Posted by: davidjmarlow | 14/08/2011

The regional economics of the English Premiership

As the English Premier League (EPL) kicks off, I was due to be at White Hart Lane. With the postponement of the game following the awful destruction wrought this week on Tottenham, I had a spare afternoon to ponder the economic geography of ‘the best/strongest League in the world’.

Despite the abolition of regions by the current government, I have never really got over a tendency, when I was Chief Executive of the East of England Regional Development Agency (EEDA), of looking at the Premiership in regional terms. So, during my last whole season at EEDA (2007/08), the EPL comprised seven clubs from the North West, five from London, three from the north-east, two each from West Midlands and South East, and one from the East Midlands. The domination of the North West and London absolutely matched their domination of RDA funding – these regions having the two best-funded RDAs by some distance. In 2007/08, three regions had no Premiership clubs – my own (the East of England – matching our somewhat negligible RDA funding base), South West and, somewhat incongruously in RDA funding terms, Yorkshire and Humber.

In fact, in the five seasons commencing 2007/08, the North West has never had less than seven clubs (35% of the Premiership)and twice had 40% (Burnley and Blackpool being the two one season wonders); and London has always had five (with the swapping of West Ham with QPR this season being the only change in that period).

I can’t help feeling this regional domination is a little unhealthy – especially when North West and London have provided the top five every year – with only Aston Villa breaking into sixth place on three occasions.

The South West has had no Premiership clubs over this period; East Midlands has only had Derby County (relegated in 2007/08); East of England has had none until Norwich’s promotion last season; whilst Yorkshire and Humber have only had two seasons of Hull City to see for all their huge soccer traditions.

The Coalition government might argue the Premiership has embraced their priority of regional rebalancing. For 2010/11, they inherited the most regionally concentrated Premiership ever – with 18/20 clubs coming from the North West, London and West Midlands. Each of these regions had one club relegated at the end of the season (West Ham, Blackpool, Birmingham). New national/regional representatives from Wales (Swansea) and East of England (Norwich) are welcome replacements.

It may be, however, this regional rebalancing is superficial and transitory. If one looks at the last five season relegations as a percentage of a region’s Premiership cohort, North West and London have the lowest percentage of relegations (5% and 8% respectively) – whilst the four least well-represented regions (SE, Y&H, EM, EoE) are running at 34%,67% and two at 100%. Based on further analysis of this indicator, the clear favourites for relegation this season are (two of) the three newly-promoted clubs (QPR, Swansea, Norwich) and one of either WBA or Wolves.

Does government abolition of regions spell the end of my ‘regional economy of the Premiership’ and what economic geography might replace it? The prospect of a broadly-based alternative looks bleak. In terms, for instance, of Core Cities, 4/8 (Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield) have no Premiership team in their city regions. And, whilst the Premiership regional economy has been extremely skewed, compared to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) it seems positively inclusive. In the first full season of 37 LEPs, 45% of the Premiership comes from just two – London and Manchester; and 27 LEPs (almost ¾) have no representative at all!

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Responses

  1. […] remind you, last year’s blog analysed the premiership over five years in regional terms – looking at promotions and […]


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