Manchester City are presently facing – and fighting – more than 100 charges of breaching the Premier League’s financial regulations between 2009 and 2018. Many of their fans, though, believe the club to be victims of a conspiracy. Why? Because City’s domestic dominance has put the Premier League in a very perilous position.

The English top-flight has expertly sold itself to consumers all across the planet as ‘the best league in the world’ because it is the most exciting and, far more importantly, the most competitive. It was unscripted drama, utterly unpredictable because of the level playing field. They built a billion-dollar brand on that illusion, but a fifth title in six seasons has exposed its fragile foundations.

Credit to Martin Tyler, the voice of Sky Sports‘ coverage for three decades, he, just like many influential figures in the English media, is still doing his best to maintain the illusion of interest. “One of the great appeals of the Premier League is that it’s not a one-team league,” he insisted, without a trace of irony, on the day that Arsenal inevitably succumbed to City’s superiority.

As displays of delusion go, it was right up there with the Premier League concluding that there would be no state involvement in the running of Newcastle United, and Chelsea thinking that Frank Lampard would make for a sensible interim appointment…

The Premier League is a Super League

Obviously, football fans are a loyal bunch, particularly in England. Despite the emergence of a ‘Big Six’ that effectively forced every other participant to focus on keeping their place in the most lucrative league in football, supporters still fill stadiums up and down the country, generating an atmosphere and a spectacle that the Premier League perfectly packages for a global TV audience.

And that is key, because the sale of international TV rights is where all the money is; it is that cash which has put the Premier League on a whole other financial plane to every domestic competition in Europe. It’s the reason why Florentino Perez & Co. are so desperate for a Super League. England already has one of its own, essentially – so they want one too.

So, there is no imminent threat to the financial might of the Premier League – the latest U.S. deal, which runs until 2028, is worth $2.7 billion (£2bn) alone – given most overseas fans only follow the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool anyway.

Losing its appeal

However, that in itself is a potential problem because of City’s sustained success. Why would other supporters of the ‘Bix Six’ continue to tune in week after week if they already know who’s going to win the title before the season starts? Unpredictability isn’t just key to the Premier League’s appeal – it’s the very essence of sport.

Serie A has many issues, but one of the main reasons why its TV rights plummeted in price was Juventus winning nine successive Scudetti. So, having three different winners in the past three years – coupled with its clubs’ continental success this season – has done wonders for the claim that ‘Calcio is back!’

Obviously, Napoli coasted to victory this season, but the broader issue here is not one team running away with the league – Luciano Spalletti’s scintillating side sparked celebrations that drew the eyes of the entire football world to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona and the surrounding city – it’s the same team lifting the trophy every year.

A one-team league

That’s why the sight of City lifting yet another trophy on Sunday was far from ‘a great advert for the Premier League’ – the line that is so often pushed by English pundits after fiercely-contested encounter played out before a packed house. They’re a wonderful footballing side, maybe the greatest the English game has ever seen, but the inconvenient truth is that their triumph wasn’t a cause for celebration – but concern.

As a recent FIFA study found, the title winners in England (City, invariably) are now winning well over 80 percent of the points available – by that rationale, it is the seventh-least competitive league in Europe.

The Leicester miracle of 2016 certainly seems a long time ago now. The Premier League revelled in the Foxes’ 5,000-1 fairy tale, as it meant a fourth different champion in four seasons. For them, it made for a stark – and satisfying – contrast to Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, which were all dismissed as one-team leagues. However, that’s exactly what the Premier League has become.

Liverpool’s triumph an anomaly

As soon as Guardiola got to grips with English football, City began rewriting the record books. Ninety-seven and 92 points is no longer enough to guarantee top spot, which is a farcical reflection of the overall strength of the opposition.

It took a historic, Herculean effort from an outstanding Liverpool side just to win one title – which they are still being castigated for by some supporters even though it is now looking like an even more extraordinary achievement with each passing season of City success.

Of course, the counter-argument will be that City have raised the standard of English football; that the onus is on their rivals to match it. And Liverpool obviously proved it was possible. But that 2019-20 victory has been made to look like an anomaly, temporary respite from the City onslaught.

Indeed, what’s really terrifying for the marketing teams at the Premier League, Sky and BT Sport, is that there appears to be no end in sight to City’s dominance. Some people are actually praying for Pep’s departure in the hope that a removal of a tactical genius will redress the balance!

The new, unnatural order of things

However, City’s well of oil money is bottomless. World-class coaches – and players – will continue to arrive at the Etihad for as long as Abu Dhabi wants. The title will remain theirs for the taking.

There is a misguided – and grossly unfair – belief that Mikel Arteta’s thrilling young Arsenal side ‘bottled’ the league this season, but they did nothing of the sort. They merely succumbed to the new, unnatural order of things in the Premier League.

Take four players out of this City starting XI – as Guardiola did for a tricky trip to Everton (in theory at least!) – and they’re replaced with world-class talents from the strongest bench the game has ever seen. Take one star centre-back out of the Arsenal line-up, though, and they completely collapse.


‘A dream come true’?…

The bottom line is: nobody can live with City’s stellar squad over the course of an entire campaign. Consequently, there is now the very real prospect of City adding two more titles to their tally, which would be fantastic for both the Catalan coach and his club.

As Guardiola recently stated, his team’s treble chase is “like a dream come true”. However, for the Premier League and its broadcasting partners, it’s the realisation of a nightmare, because despite the best efforts of Tyler and his colleagues, football fans across the world are now waking up to the fact that the most competitive league in the world is anything but.

By Lylla

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