Just when you think the Premier League and its clubs couldn’t be any more out of touch with supporters, the rest of football and reality in general, they manage to surpass even your wildest expectations of shamefulness.
How else could you describe the idea put forward by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck that Richard Scudamore, the outgoing executive chairman of the Premier League, should receive a £5m bonus paid for directly out of the pockets of the 20 top flight teams? Even more remarkable than the brazen proposal is that a majority of the clubs decided to offer their approval, giving multi-millionaire Scuadmore a cool £5m golden handshake.
Scudamore takes home a reported £2.5m a year. In 2016 alone, he topped that up with £6m worth of bonuses for negotiating the league’s current television deal. At a time when ticket prices are at a record high, the cost of travelling to away matches is prohibitive to most fans even before you take into consideration Sky Sport’s butchering of the fixture list, only four Premier League clubs reportedly pay all their staff the living wage and grassroots football is in a state of decline, it seems a complete disgrace that every club is handing over £250,000 to a man who scarcely needs the cash.
To put the payment into some context, the £250,000 that Brighton and Hove Albion would pay to Scudamore would make him the clubs 37th most expensive transfer of the last 20 years if he were a player, tied level with Gordon Greer. Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy told the BBC after the proposal was passed, “We are all very supportive of the payment,” as he gave £250,000 more to Scudamore’s leaving fund than he gave Mauricio Pochettino to strengthen the Spurs squad in the summer.
There are so many better uses that the Albion could find for £250,000 in spare change than gifting it to Scudamore. How about knocking £10 off the price of 25,000 season tickets? That might not seem like much, but when you consider that the smallest increase in renewal cost for the 2018-19 season was around £22 in the East Stand Family Area, any increase in renewal for 2019-20 is effectively going straight from Brighton supporter’s pockets into Scudamore’s.
The away allocation for Brighton’s next four games on the road against Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and West Ham United totals 8,375. £250,000 would pay for 8,333 supporters' coach travel based on an average price of £30 per seat, meaning that the Albion could send nearly every single fan who is making the effort to go those matches to them for free.
Then there is grassroots football. We’ve all heard the stories about how it is dying at the lowest levels. Government cuts mean that councils such as Brighton and Hove have hardly any cash to spend on sports and recreation, leaving dangerous pitches and substandard facilities. At the start of the parks football season for example, teams turned up to find mountains of grass left all over their pitches because the council couldn’t afford to pay anyone to clear up five months’ worth of cuttings, rendering most pitches in the city unplayable. A freedom of information request revealed that the City Council spent £866,540 on sports facilities in the 2013-14 financial year, a figure which is bound to be less after five further years of cuts.
Scudamore’s pay off could increase the amount of money spent on grassroots football facilities in the city by over a quarter.
It could also go towards charity. Whilst the Albion clearly do brilliant work in supporting the award-winning Albion in the Community scheme, rather than give Scudamore a nice little nest egg they could buy eight wheelchair accessible minibuses at a cost of £30,000 each. The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund supplies kit and equipment for disadvantaged junior teams across the globe. Working on the generous assumption that each team needs £1,000 to kit themselves out properly, 250 clubs could have much needed funding from the money going to the Premier League’s executive chairman.
If Scudamore has a shred of decency or understanding, then he’ll surely realise that this £5m could do so much good if it was diverted to causes that actually need it rather than sitting in his bank account. Every club that has agreed to it – the Albion included – should hang their heads in shame and take a long hard look at how out of touch they’re becoming with supporters across the country, virtually all of whom have condemned this vulgar example of excess.
Want to know one other thing that £250,000 can buy? 52,083 pints at the Amex. Perhaps Scudamore could stick his bonus behind the bars at stadiums. Maybe then the Premier League could go someway towards remembering who the lifeblood of clubs really are. Clue – it’s not the money men.
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