The Premier League – The Greatest lie Sky Sports Ever Sold

Every season for the last few years, the same topic seems to raise its head above the parapet just as the knockout stages of the Champions League are in full flow. As the crème de la crème of European football face-off, the most pertinent question inevitably becomes: which league is the best in Europe?

TV Deal
Some would argue what doesn’t it even matter; who cares? The new Sky deal for Premier League football makes it intrinsically vital that you do care, though; that it is an absolutely important question. The eye-watering £5.1 billion Rupert Murdoch’s company are paying to televise it could mean the fee you pay to watch may rise exponentially over the coming years. If that does happen, are you getting value for your buck?

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - First Leg - Arsenal v Monaco - Emirates Stadium

With their horribly naïve defeat to Barcelona Tuesday night, Manchester City are as good as out. With Arsenal on the verge of joining them after their own cowering 3-1 defeat to Monaco, England’s Champions League hopes are pinned on Chelsea, once again the only domestic club good enough to compete at the highest level of European football.

With Liverpool edging to victory against a poor Besiktas side and Spurs on the cusp of elimination against Fiorentina, one wonders just how the myth is perpetuated. Despite English clubs’ struggles across the continent, time and time again, the Premier League is uttered in revered tones as “the best league in the world” and it is absolute nonsense.

It is nothing more than a vapid sound bite created by the marketing and PR department within Sky Sports with little evidence left to back up its claim.

How do we judge what is the best or most entertaining, though? The only tangible way is by goals scored, stadium atmosphere, and recent European successes. In nearly all aspects, the Premier League has come up short for a number of years now.

Of the five major European leagues to date this season – the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A – it comes in at 4th for goals-per-game at just 2.58. Even Serie A – mythologised for producing “boring, defensive” football – has a better ratio.

In terms of stadium atmosphere, how many times have we, and even the clubs’ own managers, complained about the lack of noise at grounds like the Etihad, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge? Arsenal’s Emirates stadium is notoriously referred to by rival supporters as “the library”. Only Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park could qualify as atmospherically boisterous.

Look to the Bundesliga in particular for a comparative study and it verges on embarrassing. Atmospheres in German stadiums are raucous with fans – buoyed by cheap ticket prices – piling in hours before kick-off, whipping up massive frenzies with scores of huge flags flown in the ultras’ end and incessant chanting filling the stadia from the first minute to the last.

Even La Liga and Serie A are renowned for their passionate support with grounds like Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán or Palermo’s Stadio Renzo Barbera pits of passionately vociferous support.

When it comes to performances in European competition, the Premier League fares slightly better but still comes up woefully short against La Liga opposition with their record against Spanish sides since 2008-09: played 48, won 12, drawn 16, lost 20. And that’s not just Barcelona and Real Madrid dominance, either. The number of semi-finalists in the Champions League and Europa Leagues since 2008/09 reads: Spain 17, England 9, Germany 7, Italy 2.

Value For Money
Overall, the Premier League has been lagging behind for a number of seasons now despite the bluster otherwise. The extortionately-priced new TV deal places even greater significance on how we view matters like these because for intents and purposes, we may possibly end up paying a bigger premium for a significantly over-priced product. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the Premier League is becoming the biggest lie Sky ever sold and we, the consumers, should not swallow it so easily.