The Premier League shareholders’ meeting is known for its drama, but in reality, it is quite dull. Held at a fancy hotel in central London, a group of mostly male executives quietly come and go, and the only excitement is a potential update to the rulebook. It’s definitely not as exciting as the famous rivalry between Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on Monday Night Football.
However, the recent meeting at the Churchill hotel in Marylebone was quite surprising. The results of this meeting indicate a competition that is not only divided, but also struggling to address the difficulties it is currently facing.
The Premier League clubs voted on Tuesday to reject a proposal that would temporarily prohibit player loans between clubs with shared ownership. They also voted against implementing stricter regulations on sponsorship deals between clubs and companies with ownership ties. These proposals, put forth by the Premier League, were ultimately denied. This is a rare occurrence.
The discussion concluded without reaching a decision on the proposed New Deal for football. Over the past two years, the Premier League has faced pressure from the government to allocate more funds to the EFL in order to alleviate financial strain on smaller clubs. However, this funding has not yet been provided as the Premier League is pursuing a comprehensive agreement that would revamp various aspects of English football, including spending regulations and the format of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy.
There were high hopes, even from within the Premier League, that the deal would be completed this week. However, the topic was extensively discussed for three hours, with every club voicing their thoughts. Some clubs expressed concerns that the proposals were not feasible for them. These same ideas have been suggested in some capacity for over a year.
The Premier League has faced challenges in reaching a consensus among its members on two key matters. While this is not uncommon, it is not ideal for the league to appear divided at this time. On December 21st, the European court of justice is set to make a decision on whether new competitions, like the European Super League (ESL), need approval from a governing body to be formed. At the same time, a bill for an independent regulator in football is anticipated to be presented in parliament. These developments could greatly influence the operations of the league.
Two years ago, six teams from the Premier League made the decision to become part of the ESL. However, they have since apologized publicly and have agreed to adhere to the current rules and regulations. The remaining aspects of the ESL project now seem absurd. Nonetheless, the possibility of a separate competition in some manner still looms. If it does resurface, the clubs that previously left in 2021 will have the opportunity to rejoin.
One of the main tasks of the Premier League’s management has always been to maintain good relationships with the top six teams. This responsibility was passed on to Richard Masters in November 2019, just four months before Covid caused the football season to be put on hold. However, Masters not only has to deal with this group, but also with other factions, such as those who voted against related-party loans. These eight individuals all have one thing in common: they are either currently part of or likely to join a multi-club ownership group. This trend, which has become increasingly popular in European football over the past five years, is particularly appealing to American investors, who have a stake in almost half of the league’s clubs.
Meanwhile, three clubs in the league are owned by individuals from the Gulf region, two of which are owned by sovereign wealth funds. Additionally, some smaller clubs are primarily focused on avoiding relegation. However, there is another group consisting of British entrepreneurial owners, led by Steve Parish of Crystal Palace. This group is opposed to the power and influence of the top six clubs and any reforms that would result in money being distributed from the top level to lower leagues. In recent years, this group has become more outspoken and assertive.
The Premier League’s voting system, which requires 14 out of 20 clubs to agree on any decision, has previously prevented the “big six” from having too much control. However, it also means that the other 14 clubs must come together in order to have a say. However, recent votes suggest that this system may no longer be effective. Additionally, the lack of agreement on a deal with the EFL indicates that clubs are not heavily influenced by the decisions of the league’s executives or the government, who have threatened to involve a regulator if a deal cannot be reached.
Football clubs in the English Football League (EFL) are closely monitoring the current issues within the league and considering whether it would be more beneficial to wait for the regulating body to resolve them. This is also due to their urgent need for financial support. At the same time, government officials are also deliberating on the final wording of a bill to establish a regulator. The question at hand is whether this regulator should have a minimal and hands-off approach, or a more involved and controlling one. Interestingly, the Premier League has not been able to effectively advocate for the former option. With time running out, this could be perceived as a lack of direction on their part.