Whenever anybody mentions basketball you automatically think of the NBA or a player synonymous with it. It's instinctive. The National Basketball Association isn't the only Basketball league around but it's the only league that the majority of people take note of. It's widely acknowledged as the world's premier basketball league.
It's unparalleled and unrivalled.
It's monopolised the sport and it's a financial juggernaut. In May 2015 The Guardian Newspaper published an article looking at Paris Saint-German's wage bill and compared it to other sports teams. The results showed PSG, Real Madrid and Manchester City all had the highest average annual salary in sport. That covers all of the American sports too. Despite Soccer teams dominating this table when you look at leagues as a whole It's the NBA that have the highest average yearly salary (as per the image below).
What the research highlights is that the NBA is a far more egalitarian league. The wealth is evenly distributed and it makes for a more competitive league. It's partly why it's such a strong brand now, because every single NBA franchise can 1) spend big on wages to attract the talent and 2) the draft system certainly lends itself to evening out the playing field. You can go to any NBA game and see stars of the sports. Compare this to Soccer – take for example a West Bromich Albion match against Norwich match. It's hardly going to whet the appetite of a casual fan. It's not going to bring in the audiences. There's no disrespect meant with that, it's just the truth. There's a Grand Canyon sized gap between the top teams in England, Spain, Germany and Italy and those in mid-table.
However, the English Premier League is in the midst of a change. Those in charge are slowly starting to realise just how much of a global pull the league could actually have. With the new TV deal being worth £2.2 Billion per season it means, to an extent, the playing field has been evened. The lower placed clubs in the league now have the finances, and more importantly the security, to spend £100 Million in a single transfer window. Clubs like Crystal Palace, whose most expensive transfers list currently reads as follows; Andros Townsend – £13 million, Yohan Cabaye – £10 Million and Connor Wickham – £7 million, have now bid £31 million for both Michy Batshuayi and Liverpool's Christian Benteke.
American sports all tend to be a spectacle for the fans and the audiences. You don't have to be a supporter of that team to go and watch, a lot of celebrities attend games to see the stars of the sports. Fans of Premier League clubs may not have realised this yet, they're too busy posting on Twitter who their clubs should sign with their new found wealth, but If the EPL is to embrace this new flush league then some of these hardcore, loyal fans will be priced out of going to the game in the future.
As the EPL looks to build on the brand and pumps even more money into the clubs in the hope of attracting the names the names necessary to be able to put on a show and bring the casual observers, and the celebrities, who want to watch these, on their day, breathtakingly talented players performing on their stage then clubs will adopt new customs as they cater for these high profile clientele. NBA courtside seats can cost thousands and celebrities pay it for the experience. They pay it to watch two NBA greats in LeBron James and Kobe Bryant face off. If in the future Liverpool and Manchester United are pitting the next Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo against one another then demand for tickets would be high. That's the EPL aim.
First up the need for a better quality of player, or at least the illusion that it's a better quality of player. The Premier League needs the majority of the 20 teams in the league to start bringing in talent from abroad. Talent that will supposedly improve the quality on show and the give the EPL brand more exposure.
As reported on Twitter by Jake Cohen, a Sports Lawyer, how shirt sponsorship deals are structured these days means clubs need to sell an x amount of shirts before they get extra revenue. So the likes of Manchester United signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic will only benefit Adidas until they hit the trigger and then it becomes profitable for them. Deals being structured in such a way gives EPL clubs the incentive to chase that extra pay day by signing more well known players. It gives the clubs a license to spend large sums of the TV money allocated to them on these players because they know they'll recoup it in shirt sales.
There's often a lot of talk about clubs in England overpaying for players. Fans look at it from the playing side of things whereas owners look at it from the brand aspect. Paying Zlatan Ibrahimovic £300,000 per week may make little sense when you have teenage sensations Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial vying for a starting role but for the Manchester United brand such a signing is massive.
There's always a lot of outrage when the salaries of Premier League players are mentioned. Wayne Rooney has the most lucrative deal in England earning around £17 million per season. To an everyday man that's an eye watering amount of money but in sports, especially American ones, that's the norm. In the Forbes richest 100 sports people list 18 of those featured play Basketball, in the NBA, whereas 12 are Soccer players but only five ply their trade in the EPL. The highest ranked Basketball player on the list, Kobe Bryant, earns £4 Million more per year than Wayne Rooney. For even more context, in 1997/1998 Michael Jordan was earning $33 Million, this was before the salary cap, in today's money with inflation added on accordingly that's $50 Million (£39 Million). Could you ever envisage a Soccer player earning that much money per season on a basic wage? There will be an increase in averages wages throughout the English League as new ‘better' players flood the league.
Similar to World Championship Wrestling in the early 90's competing with WWE, they want to be seen as the place where the big boys play. Serious sums of money will be spent to make that dream a reality.
The pieces are slowly falling into place for the bigwigs in charge of the EPL. The 2016/2017 season will be the first time the league hasn't had an official sponsor. Barclays ended their 10 year stint as sponsor did so because it was going to cost them an extra £20 Million per season to continue on. The ones in charge wanted £60 Million per season. You may say that's greedy given in 2013/2014 the Premier League netted profits in excess of £78 Million, and that was before the new TV deal. Despite parting ways with Barclays as a main sponsor they've still kept them on board as ‘the Premier Leagues official banking partner'. You can be certain there will be more sponsorship deals like this moving forward as company like Homebase becomes the Premier League's go-to Garden centre.
The EPL in terms of managers is at the strongest it's ever been. Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Slaven Bilic means England is the place to be if you want managerial entertainment. The tactical battles will only be surpassed by the entertainment value to be witnessed by all in the press conferences.
The level of players is still lacking but with Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka, Chelsea signing Michy Batshuayi, Manchester United signing Eric Bailly, Zlatan and potentially Paul Pogba and with Manchester City signing Ilkay Gundogan Premier League clubs are cherry picking talent from around Europe to strengthen the football on show. You also have Premier League new boys Middelsbourgh signing Champions League winner Victor Valdes and West Ham offering Carlos Tevez a rumoured £170,000 per week to return to England. Clubs have also been linked with bringing World Cup winner Mario Gotze, Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, Wolfburg's Ricardo Rodriguez and £50 million Aymeric Laporte to the English league.
Premier League clubs have never been in a stronger position. In turn this strengthens the EPL brand. If Premier League clubs are always in the news because of the signings they're making then the league itself is forever getting advertised.
“Premier League giants Manchester United are set to break the world record by offering £100 million for Paul Pogba.”
“EPL clubs Manchester City and Chelsea battle it out for £40 million Leonardo Bonnuci.”
“Liverpool target Mario Gotze as Klopp looks ahead to the new Premier League season.”
For now the top two stars in Soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, play in La Liga. It's the league that the top, top players are drawn towards, for now. If the EPL get it right then it won't be too long before these types of players are playin, and staying, in England. There's only so long players can resist a big pay day no matter what their aspirations are and for £350,000 per week most footballers would pass up the sunny beaches of Spain and Italy for the rain of England.
Right now it seems almost implausible and farfetched to suggest it but with the financial power the English clubs have over the next two decades it may be the EPL that becomes synonymous with the sport of Soccer much like NBA is with Basketball.