The Dark Side of the EPL Money | A Closer Insight


The English Premier League has offered the teams financial gains and commercial revenue like no other league. It has lifted the English football phenomenally. Very few know the fact that even the English Second Division i.e The EFL Championship is the seventh richest domestic league in whole of Europe. No wonder the commercial effect of EPL Money has had an influence on the growth of these teams.

A team getting promoted to the English Premier League will pocket almost 100 million Euros. Among the top 20 richest football teams in the world, 7 are from England. Moreover, Sunderland who recently got relegated from the Premier League after finishing at the bottom of the table earned more TV revenue than German Champions Bayern Munich. This should give an insight about the monetary advantages of playing in the league.

But every coin has two sides. There is a very dark side to the commercial dealings which may even take the clubs to administration and liquidation. Relegation, poor management and overspending. Relegation from the Premier League has affected many teams drastically. Doom and gloom surrounds the clubs for the next couple of years. Some clubs may get promoted back immediately the next season, while some continue to stay in the second division leaving the riches of the Premier League for stability. In the worst of cases, it may take the club to administration and even liquidation. Even among the Premier League clubs, there is a huge debt for many  of the top teams. Manchester United, arguably the biggest team commercially in the football scene, has the largest debt among all the teams.

The riches of the EPL increased the ambitions of many clubs. Clubs like Manchester City. Portsmouth etc were all purchased by Arabs who were developing a keen interest in English football. It has taken Manchester City to the pinnacle of English football and they have established themselves on the footballing map but things haven’t been so smooth and successful for others.

Despite being yo-yo clubs, teams like Queens Park Rangers, Hull City and Reading have steadied their finances but teams like Bolton and Portsmouth, both of which were among the top 10 sides in EPL a decade back lost the plot completely. Portsmouth were the winners of the FA Cup in 2008 and Bolton played a couple of seasons in UEFA Cup, the predecessor of the current day Europa League. But relegation isn’t the only reason for their decline. There are a couple of others reasons too. Overspending in Premier League and getting relegated, bad ownership and poor financial management might well be the other reasons.


Taking the London based QPR as an example, the club fall into the category of poor spending which saw them relegated twice since the turn of the decade. After escaping relegation on the final day in the 2011-12 season, the then QPR manager Mark Hughes boldly claimed that QPR would not be a part of any relegation fights in the future. Indeed he was right. QPR went down without a trace having a disastrous campaign finishing bottom of the league. Prior to the start of the season QPR brought in 11 players in the summer transfer window.

Most of them were proven Premier League players like Chris Samba, Junior Hoilett, Robert Green and also managed a coup by signing Julio Cesar. They followed it up with signing a further four in January. Despite all these signings they still ended up receiving the wooden spoon. The team failed to show up as a unit and the players brought in failed to settle and play under Mark Hughes. This overspending was clearly unwarranted and relegation to the second division meant they had considerable debt now. But they did manage to bounce back on the first attempt. But for the second time (2014-15), they endured a difficult campaign, this time under Harry Redknapp.

The club spent nearly 30 million Euros on players. The players were being paid exorbitant wages this time. The fortunes clearly failed to change and QPR once again got relegated. The players signed were a mix of overpaid and under-performing players who are tough to sell in the market. The after-effects of these relegations are still felt now. The club has one of the largest debts in the whole of Europe despite playing in a lower league. All this seems to be just the start of something painful for the QPR faithful. The QPR story is how poor spending can have really bad effects on the club as a whole.


Perhaps the best case of financial mismanagement in recent English football history has to be the case of yesteryear giants Leeds United. It was some while ago when Leeds United reached the final of the then European Cup in 1975 before losing to Bayern Munich controversially. Leeds United were known for their rough and aggressive style of football back in those days under the management of Don Revie. They couldn’t achieve sustained success after that. Although they remained as an important part of the Premier League era until the early 2000s, they have stuttered since.

In the period from 1997-2001 Leeds never dropped below the top 5 thus ensuring regular Champions League and UEFA competition even reaching the semi-finals of these tournaments. However failing to qualify for the Champions in the subsequent two seasons, coupled with the loans taken by the club to finance the signing of players caused financial difficulties.  The club didn’t receive enough income to repay the loans. The first sign of financial constraints was the sale of Rio Ferdinand to arch rivals Manchester United. Jonathan Woodgate left the club shortly.

The sales of the first choice defenders caused a rift between the board and the manager Terry Venables which ended with Venables leaving the club. Change of managers barely had any effect as the club still continued to underachieve. They avoided relegation in the final day of 2002-03 beating Arsenal courtesy of a Mark Viduka winner. The club’s finances were at an all-time low and the club appointed Gerald Krasner. Krasner managed to create a consortium of local businessmen who took over the club and sold the players and also the assets. The club’s Elland Road stadium was also sold.

On the pitch, the club continued to falter before getting relegated eventually in the 2003-04 season. After the relegation, Ken Bates bought the club for a meager 10 million Euros. The club managed to sustain in the English second division but there seemed to be no improvement in the finances of the club. Multiple managerial changes, key players leaving and below par new comers [mostly signed on free transfers] ended with relegation to League one in May 2007.

At this point, the club entered administration and were slapped with a 10 point deduction for entering the same. The club was forced to build the team from the scratch as most of the existing players were released. The club started the next season under administration and a 15 point deduction. They performed well on the pitch and narrowly failed to achieve promotion. They made the playoff semi-finals once again before falling to Millwall. In this two year period the club had constant managerial changes and financial constraints. They did manage to get promoted the following season.

Back to championship after a three year hiatus, Leeds played fairly well despite the fall of the finances. Chairman Ken Bates bought the club and it started off a series of ownership changes with Bates passing on to GFH group {failed takeover attempt} who then passed to Massimo Cellini who recently sold it to Italian Radrizzani in May 2017. Radrizzani further, bought the Elland Road making it a permanent property of Leeds for the first time since 2004. The club continued to stay in the Championship all these seasons without ay threat of relegation or without posing much challenge for promotion.


Now talking about Blackpool, they last played in Premier League in the 2009-10 season where they surprised everyone with some fascinating football under Ian Holloway. They even recorded a famous league double over Liverpool. In spite of playing attacking football the club got relegated after collecting 39 games from 38 points. The case of Blackpool is not a case of overspending. It is an example of poor management and administration at the club.

The owners and the directors seemed to have no care and intent over the proper running and about the infrastructure at the club. Despite playing in the Premier League, the club didn’t have proper gym and training facilities. The medical facilities were equally bad. Players preferred to get treatments out of their own purse. This was the amount of trust they placed on the team. Prior to the start of 2014-15 season 27 players decided to leave the club leaving the club in turmoil.

A few seasons before that shirt sponsors Wonga decided to terminate their contract with the club owing to mismanagement and the poor handling at the club. The club suffered successive relegations to find themselves in League 2 at the start of the 2016-17 season. They managed to get promoted to League One for the upcoming season after a play-off final victory over Exeter. The ignorance of the board and the management has left the club in shambles much to the utter dismay of the fans.


The cases of Portsmouth and Bolton might just be the cases of clubs overachieving and a sudden poor season following it which engulfed the clubs to turmoil. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008 under Harry Redknapp. They also managed to finish in the top half for a couple of seasons. Harry Redknapp was slowly transforming a perennially low English club to a team which can have European ambitions. He spent a reckless amount of money under Russian owners.

When the Russian money stopped flowing the club was forced to sell their top players. Russian owners were forced to sell the club to an Arab business man Sulaiman Al Fahim in 2009. Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season many players left the club and the players who stayed on were overpaid. The club’s finances had hit the rock bottom and it was reported that the club hadn’t paid salaries to the players and the coaching staff. There was another change of ownership at the club just three months after the previous owners purchased the club.

Ali Al Faraj and a consortium took over the club and Avram Grant returned to the club as Director of Football. But the club was placed on a transfer embargo due to financial problems and the players had not been paid their salaries yet. Grant subsequently took over as the manager. The club was now in administration. By December 2009, the players had not been paid for two months and the club announced that the players will be paid late on January 2010. Their financial difficulties and the failure to pay the players made HM Revenue and Customs to file a petition against the club which docked the club 9 points.

Coupled with poor league performances the club ended up getting relegated. But the club reached the FA Finals only to lose to Chelsea. Reaching the FA Cup final meant the club qualified for the Europa League. But owing to the poor finances, the club was barred from playing in the league. Russian Vladimir Antonov took over the club. Playing in the second division, the clubs financial struggle meant the club was in administration for the second time in 2 months which led the Football League to dock 10 points. The club ended up getting relegated to the English third Division. There seemed to be no financial improvement at the club and the club further got relegated to English League Two. The club had suffered three straight relegations.

Similarly Bolton Wanderers had the same financial problems but not as worse as Portsmouth. These two clubs had a good motive and were ambitious but the way in which they went about it cost the clubs too much.  Bolton played in the UEFA Cup in the mid-2000s. They were famous for their defensive yet effective football. However a decline in form saw them getting relegated in 2011-12 season which put the club into turmoil. There is a very simple reason for this.

During their 11 year stay in the Premier League from the start of the millennium, Bolton’s revenue increased but the wages became higher, The club could not balance both which caused them discrepancies. In December 2015, it was reported that Bolton had a debt of nearly 170 million. HM Revenue and Customs filed a petition over unpaid taxes which forced the club into a transfer embargo. Repeated adjournments gave the club much needed time to boost the finances by either fishing new potential buyers or by raising short term funds through asset sales.

Bolton were subsequently docked points which effectively relegated them to English League one. However a consortium led by Bolton legend Kevin Davies and Dean Holdsworth improved the club financially and the club will now play the upcoming season in English Championship after getting promoted from the League One under the management of Phil Parkinson.


There is a completely different side to the glamour and the extravagance of the English Football. The other side is full of doom and gloom. The tales of clubs like QPR, Portsmouth and Blackpool serves as a timely reminder on how not to be. Poor management and recruitment has had negative influence on the club both on the short term and on the long run. There is a huge gulf between the teams playing in the top division and the teams playing outside it. The new TV deal ensures the clubs getting relegated wouldn’t face the same fates of the aforementioned clubs but no one can predict what actually can happen in the future. Indeed, there is just so much more than what just meets the eye.