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As the Premier League embraces the Euro model, competition is more or less deceased

by Tony Attwood

Bayern Munich have won the German league five times in a row.

In fact they have won it 27 times, which is a record.  And they are currently eight points above their nearest rival at the top of the league, so that might well be six times in a row, come next April.   That’s what those in the know call “the Greek Game”.   Olympiakos and all that.  Ask Paul Merson.

It means that the German League is even less competitive than the Spanish League where three different teams have won that competition in the last four years, and looked at over a larger period of time, is dominated by two teams.

Does any of this matter?  After all, in the Premier League era Manchester United twice won the title three times running and in one nine year period (in the late 20th, early 21st century) only Man U and Arsenal won the title (they won it six times and we won it three times).

Eras such as the Man U/Arsenal duopoly raised eyebrows and caused teeth to gnash, and people spoke darkly of the end of competitiveness, but then in the famous phrase, Chelsea came along and “parked their tank on our pitch and started firing £50 notes at us”.

Dominance of various Leagues is thus not uncommon, and indeed before the Premier League we had Liverpool in England winning the old First Division ten times in 15 seasons.

So why should we think that Bayern’s current run is any different from what happened in the past?  Why might we worry that the Premier League will move to the German or Spanish model of one or two teams dominating continuously will come to pass?

The answer is simple: because the gap between the income of the top clubs and the rest is getting bigger and bigger – and it is happening not just in Spain, Germany and England, but elsewhere as well.

In Germany, as I have suggested, total dominance by one team is already in place – brought about by the way Bayern Munich is financed.  In Spain the possibility of Atletico Madrid winning the League is still there, but only once in the past 13 seasons has a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid won the League.  Two teams dominate.

But dominance can of course be broken. Lyon won the league in France for seven successive seasons between 2002 and 2008, but since then have not won the title.  PSG won the league four times running but then suddenly were tripped up by Monaco last year.

But… it is not quite all like that, as the French League’s experience shows.  Monaco’s title winning side was pulled apart after they had the audacity to win the title instead of PSG (they currently sit third, nine points behind PSG) because they could not refuse the bids made.

We know that the richest clubs have always had the best chance of winning the league, but in the past hiccups could happen, as when Manchester United were relegated in 1974.  But that sort of event now looks to be a thing only of the past, for it is now unthinkable for such a heavily financed team could sink that low in Germany, Spain, England, France, or of course Italy.  Indeed let us not forget Italy where Juventus, those past masters of match fixing, have not only won the league six times running, they have won the League and Cup Double, for the past three seasons.

Yet, in order to keep up interest, the notion lingers that clubs that rise can also fall.  But I would argue this is happening less and less – to the extent that it has almost stopped.  The fact is, if you want to bet on who will win the League in each of the major European Leagues, much of the time the answer is going to be “same as last year”.

Of course this hasn’t quite happened like that in the Premier League, although in the past 13 seasons we have had four champions, of whom one was, I think many would agree, rather quirky and is unlikely to win it again.  Thus aside from Leicester, we have had Chelsea (5), Manchester United (5) and Manchester City (2) as league winners.

What I am leading to in all this is that the tendency in all the larger leagues in Europe initially for a small number of teams to dominate.  And then for one team to dominate.  So much so that before we have even got half way through this season I think I can predict that the winners of these leagues will be

  • Italy: Juventus
  • Germany: Bayern Munich
  • France: PSG
  • Spain: ?
  • England: Manchester City

So in four of these five leagues I would be willing to place a solid bet on who will win the league before we are even half way through, although I doubt that the odds I would get would even make it worth getting on the bus to go to the bookies.

So is this good for the game?  Some argue that it has been like this for years, and that Arsenal dominated like this in the 1930s.   Well, yes they did but not quite so much – we won the League five times in the 1930s, not year after year.

We were helped by having a very, very good manager and a big stadium that charged the highest prices in the league.  Now that is not enough – not when one club is financed by a whole country and is part of a football franchise (the City group) that stretches across the world.

I will continue with this theme anon….

19 comments to As the Premier League embraces the Euro model, competition is more or less deceased

  • Chris

    Tony,

    Bayern Munich, if I am not wrong, may be dominating the Bundesliga, yet, contrary to most other ‘dominating’ clubs in Europe they are not like them. No country or gazillionaire financing them, no state subventions, no financial scandals involving the club, etc…. In Germany they may be called FC Bollywood for a ‘showbiz’ image, but mainly their position is the result of intelligent – and cunning – long term management. Sure, they have made sure to get the best german players, but one can’t say they have broken the bank doing so, and their financial model is sounder as that of most european big clubs. Arsenal are probably on top with them in this regard. Lyon in France would be part of that group as well. I’m not an expert enough to cite other clubs, maybe there are some in Italy and Spain, but then, considering all the tax preferences, scandals etc, I have my doubts.

    European football is going to need some equalizing measures unless it wants to become boring and see attendances and TV ratings go down. The US has shown the way : salary cap and draft would be perfect if set-up for a real pan-european championship of 20 teams playing each other twice for example. National championships would be like the minor leagues in the US, could host european teams B squads, etc. But then, why would all those on top want to put their position in danger while they are on the gravy train….

    By the way, I wonder what will happen when Brexit finally strikes….not reading anything on the subject. Visibly no journalist is interested in raising the issue and doing some research. What a pity….

  • Chris

    Well we are going to Sweden in the EL….at least we avoided some of the bigger teams.

  • al_the_gunner

    how about nice little gift in middle 70’s to Bayern?
    Olympiastadion

    and all the glory came after that.

  • Gord

    One difference between Germany/Spain/Italy/France and England is the willingness and ability of The (sweet) FA and PGMO to tilt the field to get the winner they want. One tilts the field during the game, and the other tilts the disciplinary process to effect the desired result.

  • Chris

    @ al,

    well, the last season (2005) of use, Bayern was paying 4.5 million euros per year.
    As an element of german comparison, Berlin was paying 2.6 million for its use of the local stadium in 2010

    So can’t say this looks outrageous.

    And looking at Bayern’s history, in the 70s they had a huge pile of debt (for the time) yet had to pay the rent.

    Ueli Hoeness took over in 1979 and is the guy who turned the club around, being the first in germany to adapt US marketing techniques.
    At the time, in winter, you’d get 10’000 to 15’000 spectators for a home game… those were the days…

    Then they sold Ruemmenigge for 10 million marks and were finaly debt free.
    Nowhere did they get a free pass or a present. However, the fact the Olympics took place in Munich in 1970 and the WC in 1974 gave them a stadium they used and paid for said use. And major german clubs profited from the 1974 WC as their stadia were refurbished, rebuilt, whatever : Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Schalke, Hannover, Hamburg, Berlin, Schalke, and maybe another. So Bayern did not ‘profit’ more than all other major clubs, rather they were on equal footing. And the Olympiastadion is mixed and can be used for track and field.

    Apart from that they paid, in 2012 134 million euros in taxes and 74 and something million in sales tax. So they contribute to the local economy as a very profitable business.

    They owe quite a lot to Ueli Hoeness as does german fotball.

    So we are very far from a little gift…

  • Chris

    @ al,

    just forgot to mention, the Olympiastadium was used as well by TSV 1860 München, from 1972 to 2005, with some odd years not. So 2 clubs paid for te installation for 35 years.

  • Chris

    @al,

    just for the fun, they built the Olympiastadium and its tent like roof for 300 million Mark, which for the time was considerable.

    The joke ? well none of the people involved noticed that there were no changing rooms for football teams….. can’t invent that one I guess !

  • Josif

    @Tony

    I’d be very careful with my bet on Serie A if I were you.

    Right now, the league leaders are Inter with 40 points. They are still undefeated after 16 matches and during that run they have beaten AS Roma (3:1) and got a point v both Napoli (0:0) and Juventus (0:0), all three played away from home. Their controversial striker Mauro Icardi is red hot this season.

    Napoli are second with 39 but with a significant drop in form due to injuries of a few important players (their first-choice left full-back Ghoulam is a player they have sorely missed in the past few weeks). They have lost to Juventus at home and failed to beat Inter but managed to win on both of their trips to Rome (4:1 v Lazio, 1:0 v Roma). They need goals from Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne in the absence of Arkadiusz Milik who has had two ACL injuries since his arrival from Ajax.

    Juventus are third with 38 points but it seems that introduction of VAR has had a negative effect on their results. They have been beaten twice so far – v Lazio at home (1:2) and Sampdoria away (2:3). They have won at Naples (1:0) but failed to beat Inter at home. They are yet to play Roma.

    Roma have won their Champions League group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. They are fourth with 35 points but with a game in hand. If they beat Sampdoria, they will have 38. They have beaten Lazio (2:1) but lost to Inter (1:3) and Napoli (0:1). Their defeat to Inter at home was almost a preview of what would happen to us against Man United as they had dominated the game in all aspects of the game bar goals scored.

    Finally, Lazio are fifth with 32 points but with two games in hand (tonight they play v Torino at home). If they beat Torino and Udinese in their games in hand, they will have 38 points. They have beaten Juventus in Torino (2:1) but lost to Napoli at home (1:4) and Roma away (1:2). They are yet to play Inter.

    So, if Roma and Lazio win their respective games in hand, the table would look like:

    1.Inter 40,
    2.Napoli 39,
    3.Juventus 38,
    4.Roma 38,
    5.Lazio 38.

    5 clubs within two points after 16 matches!

    Why I mentioned these results among Top 5?

    Literally, every team can beat each other regardless of the venue. Four out of five teams have at least one victory away from home in this mini-league (Roma don’t but they haven’t played an away derby yet) which is something English football, for instance, haven’t had since…huh…I don’t know.

    VAR has given all teams the chance to win the game on the pitch and that’s why I recommend Italian league this season for all those sick and tired of PGMO. I’m not saying it is still perfect but it is a step in the right direction.

  • al_the_gunner

    Chris
    heres your answer (joke what ever)
    “So 2 clubs paid for te installation for 35 years”
    35 years!!!

  • al_the_gunner

    Chris
    btw
    2 club!!!

  • al_the_gunner

    Chris
    2 clubs!!!
    for 35 yers!!!

    oh, i’m just like you

    have a lot to say!

  • Chris

    @al,

    ;=)

    At the time (1974) the big german clubs got new or refurbished stadia and did not have to break the bank.
    So one cannot say they had a much better deal. But it is true that they among all german clubs were able to make the better of it.

    If you look at the history of football in Münich, you’ll see that TSV 1860 München was the big team just after the war and Bayern came later. In the 50s and 60s, they were already sharing a stadium and whereas the average of spectators was below full capacity, yet for important games they were full. So when the Olympiastadium was built (political decision for the Olympics) it was clear that both clubs would share it. The fans of Bayern were in the South curve those from TSV 1860 München in the north curve.

    As a matter of fact the stadium holds a record. In 1973, TSV 1860 München played a local derby against Augsburg and estimates are that more then 100’000 spectators, which is so far the most attended second division game in the history of football.

  • Timthebrickie.

    We have the financial clout to compete with any of the teams in the league, the problem is very little of it gets spent.
    Kronoke is a man blessed with massive wealth and Usmanov is a richer man than Abramovich so your leaning towards poor Arsenal cannot compete is seriously flawed.
    The sooner we have a new manager and a different structure in the boardroom the better. Then, and only then, will me make a serious challenge on the Premiership title.

  • Amos

    Tony, I disagree that money is the single deciding factor for how a team does. For me I’d put ambition as the top requirement among several important factors. Teams like Bayern, barca, real Madrid,Lyon, PSG, man utd have at different times been toppled by teams like Stuttgart, Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Valencia, deportivo LA Corunna, athletico Madrid, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Monaco etc. What stands them out however has been their reaction to such set backs. They have changed managers, replaced players considered weak links, boards have resigned, players have been poached/tapped up, monies have been spent. All in the quest for Glory. I feel it’s funny when some fans insult another team for spending money on players, while their own club makes the money and just stockpiles it. Each believes in its strategy, players or money, each gets his reward, glory or financial strength.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    My experience living in Germany is that almost everyone outside of Bayern, dislike Bayern Muenchen. “Sie sind kein Deutscher mannschaft” was what my friends said (They aren’t a German team). Here is a fun Die Toten Hosen song about that entitled Bayern (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LHGY33cFiE) However, they get reluctantly cheered for when they are the only German team left in the Champions League.

  • Amos I don’t share your sense of humour, but you are quite right different clubs react in different ways when it comes to pushing for success, and certainly changing managers is one such ploy as is changing players etc. But that for me isn’t ever the issue, it is whether it is possible, and whether it works.

  • There seems to be a contradiction here Tim. I don’t know which of the two owners you cite is the richer, but the model of the Arsenal owner is that he buys clubs around the world, but then doesn’t invest more in them. Abramovich does invest after purchase. Indeed if we take the simple issue of the forthcoming new Chelsea stadium, that will be paid for by the owner, as the Uefa rules allow. Arsenal famously paid for it themselves. Same for the youth facilities. Arsenal pay for that out of profit, Chelsea and Man City pay for it out of owners’ donations – again as allowed by Uefa.

  • porter

    . Imagine Sir Chips sayuing this : – “Our method is to win every game, and the consequences of that should be that you are top of the table,” he said. “I will not be satisfied until we are champions. All results before that are rubbish. If you aim for midtable, that means you’ve admitted to yourselves that it’s OK to lose a football game. It’s not.”

    Quote from Daniel Kindberg . Chairman of Ostersunds FK.

    There are two sides to the equation . Money is obviously all important however it is also the choice of how you spend it. Arsenal as a club has money but tends to spend a percentage on infrastructure and some on the pitch .
    It’s the way the club is run.

  • Gooner S

    @Timthebrickie

    Of course in relative terms Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in World football but I’m interested to know where you think we can get the funds for competing with Chelsea or City? Their owners have deep pockets. Arsenal has a self sustaining business model.