doing it 50+ more.

Derek Thomas
4 Posted 04/03/2024 at 00:36:53

We, Everton... with help... did it!

We are those nameless ones Charlton Heston rails against, we helped to topple that Statue of Liberty into the sand.

Now the Sky 6 apes are ruling the world.

Damn you all to hell.

Bill Gall
5 Posted 04/03/2024 at 01:01:22
Good article Barry.
I wrote up on one of the results from a weekend and stated that it should have been intervened when Chelsea were bought by Abramovich and went from a mid table or lower club that suddenly started buying world class players and winning all sorts of Trophies and silverware that they had hardly ever won before. This started other clubs that with the rite owners they could do the same. This with the backing of Sky Sports had the F.A rubbing their hands with glee on how much money could be made. Now the genie is out of the bottle and the F.A. just don't know or care as long as their financial state stays.
Another thing I have disagreed with is the F.A. cup with both the Semi Finals and Final have to be played at Wembly to cover the cost. I understand the final being there but the semi's should be played as before on a neutral ground and I don't consider a semi of Everton v Chelsea or Newcastle v Arsenal, Wembly being a neutral ground.
Billy Shears
6 Posted 04/03/2024 at 01:12:23
We and thirteen other Premier League clubs are really to blame...

When the Sky 6 teams threatened to leave the League when the lure of more money became a reality with the Super League, what do the fourteen other clubs do!? ...shit themselves!!!

Sadly, they should've had a secret meeting threatening to turf the greedy six out once and for all... no mercy, no reprives, gone... and fucking forgotten.

We could've been part of a total rethink of the game we love, a strong voice to reshape the Premier League, its rules, laws and most important of all, its fans... general fairness across the board regarding FFP, proper ownership and general running of clubs.

Even new TV times allowing travelling fans to get to games and even breaking the fucking daft ruling on not allowing legal access to 3 pm live games on Saturdays.

As we all know, that ship has sadly sailed now and the Greedy 6 are still laughing at us... especially Man City!

Si Cooper
7 Posted 04/03/2024 at 01:20:17
Haven't Everton previously benefited from having a wealthy owner who was prepared to bankroll them?

What changed was the relative wealth, as with the rest of our society, has become a huge problem with a few clubs able to utilise the wealth of nations. There just aren't enough multi-billionaires to go around.

Why bang on about Sky? They are just exploiting a situation, not actually engineering anything. There is no reason restricting the number of successful clubs would actually be better for them. They just want subscribers.

Barry R thinks gaps in the stands is a sure sign the fans are rejecting what's on offer, but surely you can't do that unless you've properly eliminated cost of living and quasi-legal streaming giving an easy stay-at-home alternative for less dedicated fans from the mix of possibilities?

Brian Dagnall
8 Posted 04/03/2024 at 04:26:19
Good article and I feel 90% the same as you, Barry.

Si (#7) also makes a valid point about our previous benefactors. But I would counter by saying John Moores was a keen club supporter who put money in, as was Bob Lord at Burnley, Doug Ellis at Villa. These were keen supporters of the game, whereas the Top 6 companies and private equity investors we have now are clearly not.

A little surprised Barry didn't mention that these Top 6 are headed by well capitalised corporations, all of them foreign apart from Spurs. If someone could explain to me how these Middle East, or worse USA-based companies have the interests of British football at heart, I would like to hear it.

These countries have no background in our sport, but they are both rich. Their interest is purely financial, and the Premier League assists them because they too are only interested in matters financial.

Government Controller is the only chance we have. In my old days, Burnley won the League with a stack of great international players, Ipswich won it also and were relegated the next season. Not sure we could ever reach heights like that again.

Introduce big money into sport, it's the end of the sport. What you then have is business. Money corrupts. Big money corrupts absolutely.

Kieran Kinsella
9 Posted 04/03/2024 at 05:06:53
Barry Rathbone,

The empty seats argument is weak if you look back at attendances in the '80s. In fact, something worse has happened: fans of other clubs have adapted to supporting their own club as well as watching the Top Six.

Just look at the thread on Premier League games on ToffeeWeb each week. People celebrating goals for Man City, jeering at Liverpool and Man Utd.

They've developed emotional attachments to the elite. It's kind of like watching your kid's school play cause of an obligation then going to the West End.

Alan J Thompson
10 Posted 04/03/2024 at 05:23:04
It takes 14 Premier League clubs to change what they have put in place but they don't seem in too much of a hurry as they are, in the main, better off financially, certainly income-wise, than at any other time.

I can remember the shock that was caused by Accrington Stanley leaving the Football League while Bury hardly reached the same levels.

Was Abramovich the first or did that come with Jack Walker(?) at Blackburn Rovers? Haven't Everton been there since the days of outrageous £6,000 transfers from Scotland?

European competition aside, it's nothing new except for P&S regulations and would their removal make all clubs equally attractive to investors?

John Keating
11 Posted 04/03/2024 at 06:36:45
If The World's Greatest Evertonian hadn't told the Sheiks to keep going along the East Lancs Road, would we be having this conversation?

Somehow, I doubt it…

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 04/03/2024 at 08:35:27
The stadium was pretty much packed.

Of course many left at the end. Some as they like to get away and ahead of the crowd, others through frustration.

Just over 13,000 at what I still consider our darkest hour in December 1983.

I know they where different times but even our glorious 84-85 season, I think we hovered around 28,000 in a stadium that, at the time held 50,000 plus. I haven't checked so maybe a more savvy statistic can correct me.

Now we sell out every week. It's difficult to get a ticket and away matches are almost sold out before they are announced.

We have a waiting list for season tickets.

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 04/03/2024 at 08:58:36
Using Arsenal as an example, they declare sell-outs every week, yet you can visibly see the empty seats.

They sell out, both match day and season tickets, but I would be interested to see the actual attendance.

Ray Robinson
14 Posted 04/03/2024 at 09:27:21
You can call the Premier League for what you like and I agree totally that it needs wholesale reform to prevent the Top 6 monopolising trophies from now to eternity… but there is little doubt that football would have struggled to continue to exist without it.

The seventies and eighties were an awful time to watch football with widespread hooliganism. I lived on Walton Hall Avenue in the '70s and walked through Priory Road in the '80s – you had to have your wits about you just to stay safe getting to the game. And let's not mention away games.

The advent of all all-seater stadiums and the Premier League sanitised all that and helped the game regain its popularity. I certainly wouldn't have taken my kids to the game before it.

However, it certainly is time for a complete reset. Having six sides pull up the drawbridge after massive investment is anti-competitive and will ultimately kill the game.

On the subject of attendances in the '80s, there was unprecedented unemployment and hardship at the time which made it impossible for many to consider paying to watch football. Add to that the hooliganism and the fact that there was large scale fiddling of attendance figures to avoid VAT (no automatic turnstile counters then), it's little wonder that spectator numbers were down.

We averaged 32,725 in our title winning 84-85 season (up from 19,343 in 83-84 when we won the FA Cup). Liverpool and Man Utd were only in the upper 30,000s then too, if I remember rightly.

Rick Tarleton
15 Posted 04/03/2024 at 09:49:06
It's a cogent, rational argument, based on the premise of natural justice. In most European Leagues, however, this premise died long ago.

I remember teams like Bilbao or Sampdoria being in the European Cup. Now, the English League is unique in that it has six or possibly seven very wealthy clubs. Most have only two or at most three top clubs.

The European Super League was a blatant attempt to make sure the top European clubs never lost their place at the banquet.

Most fans in these countries have a local ('heritage' I think the experts call them) team and a big team. A relative of mine by marriage supports Ayr United and Rangers and when I go to Murcia people there support their local team, often Valencia or Real Murcia and one of the big two in Spain.

Everton under the Grantchesters got off the bus, and as this article tells us, it's near impossible to get back on.

Michael Lynch
16 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:04:33
We should have fought for the European Super League to happen, instead of fighting against it. The Premier League would have lost its power, and a complete reset might just have been possible.

Let's be honest, Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal belong in a completely different league to the likes of us and West Ham. Spurs are on the border, as they never actually win anything, but I'd be happy to go back to an old "First Division" without the five clubs mentioned.

I'll tune in every now and then to see how the European Super League goes, but my main focus will be on us, Newcastle, Villa, Brighton, Notts Forest, West Ham and other clubs with a great history and a massive local fan base in a competitive, high-quality professional English First Division. We'd still sell out every game.

Ray Roche
17 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:04:57
Ray, I remember going the match in the early sixties and when the attendance was announced the crowd would laugh!

The ground would be packed and the tannoy would announce '42,000, thank you' and the ground held 75,000!

John Keating
18 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:15:48
Rick @15, it's funny you mention Ayr and Rangers.

In my post @11, I mention us and the Sheikhs at Man City. Ayr and Rangers are a bit similar in a way.

If you remember, in the '80s, David Murray of MIM wanted to buy Ayr and transform the Club. The board – average age 108 – knocked him back. I think they didn't want him selling the pies and Bovril from a covered stand.

Anyway, Murray took his money, bought Rangers instead for £6 million and transformed Scottish football. Souness, Laudrup, Gascoigne, Gary and Trevor from us.

He forced Celtic and other Scottish Clubs to look outward and pay the going rate.

Ray Robinson
19 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:17:20
Yes, Ray. I used to go in the '60s too but I found the attendance announcements generally more realistic then. The daftest announcement I ever heard was the Sunderland 4-1 home win in the title-winning season (Gray's and Steven's wonder goals game) when the attendance was given as 36,000. Gwladys Street was heaving.

To be fair, in the '80s, the stands were quite often not fully occupied because only a few could afford the extra expense. We all experienced the doubling up at the turnstiles and kids “going over the top”.

Ray Roche
20 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:25:01
Yes, Ray, kids being lifted over before making their way to the monkey cage that was the Boys Pen! And that's where my seat is now.

I remember my dad saying "The place is full, how would you get another 35,000 in here?" It was laughable!

Darrel Pugh
21 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:31:52
Must accept that the Premier League was formed to protect the interests of the bigger organisations it represents, so it was intended to be a cartel for Sport, which is unlike the Football League, which takes a broader more sporting view.

It's no surprise therefore that, after 32 years, that's what we have. Everton's problem was backing itself to remain in the Top 5, getting it wrong and, when it mattered, then finding itself nowhere near its previous position.

No point blaming anyone for that, we backed ourselves in 1992 to stay a big club but, let's face it, we've never come close since.

The way younger generations consume everything has changed, football is no different, I think Sky and the Premier League are just a reflection of those interests.

Barry Rathbone
22 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:38:45
I touched on this recently but it's also the type of fan and the reason they attend that is different.

When I went in Neanderthal times, it was massively local with passionate fans there to support come what may. The vitriol and one-upmanship of who can hate players and management the most was not a thing, in fact, ripping into Everton personnel as per today was tantamount to treason.

Tourists and people on a jolly were a tiny minority back then but now it seems the reverse is true. The Brentford manager is voicing astonishment that some fans were booing when Chelsea went one up against them – it's a shite game these days for many reasons but a contributory factor is bellend fans.

Michael Lynch
23 Posted 04/03/2024 at 10:52:12
Darrel @21, that's fair comment, and also gives us the reply to the title of this piece "The Game I love Has Been Taken Away From Me" — yes it has, and either suck it up or stop watching top level football.

It's over for the "legacy" fan, unless you are happy to watch the same handful of clubs take it in turns to dominate the trophies and Champions League places ad infinitum, while your own club yo-yos between trying to avoid relegation and scrabbling for the crumbs left on the table when the Sky 6 have had their fill of the cake.

Christine Foster
24 Posted 04/03/2024 at 11:18:37
I think there are only two ways out of the situation.

1. Sky fail, a better distribution of monies in the leagues, independent regulation etc, less money, less viewing, the wheels come off the cart. Will it happen anytime soon? Nope.

2. The Premier League will form its own super league, with or without foreign clubs, with a second tier (domestic) Premier League 2... can't wait.

Frankly, the only reason the Premier League was so against the Super League originally,was because they didn't think of it first. Cue agreement with EFL for another 6 clubs to join Premier League 2.

The Premier League is the European Champions League, follow the money guys, it's going to happen.

Danny O’Neill
25 Posted 04/03/2024 at 11:20:25
As we are discussing old times, I still remember as a very young Danny being carried over the turnstile and passed into the ground quite a few times, assisted by the attendant who told everyone queuing to wait!!!
Dave Abrahams
26 Posted 04/03/2024 at 11:41:06
A very good article, Barry, that shows the way football is run today by the Premier League with a nod to the television companies and the top clubs who they run it for.

You give us plenty to think about with the changes you would like to see made that would benefit all clubs, especially those in all the lower leagues.

Speaking for myself purely as an Everton fan, I've seen a vast change following the club, firstly just after the Second World War as a mostly struggling First Division club, then a Second Division club, winning promotion, then more struggling until John Moore's took over.

He gave us interest-free loans which helped us climb to the very top of the English game and proved that money helps but definitely not as much as clubs are helped today.

Money can help but also ruin the same game with it buying the power to control the way the game is run. Money now controls football and those who run it and gives power to the players who earn it and can dictate how the club and their managers play the game.

At the moment, selfishly or not, I am only interested in how Everton FC are treated by these self-interested Premier League officials and we are being treated in a different and unfair way to the top level clubs in the same league.

Steve Brown
27 Posted 04/03/2024 at 12:17:34
One possible solution to this is for owners to put funds into a centrally controlled escrow fund to match any overspend above the PSR limit. The overspend could be capped as a percentage of revenue.

That should satisfy football authorities that an owner and club can be solvent and sustainable.

Mike Doyle
28 Posted 04/03/2024 at 12:23:15
Interesting post, Barry. I'd like to see a salary cap imposed on the squad (seems to work okay in pro sport in the USA – unless any of our American posters would disagree).

A more even distribution of the TV money (including more of it cascading down to the lower divisions) also appeals. At the recent hearing, Rick Parry explained that the other divisions are entirely dependent on what the Premier League decides to give them.

Plainly a regulator is required to take steps to improve competitiveness.

Rob Dolby
29 Posted 04/03/2024 at 13:46:58
The game isn't tailored for traditional football fans anymore.

The Premier League doesn't actually need match-going fans. The modern game is made for TV advertising and armchair telly clappers. (No offence meant to fans that can't get to the game…)

The money is from TV, not the turnstile. I think that's where we will struggle even at a new stadium. We have the highest percentage of season ticket holders in the league. Most of which just go to the game without buying a drink or a programme.

Other clubs purposely restrict season tickets and prioritise the one-off day tripper who will pay top money for a ticket and buy as much merchandise as possible.

VAR has certainly made going the match a worse experience for all… but, for the TV viewers, it's another talking point.

Rearranging games at short notice is another TV enhancement but another 2 fingers up to the fans.

I dislike quite a lot about the modern game, the diving, cheating the ref, the abuse the 4th official gets, the overhype of every TV game, the talking heads talking for the sake of it and very selective TV coverage of the media darlings.

I do love the tactics, pace of the game and technical skills of the modern game. I think it's the highest standard of football ever played. The Champions League has overtaken the World Cup and Euros as the premier football competition.

Things I would like to change:

Time limits for players taking goal kicks, throw-ins, corners and keeper possession.

Physios being allowed on the pitch whilst the game is going on.

Reduce the amounts of subs.

Transparent way of monitoring added time, display it on the scoreboard or TV so we all know what's going on.

VAR will never be abandoned so I would bring in 1 appeal per team rather than everything being checked for every goal. Audio broadcast to the stadium for VAR decisions.

Anything level being onside to actually see more goals.

PSR would be abandoned. I would replace it with a reverse recruitment system where the team topping the league can only bring in 1 player whilst the team at the bottom can bring in multiple.

That's my starter for 10.

Rick Tarleton
30 Posted 04/03/2024 at 13:54:26
I remember those days in the fifties and sixties when, in midwinter, games started at 2:15, pre-floodlights, and working men came carrying a khaki knapsack after finishing work at 1 o'clock. There were frequently well over 50,000 at Goodison, 90% male. You couldn't buy food or alcohol in the ground.

The game has evolved, but not all of the evolution, particularly post-Sky, has been an improvement. Everton lost their way in the late '80s and even more so when Johnson and Kenwright ruled the roost.

Moshiri came in too late, but his decisions have been appalling, especially when one considers he's an international businessman and an accountant to boot.

Nostalgia leads me back again and again to Young and Vernon and then the Holy Trinity. I was lucky to see those glory days and the renaissance under Kendall in the '80s.

But Barry is totally right: that kind of club and that kind of local allegiance has gone. Football is global, Liverpool has as many fans in Stavanger and Tokyo or even Durban where I attended a cricket 20 - 20 international and counted 17 Liverpool shirts on the evening.

We used to ask: "Who's your second club?" and many Evertonians in the '50s might have said Liverpool; my first trip to Wembley was in '65 to see Liverpool v Leeds Utd with my red supporting relatives. (Norman Low was an uncle so a ticket wasn't too hard to come by.)

Two of those relatives were with me a year later for the Derek Temple FA Cup Final. Now Liverpool are referred to as the Redshite and we hate them and vice versa.

The world has changed and not just money rules, which it has in all honesty since the maximum wage was abolished, but absolute mega money rules.

Liverpool, Blackburn and Leicester have each won the Premier League once; otherwise four clubs have dominated it for the last 30+ years.

Most kids support one of those four teams, not just in the area, not just in the country, but globally. Yes, my game has gone and it won't come back, I'm afraid.

Incidentally, between 1959 and 1971, the following clubs won the First Division:

Wolves, Burnley, Tottenham, Ipswich, Everton, Liverpool, Man Utd, Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City, Leeds Utd, Everton and Arsenal — quite a contrast to the last 30-odd years.

Sean Mitchell
31 Posted 04/03/2024 at 14:06:14
Football is shite now.

Greed, play acting, cheating, corruption.

Media bias to the pricks across the park is another.

The love for the game is nearly hate.

It'll be more hate and cancelled subscriptions when Everton are punished further and the pricks win the league (which they will).

Bring back '90s football. We were shite, but the entertainment was there.

Chris Keher
32 Posted 04/03/2024 at 14:53:59
Whilst we as a club have to take responsibility for now being disenfranchised (as we were in the enviable position of being one of the gatekeepers to the closed shop), there is no getting away from the fact that most of the teams throughout the leagues must just have an overiding sense of hopelessness about the whole situation.

Spurs and Chelsea, for example, are two (big) clubs that we had pretty much always been bigger than. They were just lucky enough to have got good at the right time – and fair fucks to them btw. But even they can't realistically close the gap on Arsenal, Liverpool or Man City any time soon even if they were inclined to spend the money.

For me, football now holds none of the excitement it did even 5 years ago. The Premier League is in serious danger of eating itself IMHO. If fans like me (44 years old, had a season ticket for about 30 to 35 of those years) is getting disillusioned with it all, then they have serious problems.

Eddie Dunn
33 Posted 04/03/2024 at 16:21:56
Things changed after the tragedies of Hillsborough and the Bradford fire.
Then the Govt implemented the Taylor report and the terraces disappeared.
That bloody book "Fever Pitch" got all of the chattering classes to indulge in the new, clean, hooligan-free product.
Sky inflated the wages and the monster began to grow.
The club owners of Everton and others got lazy, then got bypassed and were totally dependent on that TV money.
Now it's a cartel.
A cesspool of greed and corruption.
Goodison has grown quieter, not just because the football has gone worse, the spectators have grown old.
Season tickets have prevented the kids from rolling up on spec and despite our club's good record on prices, if you live in London, you need a good income to attend regularly.
Then you have football tourism.
The clubs don't really care for the fans. And the chasm between players and fans is massive.
I cancelled Sky years ago and cancelled BT a few years back. Now I only have Amazon and the free streams.
However, everything changes and the football mammoths of today can still fall victim to the cavemen.
A world war, a new pandemic, an asteroid
Kevin Edward
34 Posted 04/03/2024 at 18:10:05
Good article and something that I've thought about too.

I started watching football in the late seventies and by the early eighties, the crowds were not always big but the buzz of being in a crowd, the singing, the rivalry and the way that games played out on muddy pitches made the sport brilliant to watch.

Yes, there were problems, but mostly the bad behaviour of some fans was reflecting the society of the time. Naturally, times changed, but for me mostly all the buzz has been sanitised.

When it was decided that football was part of the ‘entertainment' industry, it lost its way. Thumping music playing in stadiums, meddling with the rules, and giant foam hands and plastic flags have ruined match days for me.

Modern players are great athletes, but not many are great footballers. But the spoonfeeding of the media keeps a gravy train on the tracks which sells seats.

But, for all the reasons in the article, it's really not that great anymore for the ordinary fans. To pay hundreds of pounds for a ticket to watch two teams passing a ball around, rarely shooting at goal, and the referee and the VAR effectively deciding the result is just nuts.

It's not about preferring it when we were winning, it's just the modern game isn't that good. As a customer, I'm lost to the elite game already. I'll love Everton still but I'll watch non-league.

David West
35 Posted 04/03/2024 at 19:28:12
It's gone from us here now because they are pitching to a worldwide fan base now.

A fan in China paying his TV subscription is more valuable to the Premier League than a fan who goes the match, because its new money, they don't care if Stamford bridge is half empty for a Champions League game, they still draw a TV audience.

They want the rich teams playing in the big games, for the big audience, for their massive sponsorship that's it!

Do they want Brighton - Aston Villa on the last day, fighting for 4th? Or Spurs - Man Utd?

The very thing that made the league so big and a spectacle was the competitive nature of it; that's gone, every now and then, we will get someone like Villa crashing the Top 4 but Man Utd will just spend £500M again, Spurs will splash the cash and Villa will probably sell their prized players.

An equal playing field, equal transfer budget, would be the only way to equalise the massive differences now, and that's never going to happen.

Ray Robinson
36 Posted 04/03/2024 at 21:12:14
How many of the following will be at their current clubs next season?

Mitoma, Evan Ferguson, Neto, Palhinha, Olise, Eze, Toney, Garner, Onana, Branthwaite, Gibbs-White, Barkley, Solanke

And who will buy them? The Big Six or Seven.

Is it any wonder the poorer teams cannot compete?

Also, I read that Leicester, should they come up, will have to sell players to comply with Premier League P&S rules!

Peter Mills
37 Posted 04/03/2024 at 21:27:50
I've just checked the score at Bramhall Lane, to see what kind of evening my Blades son-in-law and my 5-year-old grandson (who go home and away) are having. 0-5. Sorry, 0-6 now. And all the commentators are talking about is record scores.

Great stuff, if you enjoy fish in a barrel being shot. Despite the fact we need Sheffield Utd to go down, I feel sorry for the Blades fans, we had a great weekend amongst them at the start of the season.

Peter Mills
38 Posted 04/03/2024 at 21:52:08
And another thing, the commentator (not Alan Smith) is a real arse. No sense of perspective, no hint of why Arsenal might be so superior to Sheffield Utd, just oozing about the magnificence of the Gunners.

I really should not have switched it on.

Neil Tyrrell
39 Posted 04/03/2024 at 00:37:57
Good article, thanks for posting. Wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed reading it because it's in the "sad but true" category, but it's a subject that I'm sure any of us who watched footy before the formation of the PL have thought about.

I for one would love to see the PL impose a hard salary cap, living in Toronto I follow the major North American sports leagues and the salary cap system works, especially in tandem with the draft model. You just don't see dynasties like the late 70s/early 80s Islanders and Steelers winning 4 in a row anymore. To even win (say) 2 out of 3 you need a generational talent like Brady, Mahomes, Crosby, Jordan etc. The playoff format to win trophies also has a lot to do with this, but the cap system (especially a hard cap) keeps the playing field a lot closer to level than the PL will ever be. By my quick googling and maths:

17 different teams have won the Stanley Cup since 1992 (over half the number of teams in the NHL)

17 different teams have won the Super Bowl (again, over half)

13 different teams have won NBA titles (almost half, and the NBA has a soft cap)

17 different teams have won the World Series (again over half, and again a soft cap)

In the same period 7 teams have won the PL, including Blackburn who got in before the dominance was really established, and Leicester who were a once in a century fairy tale. It's basically a closed shop barring another Leicester type miracle.

Granted, the relatively few number of games played in the PL is a factor, and as previously stated so are the draft system and playoff models. But a salary cap wouldn't hurt in making the league more competitive. If nothing else, it would prevent the big 5 + Spurs from having better players on their bench every week than most of the other 14 cannon fodder teams could ever dream of. Would also help enforce fiscal responsibility on teams with clueless boardroom leadership. Bring it on.

Tony Abrahams
44 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:23:00
Peter @37, it's a really good point and explains a lot about modern day life, with an often very cynical and nepotistic approach coming from a lot of the media.

Financial Fair Play or Profitability and Sustainability levels, my arse, especially because the Champions League gravy train is 99% reserved for the special few because of these rules.

The biggest argument (imo) between Rick Parry and Masters, at the latest enquiry, was about parachute payments. Masters wanted these because he wanted to keep the Premier League competitive (this season's three promoted clubs, are light years behind, although Luton got a second wind when Everton were given that draconian points deduction) whilst Parry, didn't want them because he felt it was giving the relegated clubs an unfair advantage in the Championship.

Parry wanted to distribute the wealth to everyone, because he believed this was better and also much fairer, but the Premier League don't seem to be interested in doing such a thing and much prefer to keep a closed shop with regard to the Champions League places.

Danny O’Neill
45 Posted 05/03/2024 at 08:36:50
FFP (Uefa) and the Premier League's P&S Rules.

When introduced, it sounded like a good concept.

All it seems to have done is cement the pseudo Super League and prevent others from breaking into the club.

Get them (Premier League) properly regulated and held accountable outside of their cigar-smoking self-appreciating club.

Dave Abrahams
46 Posted 05/03/2024 at 09:06:52
Tony (44),

One of your favourite singers sang “Those who are first will later be last” — That doesn't apply to the Premier League in its present form… more like those who are first will stay there.

Will the fans of the “also-rans” continue to watch this very poor handicap race?

Andy Crooks
47 Posted 05/03/2024 at 11:07:20
I agree that the Premier League value overseas subscribers, sponsors, advertisers etc more than match-going fans. However, it is a fundamental misjudgement that could destroy them.

Fans are a major component of what all the foregoing pay their money for. During Covid, televised football without fans was dead in the water, lifeless soulless training games.

Every Sky advert sells passion; without it, the cash cow is dead. For me, the best moment at Saturday's game was the crowd's reaction to Beto's goal and Beto's reaction to the crowd. Without this, the Premier League have no product.

Football cannot survive without match-going fans and it gives the supporters tremendous power. Unfortunately, it is an unusable weapon. We are customers who invest emotionally and we are treated with contempt because of it.

A genuine one-day boycott of premier league football would shake the sport to its foundations, but it could never happen. We don't invest in football, we invest in Everton. We are major performers in the biggest sporting product in history and our reward is to be treated like shit.

Tony Abrahams
48 Posted 05/03/2024 at 15:08:46
Beware of good concepts, Danny, until you have read the small print and been able to judge for yourself who this concept really suits.

After reading your post, Dave, I read Andy's, and together they really resonated with the militant mind I have always possessed!

Seriously, I've been saying it for years, and believe that fundamental misjudgment is actually caused by people who can't see past a pound note. A lot of things about modern day football are rotten to the core but maybe it's always been this way and I've never seen it before!

Dale Self
49 Posted 05/03/2024 at 15:58:02
Andy 47, brilliant observation! As the league chases the revenues provided by more fickle fans, the league that serves them will end up less stable.

I could see them continually churning the bottom half of the league to invite new fashionable teams as they dump others out. It might end up like the WWF where the outcome is known but the fans want to see the play acted out. Does anyone watch the stars of the Saudi League? No one who is serious about football.

I see David 35, also pointed that out. Good stuff both of you.

Stephen Vincent
50 Posted 05/03/2024 at 20:07:02
Really thought-provoking OP.

The problem is that, as fans, we don't own the club and consequently have very little, if any, say in how they are run; until the ownership model fundamentally changes, then nothing else will change.

The only reason that ownership and fans interests align is because we all want success on the pitch but there the mutual interest stops. The owner wants success as it enhances the value of his or her investment, whereas the fan wants the same thing but for entirely different motives, it makes us feel good for the week, we feel that we are part of something, almost family.

So believing that in some way we can persuade Boehly, Louis, Kronke, Mansour, Henry, Glazer and maybe Staveley to voluntarily surrender income is entirely delusional. This to a certain extent is understandable as they own these companies (because that is all they are to these people). They are in it for long-term capital gain, they are neither altruistic nor philanthropic and indeed why should they be?

It's like believing that, if Sayer's were in trouble financially Gregg's would come along and give up a bit of the sausage roll market – it just isn't going to happen.

Kevin Kolasinski
51 Posted 06/03/2024 at 00:25:21
I guess one way is to follow the Bundesliga Model where fans have a say on just about everything.

And I know the Premier League has more money than them but give the game back to the fans.

Dean Johnson
52 Posted 06/03/2024 at 08:39:08
I stopped "buying" sky products 3 years ago. This year I will end the BT Sport sub, or whatever the fuck it's called now due to latest takeovers.

Too much diving, too many sliding tackles and a bunch of useless mercenaries who are taking more money but providing less of a product.

Where's our Arteta and Cahill? Where is Arsenal's Henry and Bergkamp? Where's the new Drogba? Where is the new Zidane? Ronaldo (real and not real)?

All you get is more charlatans not prepared to do the work, only there to get their wages.

Football is no longer fun to watch as there are no mavericks. I mean where's the Carbone or di Canio? Times when every club had at least one amazing player like Jay-Jay Okocha.

Football now has the worst value for money quotient than ever in history. Price out the hooligans so you can sit and calmly watch multi-millionaires go through the motions.

I stopped going to games years ago, I am in the process of signing off from all this shit via TV. But we're spending millions on a new stadium to watch this shite.

I'm certainly not the only one who thinks like this, having a look in the stands recently, mostly people are old. What happens when the old guard die?

Joe McMahon
53 Posted 06/03/2024 at 09:02:25
Dean @52, your post got me thinking, even the few yew years of the premier league were entertaining. You mention Henry and Bergkamp, yes, what players in a faboulas team. Henry particularly was just a joy to watch.

I did also like watching Cantona strutt his stuff, the guy had so much presence. But correct – football is sterile now, just too many multi-millionaires, and a ridiculous media that fawn over the chosen teams.

Jeff Armstrong
54 Posted 16/03/2024 at 19:10:36
Dean, that late '90s vibe you mentioned with Di Canio, Carbone, Cantona, Henry, Okocha, Junhnio etc etc was probably the Sky Premier League at its peak.

Currently, and forever going forward, it's a boring snore fest and they have become so embroiled in the “product” that Sky and the Premier League are absolutely killing the sport they believe they invented!

Good luck to them... the game (that we all grew up with, and loved) is over.

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