By Ellen Farrell.
Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Reading controversially clashed with Chelsea and Manchester United’s league match – but the FA playing second fiddle to the Premier League is nothing new.
When Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was asked if the tie should be competing with a league match at the pre-match press conference, he replied: “No, you would like it to be the unique competition that is played. Especially a semi-final and a final. You would want it not to conflict with other competitions. It is a surprise to me.”
But the reality is there’s a conflict of interests between the Premier League and FA, which perpetuates a growing gap between these footballing bodies and a devolution of power in British football. It is a shame that the oldest domestic club competition in the world suffers as a result but that is the state of football in this country – money dominates, and where cash is concerned the Premier League always takes precedence. And with money, inevitably comes great power and the ability for the EPL to dictate, which it frequently does.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has transformed England’s top flight into a highly lucrative and marketable commodity that’s sold around the world. The latest TV rights deal for 2016-17 went for a record £5.136billion, which represented a 70 per cent increase on Sky and BT’s current £3bn deal. It is the wealthiest league in the world and has become so flush that all 20 clubs from last season are among the richest 40 clubs in the world by income.
The Premier League is essentially a commercial entity concerned with maintaining and facilitating its global appeal to ensure it remains a highly profitable product. As such, it wants to attract the game’s best talents and these players are mostly foreign, imported from oversees. Consequently, the Premier League has one of the lowest percentages of homegrown players.
On the other hand, the FA is concerned with all levels of the game, professional and amateur and is conscious of maintaining the integrity of the game in England. Unlike the Premier League it doesn’t have a purely commercial perspective on the game but has its interests in all forms – from grassroots right up to the success of the national side. Therefore, the FA faces a constant power struggle with the EPL. When FA chairman Greg Dyke revealed his intent to increase the quota of homegrown players, questions were raised of whether this would be achievable.
Currently, teams are required to have eight homegrown players in their 25-man squads but Dyke wants this increased to 12 in the next five years. By 2022, the FA wants 45 per cent of players in the Premier League to be English.
Talking to the BBC about his proposals, Dyke explained: “If you look at who is playing in the Champions League, the English numbers compared to the Germans, the Spanish or the Brazilians, are pathetic.”
But the FA chairman is on a collision course with Premier League clubs who are unlikely to agree to the new plans and as long as the EPL and FA have contrasting visions, then there is always going to be this conflict of interests.
Read more from Ellen Farrell here.