In ‘Can We Have Our Football Back?’ Football365 writer John Nicholson produces a coruscating attack on the excesses of the Premier League and provides an optimistic blueprint for a football revolution.
Nicholson wants to put an end to the Premier League, an end to the financial model upon which it is founded, an end to paywall TV, and an end to the astronomical wages, transfer fees and agents fees.
He wants to see a more sane, less abusive, more competitive, more fun and less venal competition, which puts fans at the centre of everything and works for the advantage of everyone, not just a tiny elite.
Sky TV is the main reason why the Premier League is awash with money but the perceived view that football on subscription TV is reaching a wide audience is misleading. Nicholson explains that football behind a paywall isn’t popular and really doesn’t get big audiences.
For example, in 2019 the Liverpool v Fulham game was shown on Sky and watched by 1.5m people. At the same time the BBC was showing Millwall versus Brighton in the FA Cup, which was watched by an audience of 4.4m people.
The vast majority of homes in the UK do not have Sky subscriptions. Sky gets 1-2m viewers per game for Premier League games and about 750,000 if the game is between two smaller clubs.
Currently only about 4% of the population have a Sky subscription. Nicholson’s stone cold truth is that the majority of the football public simply rejects the idea of paying to watch football. He states that if we want football to reach the general public it should be restored to terrestrial TV.
One of the main problems with the Premier League is that it is no longer competitive with the top six dominating. But before the Premier League existed, things were different.
The league was much more competitive and less predictable. You had no idea who was going to win the title, and in many ways, even better than that, you had no idea who would finish in the European places.
Sadly money is now the foremost factor in the Premier League and it taints the sport, making it hard to disagree with Nicholson’s analysis.
The style of writing can be a little disconcerting at times and may not be to everyone’s liking but it’s still an absorbing read. Nicholson interviews players, journalists and broadcasters about what is wrong with the Premier League and puts together some compelling arguments about the need for change.
Nicholson has a long list of commendable reforms which will transform football, but the initial catalyst will be the collective boycott of paywall TV when everyone cancels their direct debits.
Some may regard Nicholson as an idealist whose ideas will never come to fruition but there is an increasing mood for change as fans are becoming disenchanted with the predictability of the Premier League and the obscene amounts of money involved.
Can we have our football back? How the Premier League is ruining football and what we can do about it… by John Nicholson, Published by Head Publishing, Price £10.
This review first appeared in the November/December edition of Late Tackle magazine.