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The Fiver | Somewhere along a bulging cash pipeline, the torrent became a drip 


Earlier this year, during the great spring heatwave that followed August’s decision to job-share with April, a water main near Fiver Towers sprung a leak. Where there had been nothing but tarmac and paving slab suddenly there was a swelling pond. People came to enjoy the unscheduled refreshment in socially distant, responsible ways. Children skipped through ankle-deep waters, kicking spray up into sun-flecked rainbow mists. Adults made eye contact from a safe distance and arched eyebrows in a manner they hoped conveyed some kind of light-hearted meaning while imploring their offspring to get a chuffing move on. Drivers slowed, swerved and scowled. There were reports of some excited-looking ducks.

And then they came and turned the water off, and soon it was tarmac and paving slabs once more, and children scooted past as if unaware that there had until recently been something there that excited them. The Fiver took a mental note, certain that there was a useful metaphor somewhere in there ready to be used at some point, if ever something dried up and threatened to make the world around it more barren and less entertaining. And lo, that day did come to pass.

In November 2016 the Premier League signed a contract with broadcaster PPTV, which agreed to pay £564m over three years from 2019-20 to broadcast top-flight English football in China. This was about 12 times the amount paid by the previous rights holders, and the richest overseas TV deal the league had ever agreed. Once they had recovered from their hangovers Premier League clubs promptly started doing what they always do when suddenly enriched: shovelling money into the pockets of players and their Mr 15%s. According to the Global Sports Salary Survey, the average Premier League footballer in 2016-17 earned £2.4m a year, a figure that by 2019-20 had reached £3.2m. That’s an extra £800,000 a year per man in three years (average salaries across the UK rose from £28,200 to £29,009 over the same period, an increase of £809 or almost exactly one thousandth of every Premier League player’s cash boost). Meanwhile the amount spent on Mr 15%s in 2019-20 was £89m more than 2016-17.

As part of its contract, PPTV was due to cough up a Mr 15%-pleasing £160m in March. It never arrived. The Premier League has now binned off the contract altogether. Somewhere along a bulging cash pipeline, a torrent turned into a drip. Along with the whole coronavirus business this constitutes a serious kick in the beans for Premier League beancounters, but it’s not all bad news. With domestic TV rights worth about £5bn for the same three-year cycle that PPTV was bidding for, this won’t exactly lead to an instant drought, and recent history suggests that in the English top flight the disappearance of Company With Massive Cheque is almost always swiftly followed by the appearance of Company With Bigger Cheque. More than anything, the fact that broadcasting contracts are in the news suggests it’s probably time for people to start kicking a ball around, which will allow us to be engagingly distracted once again. So long as there’s a broadcaster willing to show it to us, of course.


Join Simon Burnton from 7.45pm BST for hot clockwatch coverage of the Nations League, baby, including Germany 2-2 Spain, and Finland 1-1 Wales.

Gareth Bale bringing that big Blanka from Street Fighter 2 energy. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters


“We know that reports to Kick It Out are just the tip of the iceberg” – the organisation’s chair, Sanjay Bhandari, reveals “shocking” increases in reports of racist and homophobic abuse in professional football last season – despite hundreds of matches being played behind closed doors or postponed because of the pandemic.


“Perusing the Icelandic second division results as you do, it appears that Fjardabyggd both won 3-1 and lost 0-1 on Wednesday. In addition, they are now both sixth and seventh in the league, simultaneously. Not only that, but 11th place is currently being held by Dalvik/Reynir. The great Erwin Schrödinger would be proud” – Noble Francis.

“Could it be a sign of the state of Manchester United’s finances that their latest signing is from a Beek sale? Where’s their next player going to come from, the farmers’ market?” – Peter Oh.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Rollover.


Football Weekly Extra is right here for you.

Football Weekly

The Nations League and WSL return, plus Bale’s hair


The Brazilian FA has announced that men and women will be paid the same amount for representing the national team, which is nice, even if overdue. The English FA also confirmed it’s been doing likewise since January of this year.

Members of the England Women’s squad, earlier.

Members of the England Women’s squad, earlier. Photograph: Lynne Cameron for The FA/Rex/Shutterstock

Cambridge will be the first Football League club to welcome fans back to their ground, with 1,000 allowed to attend the Abbey Stadium for their Freight Rover Trophy clash with Fulham U-21s on 8 September.

There’s not a whole lot to update you on after Jorge Messi’s trip to Barcelona, if we’re being honest.

Aston Villa’s attempts to finish higher than 17th have started in earnest by splashing 16 million big ones on Nottingham Forest full-back Matty Cash.

The City Football Group, owner of Manchester City, have purchased their 10th [TENTH – Fiver Vidiprinter Ed] club, after completing a deal for Ligue 2 side Troyes. “At City Football Group, our objective remains to play beautiful football, identify and develop grassroots talent and have a permanent presence in the world’s football centres,” parped top dog Ferran Soriano.

And former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar took out a whole page in the local Evening News to explain how good new signing Donny van de Beek is. “We understand it’s time for him to move on,” cooed the Ajax head honcho. “To dream on. And where better to do so than in your theatre. Trust me, I know. Please take good care of our Donny, and help him dream. Enjoy the future.”


Premier League 2020-21 previews: how Everton plan to transform their midfield and Fulham how will give their flops a chance to make amends.

The second wave we’ve actually been waiting for: Jonathan Liew discusses the return of the Nations League.

Harrogate are back in the big time with League Two. Aaron Bower went to meet the father and son team who made it possible.

Irving and Simon Weaver, the owner and manager of Harrogate Town.

Irving and Simon Weaver, the owner and manager of Harrogate Town. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

England face Iceland on Saturday, so Steven Pye is harking back to Bobby Robson managing a B team against the Scandinavians.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

#Fiver #bulging #cash #pipeline #torrent #drip


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