Damaging the foundations

One knock on effect of the potential creation of the European Super League has been the concern over how an similar event in the future would lead to the reduction in revenues that the Premier League would likely see from future broadcast deals and commercial partnerships. Whilst there were fourteen other teams in the Premier League who weren’t planning on leaving, it is fair to say that a significant amount of revenue is generated indirectly for the league by the six sides who planned to join the new organisation. Consequently, the revenue impact would not only have been and would be felt by the remaining clubs, but also in a reduction in funding to other areas of the game.

One organisation that has been instrumental in changing the lives of many clubs, players, fans and volunteers right down into the grass roots of the game is the Football Foundation. Their work has seen clubs able to build new community facilities and new ways to generate revenues. That has only been possible by funding from a number of sources which includes the Premier League.

Since 2000 when the Football Foundation was created, it has supported over 17,000 grassroots sports projects with grants worth £684m. Combined with partnership funding, investment into community football projects across the country now exceed £1.5bn in total worth. There’s few clubs around that haven’t at some point benefited from the foundation. Thanks to the organisation, we have been able to build a fantastic 3G floodlight training facility adjacent to The Dripping Pan that is used extensively by the club and the local community – our affiliated junior teams, mental wellbeing, Vets and pathway teams all use it on a regular basis. Without access to that funding, we wouldn’t have been able to build it.

So any impact on the contributions the Premier League can make to the Foundation would ultimately impact football at the grass roots level. If the level of funding available through the Football Foundation is reduced because of the knock-on effect of any similar European Super League competition, then it would restrict what clubs can access funds for community projects and the amounts they are able to use. The impact on local communities could be significant – since 2000, according to the Premier League, the following facilities have been funded through the Football Foundation

  • 829 artificial grass (Astroturf) pitches
  • 3,160 natural grass pitches
  • 1,091 changing facilities
  • 182 multi-use games areas

In the words of the Premier League, you can see the potential impact losing some or all of this funding would cause:

“The facilities do not just help to increase sports participation. Some of the new facilities are used to strengthen the bond between professional football clubs and their local communities, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country – with the aim of becoming hubs for football club community organisations’ outreach work.”

In some of the early press releases and articles about the creation of the European Super League, there was talk of “solidarity” payments being made by the clubs who break away, up to €400m according to a report published by the Financial Times but whether that would have ever materialise is another matter.

As well as the Football Foundation, the Premier League also funds a number of charitable initiatives such as Premier League Kicks and the PFA Community Fund, which would also be impacted by a reduction in the revenue generated by the commercial and broadcast deals.

This was without a doubt a watershed moment for English Football. We’ve had them before – events that radically change the way we consume or think about the game. The creation of the Premier League, the first European manager and the change in approach to games, the first overseas billionaire owner, the Bosman ruling and of course the latest TV deals. All transformational in a way, but each has ultimately delivered some benefit to the English game. The ESL has proved to be highly embarrassing for the clubs involved but the danger that one day it will happen is real. And if it does it will destroy value, both financial and reputational, away from our game, a void that will stretch deep down into the roots of the game and be almost impossible to fill.

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