It’s the end for the Premier League as we know it. But what happens next?

By Tony Attwood

There appear to be four exits out of the current mess, with each writer, correspondent, expert, blogger, broadcaster, man on the street or even the man on the Clapham omnibus (as used to be said in the old days) taking up one of them.  Or in terms of newspaper writers, at least two of them, depending which day of the week it is.

And since there has been little pulling of them all together, here they are, so that you can take your pick of the position you wish to occupy.  Unless of course you’ve already got one and you (like all those journalists and TV pundits) know you are right.



1: The Premier League clubs shut down, do some transfer dealings when the window opens, and then start playing again when it is all over, doing exactly the same as before – buying and selling players and just carrying on.

There will be some sort of resolution to the incomplete season, either with it being abandoned uncompleted or with remaining matches played next season.  There will be arrangements made for next season to try and take into account who would have been promoted, but not who would have been relegated (because such clubs will sue).

The fixes will satisfy no one – as with the fact that if the current league position is held as the final league position in the Premier League, Arsenal will suffer through having played one game fewer than others and had they won that game, would possibly have been in a Europa position.

2: Someone makes a power grab.  The most favoured “someone” is Uefa who could say, this moment is the moment to start a European Super League into which the top clubs are invited.  As a result, the existing leagues become second rate affairs as there will be no promotion into or relegation out of the national leagues into the super league.

This super league will simply be announced and clubs that decide not to participate and those not invited will be left out in the cold of their existing national competitions.

From this point downwards there will be a huge shakeout, as money that previously trickled down to the non-European competing clubs dries up.   Consider, for example, a club like Wolverhampton Wanderers.  It has spent a lot of money getting into the Premier League – they lost £55m in their promotion season and made a £22m profit in their first season back in the league.

What’s more we know that Wolverhampton have borrowed against future TV revenue – which of course they might now not get.

But that borrowing and past profit is being re-invested as the club attempts to push forward again and reach the European positions.  Yet if the European competitions become a closed shop without them inside, then the club will be playing in a wasteland outside of the Big League.  This wasteland might have a TV deal but it will be tiny compared to what can be achieved from European money.

3: Clubs go into liquidation on a massive basis

This happens because they fail to pay instalments on their transfer debts owing to the fact that they have had far too little income to cover their debts, and the banks are not able to loan any more.   From this point, the whole structure of football could be rebuilt in a similar form to now, or something quite different could be created.   But that collapse and rebuild could take a few years.

The point is that the whole of football is built on gambling.  Gambling in the sense that if the club invests another huge load of money (which is then paid out in instalments over a number of years) the players it buys will deliver a place in the Champions League and possibly some trophies.

4: The transfer market collapses and some clubs go to the wall.  

The clubs that survive will continue playing but won’t have the income that they used to have.  Some will adjust some not.  Clubs with a strong youth set-up will stand a good chance of keeping going because they will have new players coming through without massive expenditure.

It looks like one of those four, and my guess is option 1, the one that all the newspapers and most blogs seem to think is certain, is actually the least likely.

But we shall see.




7 Replies to “It’s the end for the Premier League as we know it. But what happens next?”

  1. I always thought that football’s greed would eventually be it’s downfall. We can now see where society in general with it’s ability to live beyond it’s means has taken us to.
    Lockdowns have removed customers completely and people everywhere will change their habits . They will take time when this reduces to recirculate and will be wary of crowds and many traditional supporters will not go back . In the U.K I can see season ticket ticket sales plummetting and clubs not only in the lower leagues will go to the wall. This may well be the situation throughout the game in all of Europe only the rich clubs will survive in their current form.
    Society will change , at the moment only toilet roll manufacturers and supermarkets are doing well and a worldwide recession is inevitable this is a lot deeper than just football , the western world depends on credit and panic selling of stocks is wiping out the reserves to fund it.
    Who will survive ? probably the people with the gold and who has it in bundles ? China , Russia , America , Germany ? not us because we sold half of ours to chase the Euro .

  2. I think the 4th alternative will be the one.

    The transfer market will fall apart as very few if any clubs will have the money to pay the prices or the wages.

    The football world is not likely to be what it was, which may be a good thing.

    Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, many teams will not survive as they stand.

    In the end, someone is going to have to accept the blame for this worldwide disaster. The damage to football will be small compared to the damage to the whole world economy.

  3. Can we reasonably expect PGMO to get fixed during the virus break?

    If I search for ‘PGMO Riley’, in the Google News, I get about 4 pages of hits. Letting Google rank them by “relevance” , we find that the median news age is 62 months (a little over 5 years ago). The newest relevant article is 2 months old, and the oldest is 128 months old. The distribution of news articles about the median age is approximately symmetric, and has a median absolute deviation of 29 months.

    That there are so few news articles that are relevant, is likely due to this policy forced on the medja that they cannot criticize the referees. Having such a large distribution width compared to the median age, is nominally showing that very little is published and what little is published is nominally published at a uniform rate. Thirty three articles published over 128 months; or not quite 4 months between articles. If we turn that into a yearly rate, it is about 3.1 articles per year. Supposedly there are no articles that are relevant about PGMO Riley in the summer, so that equates to about 3 articles per season.

    There were only 2 articles which were specifically about Arsenal, at 4 and 5 months ago.

    I think the answer to my opening question is no. The medja basically shows disinterest in anything about officiating football. Probably driven by contract law, as Tony has pointed out before.

  4. It’s curious, that the last listed relevant article is not written in the English language, it seems to be written in Thai.

    How does an article in Thai, get to be relevant?

  5. My take is option 1. There will be some sort of shakedown as clubs and supporters adjust to a new economic reality. How big this shakedown will largely depend on how long the game is shut down. After that clubs and supporters will pretty much return to doing what they did before, adjusted to their new economic situation – old habits die hard.

  6. I am going with mainly option 1, though still a possibility of games behind closed doors , if that sits with govt guidelines
    Gord, would love to see the PGMOL fixed, using the Sopranos term for fixed! In reality, I just hope they make the game more competitive and interesting, rather than using the refs to fix to agenda, perhaps post Corona ,the game might need more authenticity than Real, Barca, Bayern, PSG , City, and the Liverpool VAR fiasco making the game too predictable, the refs play a big part in all this.

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