As talk of Brexit and resignations flooded the airwaves, news emerged of a story that left a lot of people scratching their heads - Richard Scudamore’s gift, a ‘suggestion’ from the Premier League that all member clubs part with £250,000 cash for the departing chief executive as he leaves his position.
Whilst people are rightfully analysing the decision to award a man on a £2.5m base salary a bonus he clearly doesn’t need and state that money would be better invested in grassroots football, is it fair to assess that actually we might all be missing the point of this, and really we should be questioning what his legacy is, and what it means for the future?
There’s no doubt Scudamore has been successful in his role as a Chief Executive. He’s taken a moderate European League and up-scaled it to a highly marketable, staggeringly profitable corporate machine, domineering all other domestic competitions world wide.
The £5.1 billion deal is the largest television deal for any media commodity, sports or otherwise EVER, and he’s also done it with little controversy. Richard Scudamore is in fact a shareholders dream - he’s created the ultimate sausage machine churning out money like nothing the sporting word has ever seen.
That’s all well and good for the fat-cats, but how has his impact shaped the Premier League, for better or worse, and more importantly, what imprint has he left ingrained on English football?
Let’s look at Sunderland. There’s no doubt that Sunderland AFC’s prior mismanagement and bad decisions have led them down the path to League 1 - and there’s no way that Richard Scudamore can be blamed for where the club are. However, the financial catastrophe, and perilous position Sunderland still suffer from presently has to be considered, partially at least, a product of Scuadmore’s reign.
While he leaves his position, English football has the largest disparity in wages paid to players in the Premier League to all three professional leagues immediately below it.
This can be demonstrated in the fact Sunderland had several first team players on more per year than the entire budget of Fleetwood Town’s playing staff. And yes, it’s correct to state Premier League clubs have never had a higher median average value than they do today, so what’s not to like?
Well, quite a lot actually. Wage bills are higher than they’ve ever been before, and the average turnover to wage ratio is at it’s highest point in history. In short, if you drop out the money league, the ratio of your wages to your income is almost guaranteed to rise, even if the actual wages you pay decrease. That is staggering.
More prominently, what are you left with if you drop out of the league and you aren’t fortunate enough to have new owners come and save the day, with a previous owner willing to play his part to stabilise the club?
You could ask Coventry, Portsmouth, Leeds, even Aston Villa. There’s more, and what’s worrying is that more clubs are inevitably going to fall through the trap door. As wages creep higher and higher, and the disparity between income to wage bill grows larger and larger across the top 4 divisions, the fall is going to be harder than ever before.
“But parachute payments” - yes, of course they help. Without them, Sunderland AFC would likely not exist, and you can confidently state than soon enough a club will drop, and when they do they’ll not recover, not at least for decades, and are very unlikely with the same name or stadium.
Let’s not detract from the fact all those aforementioned clubs are in or have been in that position not because of Scuadmore, but because of the people in charge at the time. But we also need to recognise that the reasons these clubs haven’t been able to recover quickly and effectively, as they did in years prior, is due to the ludicrous values paid for and to players which is a direct correlation of the machine he built.
I don’t like the word luck, it’s not a concept I believe in, but I don’t have a word to fully appreciate just how much of a crisis Sunderland were in. I’ve never been more convinced the next one to drop won’t be so ‘lucky’.
The most unbelievable aspect of this story is the fact Scadamore will continue in a consultancy role for the league, and £5m seems a large goodbye gift for a man who will probably be sat in the same chair come Monday morning.
It’s obvious the money could, and should, be invested in better areas, but soon a club without a 49,000 seater stadium and gracious owners will drop, and when they can’t find the money to pay £80,000 a week to ten average footballers no better than ones receiving £3000 in a lower league, the true legacy of Scuadmore’s reign will come to fruition.