Study says Premiership has become too predictable

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The Independent Football

The report was commissioned by The Sports Nexus, which describes itself as "a privately funded, independent sports pressure group". It has called on the respective chief executives of the Football Association and Premier League, Brian Barwick and Richard Scudamore, to take seriously what it perceives as a threat to the élite league.

"At what point do you draw a line," it asks, "and say 'enough is enough'? At the current rate, the financial dominance of rich clubs over poor is set to destroy football in England as it has in Scotland. It is essential that this issue is addressed before it is too late." However, the reported lack of response by those bodies to last year's report, which detailed a similar trend in predictability, does not bode well.

The authors of Competitive Balance in Football: An Update, professors Jonathan Michie, of Birmingham Business School, and Christine Oughton, of Birkbeck College, University of London, conclude that predictability is in part caused by the disproportionate distribution of income from television rights, "especially those qualifying for the Champions League".

Another cause, the authors state, is "a further widening in the gap in wage expenditure between the top four teams and the rest, including a more than doubling in wage expenditure by Chelsea, based on 2004 statistics.

Those figures confirm that "the top four clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool that year) have broken away from the rest of the pack and are spending between around £20 million to £70m more than the other clubs. The exception was Leeds, with a wage expenditure of £60m, but who were relegated.

The authors also stress "the decline in the effectiveness of the promotion and relegation system as a means of promoting competitive balance associated with the widening income gap between the Premier League and the Championship".

It adds: "Uncertainty of outcome generates interest from supporters and increases demand for watching matches both at the ground and on television. A league that is not competitively balanced is not maximising potential income from spectators and viewers."

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