Incensed by PPV? The Premier League is all PPV…

Date published: Monday 12th October 2020 8:52

When the Premier League and their broadcasters announced its £14.95 PPV deal to watch games not already slated for broadcast in October, was anyone really surprised they’d charge so much? C’mon, this is the Premier League. This is what it does. It is a money-generating machine. That’s what it was invented to do. It is ruthless and determined and it has been selling us the idea that it is worth our money because it is the best league in the world ever since 1992.

And enough of us went along with their economic and cultural colonisation of football to make it hugely successful. The principle here is if you keep feeding the bears, the bears will always come back for more. The lesson we need to learn is not to feed them.

And while it’s all well and good being outraged at the £14.95 fee, and the latest example of tin-eared greed, all live league and European football is already effectively PPV now. Unless the BBC are ‘given’ a few games, cast to the groundlings as crumbs from the ruler’s table, we have to pay to watch everything. So it’s nothing new and we can hardly justify being shocked at being shafted. This, after all, is not some sort of altruistic haven. This is Greedsville, Football Town, UK.

If you still doubt the Premier League is a pernicious force in football and in society, through the unholy alliance with broadcasters, the rights fees paid have largely been given to clubs to almost wholly spend on transfer fees, players’, managers’ and executive wages. And yet 15 out of 20 Premier League clubs still have not signed up to the Living Wage Foundation which supports the Real Living Wage of just £9.30 per hour (£10.75 in London) for both employed and contracted labour. These are Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and West Ham United.

And yet despite this, wages of £100-350k per week are common for players. It is absolutely unconscionable that these businesses would quite deliberately and consciously keep their workers in poverty. When £30 or £40 extra per week would make so many lives so much better, they choose instead to make already extravagantly rich people a little bit more rich. This is the world our subscription fees have made. This is the world we support with every month’s direct debit.

I know it sickens some players. Many would happily forgo a couple of grand per year to make non-playing staff’s lives much better. Some do, in one way or another, in an attempt to ameliorate the horrible situation.

And yet the Premier League propagandists pretend that somehow this is all market forces at work and it is inevitable. It isn’t. These are not normal high street businesses; they are not playing by normal profit and loss rules. They operate largely on a toxic mixture of billionaire owner largesse and free money given merely for participation.

But it’s all very well climbing on our high horse about this. Yes, outrage is understandable, but it is hypocritical. Or at least it is if we’re all still propping up the whole system with our money, one way or another. Because if we are, then we are to blame. It is all our fault. We didn’t realise it would all end like this, but it is down to us, all the same.

We’ve been feeding those pesky bears and they won’t leave us alone until we stop. Of course they’re going to keep coming at us for more because it has worked in the past, time and time again. They have annexed the whole of live league football into their own paywall protected fiefdom and will only give us access in return for cash and we not only let this happen, we supported it with our money, even as their land grab of all live league and European football was absolute and total.

No, we didn’t ask them to do this, but they did it anyway and have been very successful in brainwashing – and that’s what it is – enough of us into thinking this venal oppression is really glorious freedom. That we should be pleased at this outcome. That we should be grateful even. That’s how we end up with the sick situation of the league pleading poverty for its clubs, immediately after they’ve just lashed out over a billion quid on players and while they’re paying a £2.9 billion wage bill.

The fact the Premier League Era is now a well-established method of statistical definition, proves just how successful their brainwashing of us all has been. It illustrates just how big their brand has become in our consciousness. There was never a ‘First Division Era’, even though that existed for 120 years. But the Premier League has cleverly hived off 28 years and counting as their own, with its own perimeters, borders and Year Zero.

So successfully has this been done, that we don’t even think about it. It seems innate and natural to talk of ‘in the Premier League era’. It isn’t. We’ve been sold it as part of a marketing strategy.

And this is why they are arrogant enough to ask for more PPV money for clubs who have spent a billion on transfers. This is the mentality it generates. They think they’re the Masters of the Universe and it’s not hard to see why. Every trick they’ve pulled has worked.

But don’t waste your breath complaining. Just shut it down instead. We don’t need to tolerate this anymore. Indeed, if we do keep on tolerating it, it’ll just keep happening in one way or another.

All we have to do is stop buying football on television. Reject the principle. In this way, we can break the whole concept and then set about rebuilding football’s architecture based on principles of fairness, sporting equality and community, not on the principles of greed and financial leverage.

If we feel this sort of change is somehow wrong, don’t worry, that is just the Premier League virus-checker kicking in, the McAfee of Football, telling us this is the best of all possible worlds, telling us to repel any insurrection. I know, I feel it too. It provides us with all the arguments against its critics. We have all had this software uploaded to our synapses and it has infected our whole operating system. But here’s their clever trick: the virus-checker is really the virus.

The correct response to such suggestions is to post those Grandpa Simpson shaking his fist at clouds memes. We think such thoughts are our own thoughts but they’re not. They own our thinking. They have shaped our entire outlook on football, on society even. Nothing is untainted by it.

It kicks into my brain too. Of course it does, I played my part in building it with my money. But it is all propaganda. It is all designed to defend the status quo. Designed to stop us rising up and enacting change.

They don’t want us to fully realise that they need us in order to survive. And it’s worked. We don’t, not really. Football at the Premier League level feels like big business that is beyond our daily lives. It provokes our cynical ‘say what you like, nothing will ever change’ responses and it’s meant to. If that’s what we think and say, that’s because they taught us to think and say it. We’re meant to feel powerless in the shadow of huge wealth. We are meant to feel that it is something we cannot affect. We are meant to feel small and insignificant. That’s how this works.

We are all working too hard to make life easy (which in turn keeps us pliant and weak at the feet of the monied and powerful), we just want to go to work, come home, slump in front of the TV and watch a game, then go to bed, get up and do it all again. It doesn’t feel like our subscription’s direct debit to watch that game is significant in the whole scheme of things. It feels like the whole thing will go on without us anyway.

But there’s nothing natural, innate or inevitable about how things are. We have been taken to this temple of mammon, little by little, step by step, sometimes without us quite fully realising what was going on. And yet the great big dirty truth is still that they are not the Masters of the Universe at all; we are. They fear us. Not as individuals, no, but as a collective, because as a collective we have the power to tear their edifice down in a revolution of both the mind and the material.

And to make this revolution happen, it is simple. All we do is stop paying them. Stop buying TV football. That’s all. It’d be a bloodless revolution. Cancel your direct debit, sit back, relax and look on with satisfaction as the whole thing collapses.

Ironically, the league is now beginning to eat itself as the forces it has unleashed has made the Big Six crave ever more power and money. This is what is behind ‘Project Big Picture’ drawn up by Liverpool and Manchester United with the Big Six’s blessing for the EFL. Regardless of what Rick Parry says, it is designed to give them more power to control everything about how the Premier League operates and you can be sure that will eventually mean slicing off a bigger share of rights fees for themselves, which they’ve always wanted. Even the league itself is against it. That’s how bad it is.

The fee for this is some relatively small financial crumbs for the pyramid. It will make the pyramid craven to them for their survival and ripe for exploitation. The EFL clubs that are on the verge of going bust will welcome the income on offer. Then again, if you’re about to be evicted, you take the loan shark’s money to pay the rent, don’t you? But the rest of the Premier League will fight this and will vote against it as it makes them second-class Premier League citizens.

Where does all this lead? Well, this surely is the first dance at the European Super League disco. Hopefully it is the start of the end of the Premier League. That the league might fall apart in a fight over money would be the most appropriate of demises.

But why would we want to perpetuate this awful league with our money anyway? We need to consign it to the skip of history. Instead, we can give that cash to local amateur clubs. They are the repository of the game’s soul and really need it.

Post the Premier League apocalypse, however that happens, we can rebuild football’s entire ecosystem on a more financially sane and sustainable basis, not with greed and power at its core, but with people. After all, it is The People’s Game. It belongs to us. But the Premier League stole it.

The time has come to take it back. Cancel your direct debit, sit back and watch it fall.

John Nicholson

Johnny’s book, Can We Have Our Football Back? How The Premier League Is Ruining Football And What We Can Do About It has been massively successful. Get a copy and find out why it’s attracted so much love.


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