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Dhaka Tribune

The continual decline of competition and financial disparity in European football

Senor Perez and Co may have failed to create the European Super League, but the growing financial chasm between the top and smaller clubs makes the situation almost as dire as ESL itself

Update : 26 May 2024, 04:49 AM

Florentino Perez and Co may have failed to create the European Super League, but the growing financial chasm between the top and smaller clubs makes the situation almost as dire as ESL itself.

The ESL was a proposed competition where 20 top clubs would play each other in a league system with no relegation for the bigger teams, ditching the UEFA Champions League, whilst also sharing the revenue among themselves abandoning the smaller clubs.

Before the injection of Petrodollars in football, competition used to be fierce and the smaller clubs used to put up a lot more fight instead of surrendering helplessly.

In Arsenal’s undefeated 2003-04 season, they accumulated a staggering 90 points, while second-placed Chelsea had only 79.

This pales in comparison to Liverpool losing to Manchester City even after racking up 97 points.

This indicates both financial disparity and talent hoarding by the big clubs. 

The competition has certainly evolved in the last two decades.

With the introduction of new and lucrative TV deals, social media and investment from the Middle East and North America, football is slowly moving away from clubs like Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Olympique de Marseille or even Leicester City.

Whenever a club outside the financially elites win silverware, it is usually labelled an upset and justifiably so.

The elite clubs have been ruthless in poaching away the brightest talents from the smaller clubs. 

Players like Erling Haaland, Darwin Nunez, Randal Kolo Muani, Jude Bellingham and countless others who have performed well have been poached by clubs like City, Liverpool, Paris Saint Germain and Real Madrid.

Every player dream of playing at the highest stage but the smaller clubs cannot piece together a team to compete domestically, let alone in the UCL, because they are constantly losing their best footballers.

Players like Paolo Maldini, Ryan Gigs, Francesco Totti, among others, are extinct from football.

Even if players are ready to commit the future to their boyhood clubs, the clubs just cannot compete with the elites either financially or with the quality of football.

Bayern Munich have a knack of snapping up best-performing players from their rivals.

Players bought by Bayern like Mario Gotze, Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski are few examples why international fans lost respect for the league. 

Even in England, where the smaller clubs have some financial muscle due to TV rights, cannot hold onto their best players.

These clubs could not hold onto the likes of Declan Rice, Jack Grealish, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, and many others, in recent years. 

The chasm between clubs has grown so much that there is no competition, as evidenced by all three newly promoted clubs getting relegated from the Premier League.

Clubs like Luton Town and Burnley did try and play energetic, expansive football but they could not compete at the highest level.

Sheffield United, on the other hand, conceded a record 104 goals this season and finished with only 26 points.

A similar picture could be observed all around Europe as most leagues saw bottom teams finish with less than 25 points - Almeria (18), Darmstadt (17), Clermont Foot (25) and Salernitana (16).

Since the 2014/15 season, the top 15 highest-spending clubs have hogged over 90% of trophies in their respective competitions.

Clubs like PSG, City, Barcelona, Bayern, and Real have used their financial muscle to create a monopoly and drain the talent from the lower levels, thus the growth of gaps all over Europe between the top and bottom. 

So, now we ask: Is there any way to stop this growing fissure?

The answer is simple enough.

The authorities must bring the hammer down and enforce the rules.

Clubs like Nottingham Forest and Everton have been punished for breaching the Profit and Sustainability Rules in the 2022/23 season while City are yet to be punished even after being charged almost a year earlier (February 2023) with 115 breaches taking place over nine seasons. 

If the authorities do not act quickly to break the monopoly of the elite clubs, it will not only keep decreasing the level of competition, but also make the audience despise the beautiful game they once worshipped and loved.

As for now, the only thing we can do is enjoy the fairytales from the likes of Bayer Leverkusen this season in the Bundesliga, and Leicester in the EPL in 2016.

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