Premier League must stop using FFP excuse to ignore more important issues bubbling below

Steven Chicken
The Premier League logo
The Premier League are focused on their own FFP revamp at the expense of the EFL

For months, the Premier League have nodded along, cradled their fingers with a concerned expression and spoken about their willingness to agree to consider a new money-sharing model with the EFL.

But not now, like. In the Premier League’s eyes, that cannot happen until their own new Financial Fair Play model is finally ironed out with a final vote in June, at the centre of which is a major change to how their profit and sustainability rules (PSR) are calculated and enforced.

Self-interested Premier League clubs passing the buck on EFL deal

Let’s be honest, as sensible as the latest PSR proposals may be – and the merits and drawbacks are a matter for debate another time – the circumstances behind this sudden desire for change make clear it is also nakedly self-serving. Nobody wants to be the next Nottingham Forest or Everton, and the very idea that they might actually be held to account for their own…well, accounts, has them spooked.

We know this because if they actually had the interests of the game as a whole at heart, as they insist, they would not have kept vaguely hand-waving away the EFL’s increasingly eager insistence that the Premier League might actually have a glance at how their riches could be used to help those further down the pyramid.

READ MORE: FFP ‘ramifications’ for Newcastle despite dodging ‘bad business’ over Joelinton

That’s despite the issue being far more urgent than the exact percentage of revenue spend Premier League clubs might eventually settle on. Spending in the Championship, in particular, has been out of control for years, and only looks set to get worse.

During an earlier stint at Football365, back in 2016, I was surprised to dig into the numbers and find that parachute payments weren’t the great evil everyone purported them to be at the time.

From looking at the rate at which clubs had bounced back from relegation over a 40-year period (both before and after the introduction of parachute payments), it was clear that the payments made to newly-relegated clubs had had the exact desired effect: far fewer Portsmouths and Leedses, but without unbalancing the whole second tier to the extent that promotion back to the Premier League was any more an assurance than it had ever been.

Premier League to Championship yo-yo effects makes effects clear

That continued on for several more years afterwards, too, but plainly, things have now changed.

Between 2010 and 2019, eight out of 30 relegated teams bounced back to the top flight within two years (27%). If three out of Leicester, Leeds, Southampton, and Norwich go up this season – not at all inconceivable, based on the current league table – it will be nine out of 12 since 2020 (75%), with the potential to become ten out of 12 (83%) next season if, say, Southampton miss out this year but go up next.

Not coincidentally, that change is in line with the last fat increase in Premier League TV revenue money and thus a fat increase in the amount of parachute payments clubs are receiving.

As disastrous as Premier League relegation remains, the far greater likelihood of making a swift return only increases each set of current clubs even further to act in immediate self-interest, rather than more carefully considering what might happen to them should they be ejected from the increasingly closed and increasingly expensive shop they are building around themselves.

As long as there are fabulously wealthy owners and states willing to fund Premier League clubs, they can effectively continue to operate unchecked (bar the odd case where a sudden withdrawal means the wheels come off utterly spectacularly). And as for the effect it has on everyone else…well, it’s hard to escape the feeling that as far as they’re concerned, it simply isn’t their problem.

But the EFL needs better than that. Times are tough in all three leagues, and while their new increased TV deal will certainly help, those concerns about the growing gap between the top two divisions that were as yet unfounded nearly a decade ago are now being proven to be accurate soothsaying.

Distorting effect of Premier League wealth being felt more in Championship than top flight

The Championship clubs outside the yo-yo group find themselves feeling the need to keep spending extravagant sums they can’t afford – and jacking up season ticket prices to help offset that spending – to have a fighting chance of breaking into football’s high society themselves. Others end up sold to obviously unfit owners whose only qualification is the (sometimes unfulfilled) promise of a fat chequebook. Desperate times do apparently lead to desperate measures.

There is no guarantee, naturally, that a better deal for EFL clubs nor more stringent PSR at Championship level would change things; the pursuit of Premier League glory is such a potent lure that those with the means to do so will inevitably continue to bend the rules as far as they think they can get away with.

But that doesn’t mean no attempt should be made to ameliorate the issue. Several Premier League managers and players have spoken about how harmful the current PSR structure is to the sporting integrity of the league, but in concentrating so single-mindedly on that issue, they are deferring a far bigger issue growing beneath them that only they can help to resolve.