The premier league is undoubtedly the most successful and exciting football league in the world which we in the UK can be very proud of. However as a lower league fan the dominance of the Premier League in terms of televised matches and media coverage is having, in my opinion, a huge impact on any clubs not in the ‘promise land’.
As a fan of a lower league side I frequently get disillusioned with the dominance of the Premier League in the media and it appears that a lot of the time the media are not interested unless it is related to the Premier League. The national media (TV and Press) give very little coverage and column inches to the Football League sides and certainly the lower you go down in the football pyramid the less coverage you get. Sky do provide some decent coverage but the media and terrestrial channels are very poor.
A lot of lower league teams are struggling financially and if it were not for the generosity (some would say stupidity!) of the rich benefactors at many of these clubs I would envisage a large proportion of these would have disappeared and gone under already. Certainly in the past we have seen a lot of clubs entering administration (Swindon, Plymouth just to name just a few ) because they overstretched themselves trying to get into the Premier League. If the distribution of wealth in football was fairer and spread amongst all professional leagues in this country the issue of clubs struggling financially would be eased. A large part of this is related to attracting new fans and getting a bigger slice of the financial wealth from the TV companies. Certainly if the coverage of lower league clubs was increased by the national media than perhaps more fans would be tempted to part with their hard earned money and actively support their local league side.
It annoys me that when you visit a town of a lower league club you see youngsters wearing football shirts of the big 4-5 teams in the Premier League. This problem seems to be getting worse and in some ways I feel this is down to the over promotion and coverage that Premier league teams get over local, lower league teams. I am a firm believer that you should, where possible, support your local team. There is no issue with people having favourite Premier League clubs on top of their local side but I wish people would try to spend some of their hard earned money supporting their local club, otherwise they will go under and at the heart of every community is their football club, it’s an important part of most towns and cities in this country.
In my eyes the issues are down to the following problems:
- Lower league clubs are getting very little column inches in the national press and generally poor TV coverage.
- Wealth in the game concentrated on one league – the Premier League.
- Youth not coming through in the Premier League due to foreign imports – lower league British clubs not getting much needed money from transfer fees because clubs are buying from abroad – better value for money?
- Money from the Premier League is not being invested in lower league clubs.
- Clubs in lower leagues struggling for these reasons, so many are on the brink and in dire financial trouble.
- People in towns not supporting their local club – why not support your local club and a Premier League club of your choice.
What needs to happen?
- Feeder clubs setup in the country to support larger Premier League clubs
- Closer links to help develop lower league clubs and allow promising British talent to get game time at lower league level.
- National press and media being encouraged to cover more lower league sides and provide better coverage in the press.
- A more equal distribution of wealth across all league and Premier League clubs.
- Wage capping and capping of transfer fees
- TV money more equally distributed across all clubs
- Clubs having to have a certain percentage of their players being British and this imposed from the top.
- Local people should support their local club as well as having a favourite Premier League side – maybe offer incentives in the local community via the local council.
- Clubs working more closely with their local councils to promote the club within the community.
Hopefully it won’t take a greater number of lower league teams going under or getting into further dire financial constraints before changes are made by the authorities. I think things need to be addressed soon and the distribution of wealth made more equal across our great game before clubs fold and communities are spoilt. Unfortunately I don’t think having two bodies regulating the leagues (Premier league and Football League) helps; ideally we should have just one body in the game looking after all our professional teams.
What do you think?
By James Spencer – Swindon Town fan – @JSPhotographyUK