Mediocrity isn’t something as people we strive for. In football, there is almost an acceptance of it when talking about status and safety amongst top tiered professional leagues. Not many years ago it felt as if players and their clubs strived for championships, trophies, and ultimately legacy but one is almost pressed to feel that the genuine pursuit of accolades was sacrificed for a stronger financial report.
Through the commercialization of the sport; the modern game has now turned into almost a rat race of only lucrative television, media, and sponsorship deals for a healthy bottom line to satisfy the accountants. Clubs have seen the fixture calendar congested to accommodate multiple commercial avenues such as: overseas tours and mid season unofficial friendlies. Now the realization that clubs have to operate at a profit to retain sustainability is understood, as no proper supporter would want to see their respective club collapse due to financial restraints, but have we lost our collective voice as supporters of football to state that our clubs have possibly turned from modest mid-table and promoted sides into overnight millionaire teams that focus on fiscal responsibility and not their overall performance in their respective leagues?
The influx of resources now sees modern clubs the likes of Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and even West Ham United paying the wages that were usually attributed to top 4 sides predominantly. Money modestly changing the playing field is nothing new to the game, as leagues have seen television and commercial revenue climb exponentially over the last 15 years. What has made the change more noticeable is the level of income that even the mid-table teams are obtaining just to retain their safety within the league. Is mediocrity amongst the modern game paying too much? Has the game’s insistence on a stronger business model robbed its fans of ambition for their respective clubs?
Evident to this opinion is the treatment of most Premier League and other top European league clubs to their domestic cups. As mid level teams strive to stay within the “safe zones” of the table; the historic domestic trophies such as the F.A. Cup, Copa Del Rey, or German Pokal are now almost seen as a burden or a fixture nightmare. Which frankly speaking as a kid who grew up watching cup football wanting to see a mid-table side take out an established top side out is saddening. One can wax poetically about nostalgia but the truth is that the chairmen and executives of the top leagues have strived hard to create a lucrative business model but have also stripped out a fair amount of ambition from our clubs in the process. With clubs navigating through the season trying to avoid the pain of relegation and the financial pit falls that it entails, memories of once proud clubs barely staying afloat in the lower leagues are enough of a nightmare to keep most boards members up at night.
Understanding that relegation can almost certainly spell a deathly financial blow to most well structured sides by seeing their revenue split in half, this makes the case for as to why we see our game go a more business oriented approach.
Whether it’s the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga or even the French Ligue 1: the mid-table clubs all see the allure of television rights and added sponsorship revenue as a possibility for higher streams of income. Hence these teams and their respective boards make calculated moves in terms of player transfers and contracts. Ultimately, the passion and ambition can not be taken away from the game as for this is what makes football the greatest sport to watch and follow.