How is top flight football’s increasing commercialism affecting the lower leagues?

£5,136,000,000. That’s the amount of money BT and Sky were forced to pay in order to continue their live coverage of Premier League football between 2015 and 2018. A 70% increase on the previous deal, the deal works out at around £10.2m per match, according to the BBC. That means that under two minutes of Sunday’s Premier League clash between Bournemouth and Arsenal is worth the same amount of money as Hartlepool United need to survive for the next two months. But what does this all mean?

Firstly, it’s clear why the big TV companies pay for the Premier League coverage – it’s because they’ll still profit no matter what. If Sky Sports spent £5bn on a Premier League television deal and weren’t going to make that money back, they quite obviously wouldn’t spend it. It’s also clear that the astronomical amount of money spent on this TV deal doesn’t at all correlate with Hartlepool’s desperate plea for funding, but that’s the reason its brought up – because it is astronomical. The reason you’ll have seen these stats everywhere online this week is because of the gap that continues to emerge between football’s top flights and it’s lower leagues.

Hartlepool United travelled to Dagenham and Redbridge in East London on January 6th. They left without a training kit or team coach, with the kit being ‘held hostage’ at a dry cleaners in the town, after its fee wasn’t paid. The club’s management couldn’t complete post-match interviews amidst fears they would miss the 6.30 train home, they couldn’t get the coach because they simply couldn’t afford to. This is not how football should be.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen Hartlepool’s struggle for £200,000 compared with Neymar’s £198m transfer fee this week, but I do understand why people bring these issues to debate. To Neymar, Hartlepool United’s £200,000 is less than a week’s wages. Again, this shows the gap emerging between the top leagues and the lower. Whilst the transfer market continues to inflate, next to no money is trickling down to the lower league clubs that desperately need it. You can complain all you want about the lack of correlation, but this is still a huge problem regardless. This is an advert for what is wrong with the modern game.

In 1999, an agreement was made which stated that 5% of broadcasting rights would be handed down to the lower leagues. Did this ever happen though? No, it most certainly did not. The TV deal in 1999 was worth £670m, 5% being £33.5m, life changing money for non-league. Now, this agreement would have allowed £256m to be shared amongst grassroots clubs. This sort of money is more than enough to keep these clubs caught up with the demands of modern football, stopping a situation like Hartlepool’s occurring at all.

It’s not fair on the fans of such a historic club as Hartlepool’s to be left to suffer, they are just as dedicated and supportive of their club as some fans are in the Premier League, and action needs to be taken to save grassroots football. The 5% levy that was agreed in 1999 needs to come into effect as soon as possible, and thus a fair gap between grassroots clubs and those in the top flights will be formed. Right now, the astronomical gap forming between the Premier League and beyond is crushing the life and soul out of some of the most historic clubs on the planet.

‘Created by the poor and stolen by the rich’ is a saying you’ll have seen doing the rounds this week, and you can understand why. It’s time for rules and regulations to change, it’s time for the top teams and TV companies to contribute to the desperate situation faced by many clubs below, and even in, the Football League.

What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image credit the Sun