A Self-perpetuating Elite?

12 May 2021 | 8 comments

Following the abortive European Super League fiasco, the Government has announced a fan led review of football governance in England. A lot of press comment on this review has focussed on fan involvement and independent regulation but the terms of reference for the review also covers football finance – specifically to “Examine the flow of money through the football pyramid, including solidarity and parachute payments, and broadcasting revenue”.

Money, of course was at the heart of the Super League proposals where the self-styled elite teams of Europe wanted to access more money for themselves on a regular basis. However, even without a super league, these teams are still benefiting from a structure that overly rewards teams at the top creating what the well-known football writer Jonathan Wilson describes as self-perpetuating elite.

Evidence for this in English football can be easily gleaned from looking at historical league tables and is illustrated in the chart below. The chart shows the number of different clubs that secured a top 3 finish in the top division in England over a rolling 10-year period since the Football League was formed in 1888. So, for instance, the last point shows that for the 10 seasons 2010/11 to 2019/20 seven different teams finished in the top 3 over those 10 seasons.

What the chart shows is that the competitiveness of the English Top division has reduced considerably in recent years with a top 3 finish in the league concentrated in a much smaller number of clubs than was previously the case before the EPL came into being.

Up until the formation of the EPL in 1992 the number of different clubs finishing in the top 3 during a 10-year period averaged 13. However, after the formation of the EPL that number started dropping and since 2005 the number of different teams finishing in the top 3 in any 10-year period has fallen to between 5 and 7 clubs with most of those clubs being the ‘Big Six’. Indeed, apart from Leicester City in 2016, one has to go back to the 1999/2000 season to find a team finishing in the top 3 who isn’t one of these ‘Big Six’ Clubs.

This increasing structural concentration of success has come about through three developments – the move to Clubs taking all of their home gate receipts in League games instead of these being shared, the advent of the Premier League TV deals with greater rewards for the top teams and an expanding European Champions League with increasing revenues. The end result is that success in English Football is now concentrated in far fewer teams than historically it has ever been. The Trust would argue this is not healthy for the game in England and needs addressing as part of the Government review.

One idea to address this would be to introduce a European Competition levy that would take a percentage (say 40%) of European Revenue for English participants in the Champions and redistribute it to the rest of the Premier League/football pyramid to try and level up the playing field, coupled with a fairer share out of domestic TV money.

As fans the Trust thinks we should be pushing ideas on a fairer distribution of revenues in the game as much as pushing for some fan involvement in club decision making.

Blues Trust



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  1. WayCoolBlue

    I agree with most of that. But perhaps a mire evenly distribution of games shown on TV would make a massive difference. If I’ve got this right after checking sky sports broadcasting for football matches in the Premier League this season.
    It’s as followed.

    Home games on sky.
    Not including cup matches
    Or games shown on the red button.

    1-Manchester City 16,
    2-Liverpool 16,
    3-Manchester United 15,
    4-Chelsea 15,
    5-Arsenal 14,
    6-Tottenham 14,
    7-West Ham 12,
    8-Leicester 12,
    9-Newcastle 10,
    10-Southampton 10,
    11-Aston Villa 7,
    12-Everton 7,
    13-Burnley 6,
    14-Wolves 6,
    16-Fulham 5,
    17-Crystal Palace 5,
    18-Brighton 4,
    19-West Brom 4,
    20-Sheffield United 4,

    If that is correct just taken from sky sports coverage data. There is a massive amount of uneven Broadcasting there. So this shows that certain clubs not all of them the biggest getting a much bigger share of TV rights.

    I don’t know if it works the same way in the championship but if it does I would imagine that Birmingham City or towards the bottom of the list.

  2. Bill

    There’s absolutely no doubt that media payments are not distributed fairly and also that gate receipt are kept by the home club despite the fact that without away opposition there would be no match to be played. The BBC when they are given a game to televise always seem to pick some clubs games disproportionately too.
    The outcome of the Premleague title England is becoming so predicictable it’s in danger of ruining the competition and this is spreading to the EFL as well because of the disproportionate allocation of income.
    Scotland has had this problem for years with it looking every year with only one of two clubs in the running for the top league title every year.
    Distribution of media income is therefore the most pressing issue and needs to be seriously addressed. Other issues should detract from this.
    P.S. The table on televised matches was enlightening but I think Southampton were listed twice and Leeds not mentioned.

    • Bill

      I should have said in the last paragraph that ‘other issues should NOT detract from this.

    • John Paget

      Well said Bill. as with many other sports the money goes to those who already have it so lesser teams cannot compete financially and therefore in turn cannot compete full stop. I have always said that Scotland is a two team nation and as you correctly point out English football is going in much the same way.

      And well picked up with your Leeds/Southampton quote too.

  3. R Smith

    Interesting that in the USA, the land of profit above all else, they have realised that if you want a sport to remain popular you have to make it competitive, and try not to allow a small group of teams to dominate all the time. Yet here we give more and more to fewer and fewer clubs.
    Sky have helped wreck English football and the FA have colluded with them. Newspapers have not helped with their blanket coverage of a handful of clubs and their disinterest in all the rest.
    A whole new attitude from everyone involved is needed. Don’t hold your breath.

    • John P

      Also the BBC has to take some of the blame, there are supporters of 92 professional clubs in English football paying our TV licences, yet the corporation only shows just over 20% of all our clubs.

      • Andy G

        That is a very good point and as license payers we should all be demanding a better distribution of football coverage.

  4. Mitchell

    Afraid it is all about supply and demand. Also being honest enough to admit the fact that would you want to see Man.Utd. V. Liverpool live on Sky or Brighton v Burnley. Big six clubs will always get the coverage.

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