The Premier League is commonly referred to as 'the best league in the world', but how much truth is there in that statement? More recently, 'best' has been switched for 'most entertaining', and perhaps the latter is more easily justified. Certainly, the world's audiences would seem to agree with second interpretation. The Premier League is by far the most watched and most popular league in the world, beamed to 643 million homes with a total TV audience over a season of 4.7 billion, a figure which continues to rise.
Other compliments paid to England's top tier is that it is the most competitive league, the most fast-paced and the most unpredictable; yet again though, how much truth is there in such claims? All three could be quite easily rebutted. This list features ten problems with the most watched and popular league in the entire world of sport. That is not to say that the Premier League is not a superb league and a tremendous spectacle, worthy of the astronomical viewership it receives.
Although the Premier League is based in England (and Wales), it has essentially become an international league, especially in recent years. The majority of owners, managers, players and worldwide supporters are now from foreign shores. Whilst this has seen some of the games greatest flock to Britain, it has left some fans feeling disillusioned as the game continues to evolve at an ever-changing rate. Here are the top 10 problems with the Premier League.
10 Less Technically Gifted than Other Leagues
A minor point, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. Even the most stubborn defender of the Premier League would now concede that generally speaking, the players in La Liga are more technically gifted than their Premier League counterparts. Furthermore, most would agree that the Bundesliga too was of equal or greater technical quality to the Premier League. In truth, this is not a recent development. Certainly the English national team have exposed the lack of emphasis on technical ability in comparison to the rest of Europe over the last two decades. Now that English teams can no longer play at a greater tempo than their Spanish, German and Italian counterparts, their technical deficiencies have become more apparent.
9 Emotionally Detached Owners
Fan ownership is a tremendous thing. Supporters in Germany and many other places around the world will tell you that. However, in the Premier League, it is almost unheard of. A few teams have given supporters a reasonable say and influence, but most disregard them at a whim. No longer financially reliant on local supporters, most owners see them as customers. Nowhere is this more poignantly felt than at Hull City, as owners the Allams have essentially said in no uncertain terms that the club's supporters are irrelevant. These are the supporters who have followed the club all throughout their lives, from before such owners took an interest in the club and will continue to do so long after those owners have gone. Other examples include the Glazers, Mike Ashley and Vincent Tan, but in truth, most owners now have little attachment to the clubs they own or affinity with the supporters of said club.
8 Lack of Home-Grown Talent
The money in the Premier League is immense. As such, the pressure on the owners, managers, coaches, players and everyone involved with Premier League football clubs is enormous. One of the disheartening consequences of this has been the lack of opportunity afforded to young homegrown English and British talent in their domestic top flight. Teams are afraid to throw their 18 or 19-year-olds into first team action, often regardless of their substantial potential. A few teams insist on still giving youngsters a chance to flourish in the first team, most notably Southampton have reaped the rewards of such a policy and should stand as an example to the teams around them. One thing is for sure, if Premier League clubs continue to refuse to give homegrown talent first team football, the England national team will continue to suffer.
7 Refereeing Standards
A contentious one, refereeing is a tough and thankless task that most would agree probably isn't worth the hassle. Personally, I am a long standing defender of referees. They have to make split-second decisions on which seasons could rest, and whilst it may be easy for us to tell them they called something wrong after eight slow-motion replays on a 50-inch screen, it seems a little unfair. However, the last couple of seasons, standards do seem to have dropped. Major calls seem to be going the wrong way more than ever before. One problem referees face is dishonest players, which we will come to. Their antics make a referee's job very difficult, and until such deception is stamped out, one can expect refereeing errors to occur on a regular basis.
6 Ticket Prices
The extortionate ticket prices in the Premier League are a huge problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, football has traditionally been the game of the working man, or at least the game of the everyman. Today though, live Premier League football is largely a spectacle for the wealthy. As gate numbers are at record highs for the last half century, it is little surprise nothing is being done about this. However, should one take a look at the Bundesliga, an alternative becomes clearer. Sure, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund could charge their fans $2,000 for a season ticket as Arsenal do, but such is the money in the game today that they know they don't have to. Gate receipts provide often 7-8% of a team's annual income, an almost insignificant figure. Whilst Premier League crowds are not suffering, the atmospheres and the working man, previously the heart of the game, is being turned away.
5 Honesty & Integrity
For a long time, one thing that English football managed to maintain was a more honest approach. British football fans would watch other European and South American football and despair at the constant stoppages and antics as players rolled around following only minor contact and deception seemed merely another element of the game. Now though, slowly but surely, it has crept into the Premier League. The tough tackling is being waned out of the game as deceit and trickery seeps in. As FIFA refuse to take decisive action regarding retrospective punishment for cheats, it will not stop any time soon. So skilled are some players in the art, referees face an uphill task and the admirable honesty of the league seems to diminish with every passing week.
4 Failure in Europe
A recent problem, no doubt, but if you are to proclaim boldly that you are the best league in the world, you might hope your top teams could proudly represent you on the European and international stage. Although Chelsea won the Champions League just three seasons ago, English sides have struggled in the competition ever since, with this year's tournament providing particular disappointment. Liverpool failed to get out of the group stages, Arsenal were defeated by modest opposition in the form of Monaco, Manchester City were bulldozed by the tremendous Barcelona and Chelsea lost to 10-man PSG. The top English teams can still be a force in Europe, but even Chelsea appear to be some way behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, and arguably Bayern Munich and Juventus, this years four semi-finalists.
3 Premier League fans
With success comes support, we all know that, it is unavoidable. But there is a growing sect of supporters in England now- the 'bandwagon jumpers', the 'scarfers', the 'plastic' fans, they have many names in the UK. These are the people who, in truth, support the league, not the team in which they go to see in that league. They will watch their local side in the top division so that they can see Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero, but will stop going in the second division when the opposition are of more modest stature. Whilst I stand in danger of becoming a football 'snob' and teetering towards labeling a 'good' fan and 'bad' fan, there is something particularly unlikable about this group of supporters.
2 Killing the Football League
English football has a proud history, and there are some fine teams throughout the football league system, many of whom are having the life sucked out of them by the sheer size and finances of the Premier League. With lower league ticket prices still expensive and such a vast amount of football on TV, more and more youngsters will side with a Chelsea or Liverpool instead of their local Shrewsbury or Scunthorpe. In full course, this is a problem which could kill football in England. A competitive league system is necessary to keep the league going, and for that, lower league sides at the very least, require local support.
1 Lack of Competitiveness
Blasphemy, it may seem. One of the great things about the Premier League is supposed to be how wide open it is. Anyone can win it you may be led to believe, should you listen to those who promote the league. The truth is, none of it is true. Long gone are the days of Brian Clough transforming second division strugglers into first division champions. In the Premier League era, with the money involved, that is just not possible. The league is effectively broken up into a series of mini leagues, and most teams know that they have very little chance of breaking out of their mini league, perhaps ever, especially since the introduction of Financial Fair Play rules.
As for the Premier League's competitiveness in comparison to the other major leagues, one thing is arguably true. The lesser teams do often give the better teams more of a game and occasionally pick up results against them more often. Burnley and Leicester tend to do better against Chelsea and Man City than Paderborn or Cordoba do against Bayern or Barcelona. Predicting the league though, is little challenge. Anyone with any knowledge of the Premier League could name their 1-20 in August and wouldn't be far wrong come May. In terms of diversity of champions, since its inception, there have been five different Premier League winners. In that time, there have been five different La Liga champions, five different Serie A champions and six different Bundesliga champions. Which league is supposed to be the wide open one again?