Memory Lane – Premier League, Europe and TV

For the International break, Pattrick highlights a couple of articles that appeared in the Everton Matchday programme back in 1993, relating to these perennial topics.

Due to the International break and the Memory Lane article I'm currently writing being already too large, I thought I would see what people think of two articles from the 1993 Everton vs Leeds United programme, which gives some insight into how and why the game in England and Europe developed the way it did during the last 20 years.

In the first article, then manager Howard Kendall, in his regular column, was wondering if it was a time for change, with regards to various facets of the English game. Following a meeting of the LMA – League Managers Association – a number of proposals were put forward to the Football Association and the Premiership Clubs. Howard Kendall gave his views on some of the proposals.

On the idea of a mid-season break in January, Howard said that he was against it mainly due to the unpredictability of the British climate.

The idea of reducing the number of clubs in the Premiership to 18 didn’t appeal to Howard Kendall either as he thought a reduction to less than 20 teams in the top-flight would be a step too far for the clubs as they would miss the revenue that the games produce.

But he would prefer to see only one cup competition rather than reduce the league to 18 clubs. If the League Cup was to continue, then Mr Kendall suggested it follows the same format as in Scotland where it is completed by Christmas.

Allowing England matches to be played on a Saturday was a suggestion that Mr Kendall was open to, and he said that it would only fair to allow the England manager to have a full week’s preparation time with his squad.

Another proposal was to introduce what we now know as the transfer window; Howard could see the sense in this idea as he thought it would settle players down and it would cut out a lot of interference by those people who have influence over players as they would lose the opportunity to unsettle the players.

On the other hand, it would restrict clubs from moving out players and bringing in new ones and, when results were going against managers, they would not have the option to buy-in replacements for players who are injured or suffering a loss in form.

The Beeb’s Moral victory was the title of a comment article which looked at the ramifications of English clubs losing their place in the various European competitions. Aston Villa, Manchester United, Norwich City and Arsenal had all qualified for Europe and ITV had chosen to cover three of the clubs, not including Norwich City. The BBC decided to do a deal and show Norwich’s European exploits and – due to the shock demise of Aston Villa, who lost to Spanish club Deportivo De La Coruna (1-2) in the second round of the Uefa Cup, and Manchester United who lost to Galatasaray (3-3) on the away goals rule in the European Cup second round. ITV’s football schedule had been decimated as only Arsenal remained available for coverage but they did not have a game in the European Cup Winnners Cup until March of the following year.

During the previous season, ITV had turned their attentions to Glasgow Rangers when Leeds United were knocked out, by them. That wasn’t an option this time round as Glasgow Rangers had already been knocked out.

The article reported that Bob Burrows (ITV Head of Sport) said “But what emerges from last weeks’ defeats is that ITV will no longer pay such enormous rights fees unless the English, and possibly Scottish, champions are guaranteed a place in the round-robin leagues, so providing quality matches for live coverage. UEFA are now looking at the problem. Should they broaden the competition to more clubs and keep the big names out as in the FA Cup until later stages? Who would have thought that Galatasaray would wreak such havoc?”

Continuing the theme of football and live television coverage, the article turned its attention to domestic matters, and it noted that every club in the Premier League had made at least one appearance and that the Sky cameras had been to 17 grounds but Goodison, Highbury and Hillsborough had yet to feature, whilst the grounds of Newcastle United and Wimbledon had already been visited three times. Newcastle United had been shown live in five games, more than any other Premier League club, including the champions Manchester United.

It also had sympathy for Manchester City manager Brian Horton who, after 12 games in charge of the club, he had lost only 3 of them, but every game had been screened ‘live’. They went on to say that Manchester City’s camera shyness dated back to Howard Kendall’s time as manager when Howard’s City beat Aston Villa at Villa Park... but, since that victory, City had failed to win when the cameras were present on thirteen occasions which was extended to fourteen as they only managed a goalless draw in their next televised game at Stamford Bridge.

So, reading those articles got me wondering... Whilst we can see how the game has evolved in the last 20 years, is it inevitable that a closed shop of 20 clubs will form a European Super League within the next five years, as has been suggested recently?

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Reader Comments (5)

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Karl Masters
1 Posted 12/10/2013 at 22:30:48
The irony of us chasing the mystical Top 4 place is that I hardly have any interest in the Champions League anyway.

Once upon a time seeing a clash of European giants such as Barcelona and Bayerm Munich would have been fascinating as it was such a rare occurrence. Similarly any British team playing a big European team would have had me glued to the TV.

Trouble is that now it seems Celtic play Barcelona every season. And worse still the groups are seeded to try and make the same few teams play the latter stages every year. It's boring. You need variety and the unexpected in anything to keep it interesting. We even had Manure and Barca play the final twice.

If these so called G14 clubs form some sort of cosy Super League I won't be watching it and after a few years they will only be left with plastic, glory hunting wannabes watching and a soulless product.

David Donnellan
2 Posted 12/10/2013 at 22:58:01
Well said Karl, some good points made there.
Nick Entwistle
3 Posted 12/10/2013 at 23:10:18
Yes, agree with Karl.

The idea that it was to get big games happening more often just made big games run of the mill. Being a school kid the excitement at Villa playing Inter Milan after the ban was incredible.

I have such a minor interest in football, but a major one in the team I support and I think a lot of people are the same.

There's not one sport in the world that keeps its soul and prestige when the motivating factor from those running it is based on maximizing revenue streams.

Matt Traynor
4 Posted 13/10/2013 at 12:49:25
Interesting points Patrick, and early responses.

I often wonder whether the powers that be behind the Premier League could've forecast the revenue it would generate. I don't think I'm living in a land of fantasy if I venture that the growth in value of TV rights in the Premier League has driven the same increases in rights deals in UEFA and FIFA. After all the same agencies are involved (and they also handle Olympic TV now). I saw an interview with Richard Scudamore after the last round of domestic TV deals was announced, and he seemed genuinely surprised at the result.

The flipside of this is a potential for over-saturation. There are 380 PL games a year, and I think the last round sees 154 being shown live. They did consider going further and introducing 1 or 2 more tranches (each being either 13 or 26 games) but the Premier League Chairmen felt that going beyond 50% of games live was a threshold they couldn't live with.

It's further interesting to see how the national game is evolving. Games on a Friday night? To maximise the TV market - certainly not to consider fans of their national team who may want to get back from the capital.

It seems this controversy with Qatar 22 has thrown up some issues within UEFA, who for a while feel their power base is being eroded globally (possibly having a president who's only objective is to brown nose Blatter to try to win favour for his own FIFA Presidential ambitions - bad luck, Blatter will stand again).

UEFA's answer? They are seriously considering introducing a tournament called the Nations League. Spread across 9 divisions, with promotion and relegation, you would imagine it would take over friendly internationals, but I think they'd need more dates as well allowing for qualifiers for the World Cup. You can imagine the managers will be up in arms at this, and I personally doubt it will ever get off the ground.

Is this a genuine attempt to re-introduce some passion into international football? After all, with the initial divisions being constituted according to international rankings, you should be seeing teams of a similar calibre playing each other, instead of dead rubbers like England v San Marino.

Of course not, they reckon they could make a mint with the TV rights and sponsorship opportunities.

Tom Harries
5 Posted 13/10/2013 at 15:53:09
A great look back at the past. It's amazing how much has changed until you realise 20 years is a long time.

Ironically, in one respect, the Premier League has been almost a complete failure; because it was created to enable the men who owned the big clubs to make lots of money. Instead, although they have made money, a massive chunk has gone to the players and their agents instead.

I've never believed that a European Super League is around the corner (it's been talked about for decades) because there's no way all 20 clubs will make more money from an ESL than they do from the CL and their national leagues, which they all dominate, put together. The teams in the bottom half of the ESL won't make squat.

If Man Utd play Dortmund or Sevilla in a knock-out game in the CL, that's a massive game for TV (over two legs). But if it's 10th versus 11th in a league game, does that have the same appeal across Europe?

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