Nick Harris: So, is football recession-proof?
Saturday 07 February 2009
So the Premier League's new TV deals, worth a dizzying £1.782bn for the live British rights alone between 2010 and 2013, have bucked the global economic downturn.
But does that mean the world's richest, most watched football league is, once and for all, recession-proof?
It's tempting, of course, to dither around the edges, to qualify any judgement with warnings about season-ticket income and corporate sales and shirt sponsors. To ponder the ongoing vulnerability of a banking sector whose closeness to the game is exemplified by the League's current but doubtful future sponsor, Barclays. To argue Liverpool's lack of stadium funding is more about the credit crunch than rank incompetence.
But what the heck. Yes! Yesterday's deals show, that by and large, the Premier League is recession proof. Because just as a recession or a depression can be triggered by loss of confidence, and undoubtedly deepened and prolonged by it, so positive news, diamond-hard financial news, can only be a good thing.
The most important point the League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, made yesterday was that the TV deals give the clubs "the stability to plan and invest".
That means the wages stay high. The best players stay. The show goes on.
Yes, sponsors, there is still something to see. No, fans, the "product" is not about to go pear-shaped.
All clubs have three revenue streams: match-day, commercial, and media which is principally from domestic TV. The last of those has been secured at a stroke until 2013.
Match-day revenue, for the moment, shows few signs of dropping massively. Gates are holding up reasonably on last season's 50-year high mark, and if there are dips come season-ticket renewal time, that should not be a massive setback.
It should be a challenge to clubs to start being more creative with pricing policy – which the new deals can help pay for – to bring prices down to keep the crowds in. Fans will view these new TV deals and justifiably ask: "How about you pass some of it on, now?"
Sponsorship might indeed be hit as the downturn goes on. West Ham's shirt sponsor, XL, went bust. Manchester United's, AIG, now subsidised by US tax payers, will quit soon. Other deals will fall by the wayside. But there are replacements out there.
Sponsors like to be linked to a success story, and the Premier League remains a success.
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