Why Premier League success goes deeper than its star power, competitiveness or turmoil

Thirty years after the inaugural season, Premier League can honor its status as the most popular football league in the world. There isn’t a single element behind it; there are many, and you are probably familiar with them.

In no particular order, you can cite the following: heritage (the game was invented here), language (English is the lingua franca of the world), a very business environment. advocating for foreign investment facilitation, strong leadership frequently demonstrating a united front (especially during the 15 years Richard Scudamore was in charge), marketing and packaging/manufacturing values excellence, willingness to absorb expertise from abroad (not only players, but coaches, owners and executives) and, often overlooked, loyal domestic market strong and willing to spend for their club.

There may be others as well, you may disagree with some of the above and we can argue endlessly about the impact of each of the factors listed. But here are two that, as I see them, really don’t apply or at least, are overrated: superstardom and competitiveness, which, to some, seem contradictory: surely you expect Success is driven by famous names. And, for sure, you need a level of unpredictability and competition, or else fans will lose interest.

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I think the Premier League is proof that this may not be the case. Or rather, these were not the key factors driving the growth of the league, unlike the NBA in its heyday.

Start with the superstar piece. Admittedly it’s a fuzzy, know-it-when-I-see-it concept. But if you take it to mean a combination of being one of the best football teams in the world, popularity, and having a commensurate commercial/hype machine following you around, you can find that the Premier League has less than you think, at least before Erling HaalandComing.

Scan the top spots of the A-list and who do you have? Cristiano Ronaldo (except for 15 years of his peak career, he spent in Spain and Italy, the two sides of his two competitions at Manchester United). David Beckham (of course, he passed away at the age of 28). Zlatan Ibrahimovic (again, come on the downside and don’t stay long). Thierry Henry? Wayne Rooney? Kevin De Bruyne? Mohamed Salah?

These are exceptional players, for sure. But even at their peak, very few people reach the level of hype and become a global superstar. Kylian Mbappe or one Neymar or a Ronaldinho. Take a very simple indicator, football’s most popular competition: the Golden Ball.

Regular readers will know I’m not exactly a fan because this is a huge media exposure and popularity contest. But for the purposes here, it’s pretty much perfect. Consider 20 previous editions of the award. Premier League players only finished in the top 5 with 17 out of 100 appearances. Thierry Henry 3 times, Ronaldo 2 times and 12 other boys only once.

Has the popularity of the tournament been affected? Nothing. Probably because it’s not built on popular megastars, but rather on popular megabrands. Loyalty is built on loyalty to the crest on the front of the shirt rather than the name on the back. I know it’s a cliché and that’s what the fandom is supposed to be about, but marketers have warned about the floating fan base who follow their superstars from team to team. other teams, like in the NBA, for many years. No doubt it happens in football and also in the Premier League, but very few organizations can get over the loss of a star (in terms of hype/attention/relevance). ) like the way the top English team does.

Then there’s the competitiveness. The idea is that because there is a “Big Six”, the tournament is unpredictable and uncertain every year, unlike in other countries. In the last 10 years, the Premier League has been won by 5 different clubs, Spain’s LaLiga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 and of course the German Bundesliga just 1 (Bayern Munich, in case you’re hiding under a rock). But there’s a bit of a flaw with that thinking.

Firstly, while title races may focus solely on the neutrals, most supporters are fans of their clubs and are concerned with the performance and progress of the club. their sets. Would fans of the other 18 clubs enjoy watching the last day of last year’s Premier League crowned City of Manchester like champions? Maybe. Is that what makes them fan of a club in that league? I do not think so.

Strictly speaking, the number of winners doesn’t matter either. However, many say that the league is all about social mobility and that you can build success over time and become a super club, which is true, unless you own it. by a Russian financier or a willing sovereign wealth fund. losses for many years, probably not. Since 2005, when Everton ranked fourth, with only one team outside the so-called Big Six (acknowledged as being in the Big Five at the time because Abu Dhabi had not yet invested in City) got a spot in the top 4: Leicester Citywhen they won it all in 2015-16 (and extinguished their lifetime fairy tale quota).



Gab Marcotti explains why the financial impact of the Premier League is underestimated by just looking at total spending.

Think about it. The season begins and only six of the 20 clubs can realistically hope to make the top four. One of the side effects of the tournament’s success is revenue flowing to the top. And so the ambitious middle class (in recent seasons Aston Villa, West HamEverton, Leicester) find themselves with a Sisyphean quest.

Other European leagues have more top four teams – France (14), Germany (13), Italy (11) and Spain (10) – than just seven British teams in 17 seasons. But guess what? When it comes to the overall popularity of a tournament, it’s probably not a “problem”. Fans are used to the polarization and stratification between the super-rich (they exist in every league, but there are more of them in the Premier League) and others. They accept that they are participating in a race in a walker while the others are in a Ferrari.

So they measure success in different ways. They enjoy watching their team hit the bare minimum of goals: stay in the middle of the table, avoid relegation, whatever. And they enjoy the matches themselves, perhaps more than the results or the standings. For an owner, it’s the holy grail: keep your customers entertained and give them something meaningful they can cherish year after year without breaking the bank to really win something. Judging from the following and fan bases of mid-to-small Premier League clubs (not to mention those in the lower leagues, where audience numbers are lower than the rest) of Europe), they do it better in the UK than anywhere else.

The Premier League, especially on television, has always had a sense of “the era” and is competitive from top to bottom in a way that other leagues don’t. Why? Most of the pitch is beautiful on the screen, the fans are gathered close together, the game is on a good clip, the players seem interested. Reversals are not more frequent (and sometimes less) than in other Big Five leagues, but the quartet above – actual or perceived – always applies to most Premier League matches in the same way. which is not available anywhere else. And that makes it so much easier to sell the “Any Sunday” story that so many people accept (and this is generally not true).

There may come a time when the above formula no longer works. After all, league supremacy, they say, is cyclical. But, for now, the fact that the Premier League is the de facto Super League of the world (at least commercially) is undisputed. And the reasons for its success may not be what you think.

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