BOOK RE­VIEW

Birmingham Post - - PERSONAL FINANCE -

by Joshua Robin­son and Jonathan Clegg (Sports­bookof the­month.com price: £14, sav­ing £6 on rrp) SEV­ERAL very good books deal­ing with the busi­ness of foot­ball have been pub­lished over the last quar­ter cen­tury. David Conn’s The Foot­ball Busi­ness (1997) paved the way, while his fol­lowup, The Beau­ti­ful Game? (2005), was just as in­sight­ful.

Gra­ham John­son’s Foot­ball And Gang­sters (2011) was a hard-hit­ting anal­y­sis of how the cash the game gen­er­ates is si­phoned off, and more re­cently, Martin Cal­la­dine’s The Ugly Game (2015) took an in­tel­li­gent look at how the Premier League could learn from Amer­ica’s (much richer) NFL. The Club cov­ers much of the same ground as pre­vi­ous tomes, pro­vid­ing read­ers with a com­pre­hen­sive and very read­able over­view of how the Premier League de­vel­oped fi­nan­cially. It notes, for in­stance, that over the course of the past quar­ter cen­tury, “the league’s 20 clubs have in­creased their com­bined value by more than 10,000 per cent, from around £50 mil­lion in 1992 to £10 bil­lion to­day.”

Pre-1992, the game was on its knees. When the gov­ern­ment or­dered top-flight club own­ers to con­vert their sta­dia into all-seater venues (at an es­ti­mated cost of £8 mil­lion), the chair­men hastily an­nounced the game’s im­mi­nent demise. Nowa­days, £8 mil­lion wouldn’t buy you a re­serve full back.

Luck played a mas­sive part in foot­ball’s trans­for­ma­tion, from a sport dogged by hooli­gan­ism, de­crepit grounds and fall­ing at­ten­dances to a rich cash cow. First, a small num­ber of switched-on chair­men sought to break from the Foot­ball League and so re­tain more of the rev­enue they felt they gen­er­ated and se­cond, the ad­vent of satel­lite TV, in par­tic­u­lar Sky.

The peo­ple who ran Sky un­der­stood that its suc­cess as a broad­caster was wholly de­pen­dent upon a mix of ‘footy and films’. The busi­ness had deep pock­ets and paid hand­somely for the ex­clu­siv­ity it de­manded.

It didn’t take long for busi­ness­men to recog­nise that Sky’s money of­fered a rare com­mer­cial guar­an­tee, trig­ger­ing a se­ries of takeovers which left many clubs owned by peo­ple who some­how sat­is­fied the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper per­son’ test. In­stead, the league was more in­ter­ested in be­ing “the most ex­cit­ing league in the world”, even though most matches rarely live up to this billing. The fans? Un­for­tu­nately, they’re just the folks who keep the whole she­bang run­ning: at­tend­ing games, buy­ing Sky sub­scrip­tions, club mer­chan­dise and kits. Should they buy The Club, it would con­firm the de­gree to which they’ve been taken for a ride.

We’ve teamed up with www.sports bookofthe­month.com and have a copy of The Club to give away. To win, visit www.sports­bookofthe­month.com and an­swer this ques­tion:

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