The Premier League has committed almost half a billion pounds extra to player wages rather than the £285m to the wider pyramid from the deal offered in 2021, according to English Football League chair Rick Parry.
The figure was outlined as the football governance bill enters its “absolute final stages”, according to the government, with the expectation of being passed into law before Easter. That will bring the establishment of an independent regulator, that will have backstop powers to force the Premier League into a deal, that the EFL wants at a 75-25 split. The top division has as yet made no offer, as it has also developed a cumulative wage bill that is £2bn more than any of the four other major leagues in Europe.
The argument made at an EFL dinner event was that Premier League clubs are working against their own interests in not agreeing a deal since 14 of the competition’s clubs have not been fixed members at an average of 13 years in the division, and so many of its players come through the pyramid. Fortifying that is the view that the advantage over the rest of Europe is now so great that there isn’t even the same competitive necessity, which is why more can be done to help the wider pyramid.
“We haven’t had an offer from the Premier League,” Parry said. “Let’s be clear. Let’s also make it clear that’s a matter of choice. It’s quite telling to look at the four years since we’ve been at this – 2020 we really started saying we needed a fundamental financial reset.
“What’s happened since then? The White Paper published established there was a £4bn gap between the turnover of Premier League clubs and Championship clubs. By the time 2023 accounts are published, that will have grown to 5 billion.
“Secondly, if we look at where the Premier League sits with other European leagues in terms of competitive balance, we did some analysis in 2019 and we discovered that the Premier League was paying £1.6bn more than the other four major leagues in Europe. That’s an enormous chasm. Since then, that gap has widened to £2bn. They’re outstripping the opposition.
“Finally, in the three years since 2020-21, the Premier League has decided collectively to increase its wage bill by £500m. Again, that is choice. There’s no sane economic reason for doing it. That’s what the clubs have decided to do.
“We have been prepared to compromise and what we are looking for is a 75-25 split of media revenues. We want to move away from the cliff edge, want to remove parachute payments and make our clubs solvent. The 75-25 split does that. Had the Premier League agreed to that 75-25 split in 2021, it would have cost them £285m a year. A significant sum of money. But instead, they decided to increase their wage bill by 500m.
“So don’t ever say they can’t afford it. This is about desire and priority. Football can’t do this. It needs an independent view. The regulator must have powers not only to set the financial regulations but to also set redistribution levels. In terms of regulation, better distribution goes hand in hand. They are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. And if the regulator cannot deal with redistribution then we would say the regulator cannot meet its primary strategic objective of securing sustainability and resilience. Football has shown it can’t solve the problem itself so we need help.”
Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough said the deal is in the Premier League’s best interests in the long term and declared himself saddened that the game has come to a quite fractious negotiation that will require government intervention.
“I think over 20 current England players have experienced the EFL in some form, which goes to show,” Clough said. “It’s in the Premier League’s best interests to have a strong EFL and to have a strong non-league because ultimately that’s where their players will come from and gain the experience to become the players they do.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Premier League came and sat down, ‘we recognise the EFL, the contribution of the EFL and below and everything, I’ll tell you what, we don’t need a regulator because we would like to help, we would like to come and help you, let’s even things out, we’ve got enough’. It’s not like as if they’re going to be skint or anything like that, we’re not talking about taking a 50-50 split or anything like that, it’s about helping these clubs in these communities by association and everything.
“There’s more than enough to go around and it makes me feel very sad that it has to come to this, to a parliamentary bill or whatever, to actually impose it. It would be much, much nicer if it was voluntary.”
Parry added that this was simply about creating sustainable football.
“We are absolutely behind the bill and the regulator. Our focus is making clubs sustainable. We don’t want to stifle ambition. We don’t want to stifle investment. We want to reduce the dependence on owner funding which is what goes wrong when owner funding dries up.”