This morning, whilst wading through my daily intake of news and sport, i came across an interesting article. This particular news piece, found in the BBC’s football pages, raised a question that i myself have been asking for some time, and until now, with few conclusions.
The question is essentially very simple; why have Premier League clubs become so dominant, or as the this journalist put it, how have they managed to successfully ‘conquer’ Europe?
This question has never been so relevant. This year is the first year ever when the Premier League’s big ‘top four’ have all successfully found places in the quarter finals of the Champions League. English success in the Champions League has not always come so easily. Indeed, since 1955, and the first Champions League competition, the number of English teams who have won the coveted trophy amounts to only ten, putting England‘s clubs in third place, behind Italy and Spain. In fact, Real Madrid have won the trophy just one less time than all English teams put together.
Why then are English clubs now enjoying more success? Of course many would argue it’s the result of a huge influx of foreign players since the mid-1990’s. English football has always been characterized by its grit, aggression and high tempo play. What it has lacked however, and what foreign players have seemed to bring to the table, is a new and exciting flair for the game, both in terms of individual skill and European tactical insight.
Yes, players are part of the answer, but the big Italian and Spanish Clubs have the money to spend on big players as well. Personally though, i think it is the result of a much larger phenomenon; a phenomenon that questions not just the quality of the players, or their abilities on the field, but the unique structures of management, ownership and finance that the big English clubs maintain. As Dessailly comments in the article in question:
“You can see the huge potential and interest of foreign owners who want to establish themselves in England with football clubs. In Italy it is different, you cannot buy AC Milan or many of the other clubs because they are not on the market. But the fact that they are available in England motivates these people.”
We all know that the Premier League is the most watched sporting tournament in the world. Interestingly, an internet traffic search shows that Manchester United’s official website gets only 9% of it’s visitors from the UK, with Singapore and Malaysia dominating it’s page views! Perhaps therefor, sad as it may be, the way the Premier League has been managed, as more of a brand than a competition, as more of a business than of a true and pure sporting competition, has been the defining factor of it’s success, not just as a football tournament, but as a worldwide sporting phenomenon.