Twenty-five years ago British football was transformed by the decision of the clubs in the first division of the Football League to rebrand as the FA Premier League and strike new commercial deals. Since then football has grown from a beloved national pastime to a multi-billion-pound business. The 20 Premier League clubs had total revenue of €4.8bn (£4.3bn) in 2015/2016, making it Europe’s biggest league, say accountants Deloitte.
So football is now unequivocally a very big business. While ticket sales are important, the real driver of revenue growth is broadcasting rights, which have shot up exponentially.
“I see nothing at the moment to say that sports are fundamentally losing their grip on consumers’ attention,” agrees Stefan Szymanski, professor of sport management at the University of Michigan, who has acted as a consultant to several major sporting bodies, including FIFA, and has written the bestseller Soccernomics. “The most popular sports in general have been the most attractive content for broadcast”, which should enable them “to command ever increasing prices.”