Ils sont mau­vais en foot, mais le vendent bien

Vocable (Anglais) - - Enjeux -

Dans le monde du football, les clubs an­glais se sont taillé une place bien à part. La Pre­mier League est le cham­pion­nat le plus re­gar­dé de la pla­nète et Man­ches­ter Uni­ted peut se tar­guer d’être l’équipe de foot la plus riche au monde. Sur le ter­rain, les ré­sul­tats ne sont pas tou­jours au rendez-vous, mais qu’im­porte… Les stades ne désem­plissent pas et les droits té­lé­vi­sés ex­plosent.

Mo­peds em­bla­zo­ned with Man­ches­ter Uni­ted’s crest drone through the streets of Bang­kok. Fans in Okene, Ni­ge­ria, dance in red and white kits on the town’s an­nual Ar­se­nal Day. Of­fi­cial sup­por­ters’ groups exist in Ma­ce­do­nia, Mon­go­lia and Mexi­co, some of the 180-plus coun­tries to which matches are broad­cast. In the 25 years since it was first contes­ted, the En­glish Pre­mier League, has be­come the most lu­cra­tive pro­duct in the world’s most po­pu­lar sport. Its clubs ear­ned £4.5bn (€4.9bn) in the 2015-16 sea­son, al­most twice as much as any other football league, ac­cor­ding to De­loitte, a con­sul­tan­cy.

2.The puzzle is that the game’s most re­now­ned do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion is not ve­ry good. ClubE­, which rates teams ac­cor­ding to the op­po­nents they beat, cal­cu­lates that eight years ago four of the world’s five top sides were En­glish. To­day none is. An En­glish club last rea­ched the fi­nal of the Cham­pions League, Eu­rope’s most pres­ti­gious kno­ckout com­pe­ti­tion, in 2012. A Pre­mier League star last made the top five in the Bal­lon d’Or, an award for the world’s best player, in 2011. Spain, Ger­ma­ny, Ita­ly and France, the other mem­bers of Eu­rope’s “big five”, now do­mi­nate. Yet as the stan­dard of En­glish football has di­ved, it has on­ly be­come ri­cher. Why are such a me­diocre bunch so po­pu­lar?


3.The En­glish lan­guage is no gua­ran­tee of suc­cess (France has the weal­thiest rug­by com­pe­ti­tion, for ins­tance) but it makes the chat­ter bet­ween ma­na­gers, pun­dits and players more ac­ces­sible than in Ger­ma­ny or Ita­ly, say. And being in a Eu­ro­pean time-zone means that ear­ly ri­sers in the Ame­ri­cas and night owls in Asia can tune in to matches— so­me­thing that En­gland makes ea­sier with its af­ter­noon ki­ckoffs, which are han­dier for Asian fans than Spain’s eve­ning fix­tures.

4.The Hills­bo­rough tra­ge­dy of 1989, in which a crush killed 96 Li­ver­pool sup­por­ters, led to the re­mo­val of stan­ding sec­tions in sta­diums around the coun­try. Over the next de­cade clubs spent £500m on re­no­va­tions, which meant hi­gher ti­cket prices and ri­cher fans. At the same time, mo­ney floo­ded in­to the league from a te­le­vi­sion deal with BS­kyB, a sa­tel­lite broad­cas­ter, which more than tre­bled the fee that the pre­vious broad­cas­ter, ITV, had paid.

5.The ex­pan­ding cir­cus of in­ter­na­tio­nal stars has broa­de­ned the league’s appeal. South Ko­reans tune in to watch Tot­ten­ham Hots­pur’s Heung-Min Son; Se­ne­ga­lese to fol­low Li­ver­pool’s Sa­dio Ma­né. Such players have been ac­qui­red part­ly thanks to in­jec­tions of fo­rei­gn ca­pi­tal. Led by Ro­man Abra­mo­vich, a Rus­sian ma­gnate who bought Chel­sea in 2003, the Pre­mier League has be­come a play­ground for fo­rei­gn ty­coons. They now have control­ling stakes in 12 clubs, in­clu­ding smal­ler ones such as West Brom­wich Al­bion and Swan­sea Ci­ty.


6.En­glish teams have al­so been qui­cker than others to mar­ket them­selves abroad. Man­ches­ter Uni­ted be­gan ma­king re­gu­lar pre­sea­son trips to Asia in 1995, whe­reas Real Ma­drid did so on­ly in 2003. This sum­mer En­glish teams en­ter­tai­ned crowds eve­ryw­here from Hous­ton to Hong Kong. And they are ex­pan­ding with bu­si­ness ven­tures in new cor­ners of the globe. Man­ches­ter Ci­ty owns clubs in New York, Mel­bourne, Yo­ko­ha­ma and Mon­te­vi­deo. With its three Afri­can spon­sors, Ar­se­nal has as ma­ny as conti­nen­tal Eu­rope’s five ri­chest teams put to­ge­ther. 7. And whe­reas conti­nen­tal teams sen­si­bly pour re­sources in­to de­ve­lo­ping ta­len­ted young­sters, En­glish teams splurge on ageing stars, who draw in crowds but do less to win matches, ac­cor­ding to the 21st Club, a football con­sul­tan­cy. Six of the Real Ma­drid side that won this year’s Cham­pions League fi­nal joi­ned as tee­na­gers. By contrast in recent years a num­ber of En­glish sides have spent clu­bre­cord sums on ol­der players who are at the peak of their fame but have en­ded up spen­ding half their time on the bench. The constant hi­ring and fi­ring of title-win­ning ma­na­gers in En­gland si­mi­lar­ly makes for great dra­ma, though bad re­sults.


8.Can this suc­cess sto­ry sur­vive Brexit? The big­ger wor­ry concerns mi­gra­tion. Af­ter Brexit, Eu­ro­peans may face the same im­mi­gra­tion rules as eve­ryone else. Star players will have no trouble clea­ring these hurdles, but les­ser-known ta­lent may be ex­clu­ded. N’Go­lo Kan­té, a young French­man who hel­ped Lei­ces­ter win their league title, had ne­ver played for his coun­try and thus would have strug­gled to get per­mis­sion to work in Bri­tain had it not been for the EU’s free­mo­ve­ment rules. 9.There is ano­ther pro­blem. Al­though En­glish clubs have the mo­ney to ac­quire fo­rei­gn stars, the in­abi­li­ty to win big titles is off-put­ting. This cal­cu­la­tion has al­rea­dy lost the Pre­mier League some of its best players, such as Luis Suá­rez and Ga­reth Bale.

10.If it can­not at­tract football’s megastars, that will li­mit the Pre­mier League’s appeal to fans. For the time being, clever marketing and a com­pe­ti­tive, dra­ma­tic league have been en­ough to keep the world glued to En­gland’s com­pe­ti­tion. But if they want to keep sel­ling football, En­glish clubs will have to get bet­ter at playing it, too. 9. al­though bien que, même si / in­abi­li­ty in­ca­pa­ci­té, in­ap­ti­tude / off-put­ting re­bu­tant. 10. for the time being pour l'ins­tant / to be en­ough suf­fire / to be glued to ici, être ri­vé/"scot­ché" à/ cap­ti­vé par / to get, got, got bet­ter s'amé­lio­rer.


Man­ches­ter Uni­ted claims to have 659 mil­lion fans world­wide.

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