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EPL Is Addicted To Money – Including Yours!

Yet more unrest looms in this year of discontent for EPL football, this time circling around the thorny question of pay per view coverage of games. Subscribers to Sky to BT who already fork out a hefty monthly fee for the privilege of watching Premier League football are, quite understandably, a little miffed at the thought of having to hand over another fifteen quid for the early evening delights of West Brom against Burnley.

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By Dave Bowler –

Many years ago, Albion were involved in the first live game where the crowd outnumbered the TV viewers – a League Cup tie at Cambridge screened by OnDigital – and even with the Burnley fame taking place behind closed doors, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn they’d done it again.

At a time when the economy is on its knees and going lower, when job security doesn’t seem to exist and where uncertainty rules, the thought of forking out yet more money to watch a football match is simply beyond consideration for many.

Albion manager Slaven Bilic took up the cudgels on behalf of the fans after the game, blasting the pay per view concept. Bilic seems to be someone who understands the common man and woman, appreciates the financial pressures they are under, so it’s good that he spoke out.

However, we can assume that Bilic is very well rewarded for doing his job. We know that in keeping with all the other clubs in the Premier League, his spent heavily on recruiting new talent this summer, well aware that we are still in the teeth of a pandemic and liable to be playing to empty grounds for most, if not all of the season. We can assume again that those new players, in keeping with all the others in the PL, joined on lucrative contracts. So the question is simple. Who is paying for it? As ever, the answer is the fans. I know, you’re shocked.


Football has always been a business, right the way back to the 19th century. It was never a philanthropic exercise, though there were philanthropic owners who kept the show on the road. But essentially, football has always had to raise money in order to spend it. And you raise money from your consumers, like any business does.

The change came with the Premier League in 1992, the point when television took over. It brought with it huge sums of money for the time and allowed the English game to go out and bring in international talents, Klinsmann, Bergkamp, Gullit, Zola and all the rest. In that, it was a good thing.

But it also meant that English football had become addicted to the money fix that only TV could provide for without it, bankruptcy loomed. And so it has bumbled along ever since, new companies joining Sky as domestic providers.

Sky, BT, Amazon, they are all businesses, not charities. They negotiate with the Premier League and hand over huge wads of money for a specific number of live games, somewhere around half the season’s fixtures. For the conclusion to last term, amid the current chaos, they went so far as to make all the games available live, some even free to air.


But you would be mad to imagine that a business with shareholders is going to buy into that for long, and so you get this season’s pay per view set up.

The fault doesn’t lie with Sky et al. The fault lies with football clubs who for nearly 30 years now have sold their souls to the TV companies simply because they have seen them as the latter day version of the golden tit, as Jack Hayward once described himself at Wolves.

They have been addicted to money and have spent every penny they get and then a bit more, largely because they have never been strong enough to grasp the nettle of sound business practice themselves. The executives never can take on the manager or the dressing room, never can ask why it is that they are paying a third choice goalkeeper £1million a year just to sit on the bench once a season in the League Cup.

Instead, the Premier League has been like the oil industry used to be – so much cash sloshing around it that no questions needed to be asked. But Covid has turned off the taps. Supporters aren’t allowed in. They still want to see the games. But the clubs can’t make them freely available any longer, but instead need to get the fans to pump more money in. Why? Because eventually, if you sell yourself so completely, your pimp is going to expect you to dance for your supper…

Dave Bowler is the author of “The Magic of the Cup 1973/74”, telling the story of Liverpool’s FA Cup win in 1974. Available here: – 

Follow the magic of the cup on Twitter:  @MagicOfFACupfa cup book cover

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