Clem Sunter

England's premier asset

2012-05-17 10:07

Clem Sunter

If it had been the script for a play, it would not have been believed. Manchester United at the final whistle of their game were technically champions; and then Manchester City scored those two goals in injury time to pip them. What a crazy finish to a crazy season. Sergio Aguero's shot changed the lives of millions of fans around the world in the blink of a second – and his own as well!

Why is England's Premier League the number one sporting league in the world with no rival in any other country? Why does it attract the biggest global audience and have the widest geographical footprint? There are eight reasons:

1. Soccer is the beautiful game. Lovers of other sports hate it but no other game attracts the imagination of the masses like soccer. Every little boy growing up in the back streets of forgotten slums surrounding major cities in England, Europe, Africa and South America dreams of being a soccer star. Moreover, the game in England is more free-flowing and energetic than it is on the continent. The average Premier League player covers 14km in one match.

2. The Premier League is open to the best players in the world.
If there is any example of what a liberal immigration policy can do for a country, it is the fact that the Premier League has probably the best collection of players from all over the world. African stars feature prominently in most of the top teams, including Didier Drogba in mine – Chelsea.

3. Rich foreigners have provided financial backing to many of the clubs. Americans, Arabs and Russians have put in sufficient cash to lure the talent. A good player gets £100 000 per match or £3.8m for the season. That is around R50m per annum. The superstars get double that.

4. Every match is televised. Nothing exhibits the power of television more than the fact that in virtually every restaurant and pub the world over, you can watch the game and analysis from experts.

5. Each club is heavily branded.
You can buy shirts, caps and all the other paraphernalia of any of the clubs. Walk into any mall in South Africa and you will see someone in the colours of one of the Premier League clubs.

6. Most of the clubs have been around for 120 years or more. This means that the brand of the club is more important than that of the individual player. Hence players come and go, but loyalty of the fans to the club remains.

7. The crowd are fanatic at matches.
It makes all the difference to have an enthusiastic audience. Nothing depresses more than empty stands.

8. The manager and coaching squads are brilliant. Again many managers are not English but they are all as important to the success of the Premier League as the players. Each has his own personality which comes across in the post-match interviews.

All these points suggest that one of the most strategic decisions ever taken in sport happened 20 years ago when England’s First Division was converted into the Premier League. It is the country’s premier asset.

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