DISSERTATION PROPOSAL: Impact of Money on UK Football 3000 words

Dissertation research proposal



The impact of money on UK football



Everyone agrees that money has had an enormous impact on British football.  As such, there can be no doubt that football in Britain has been fundamentally altered as a result of changes in the financial and economic processes which underlie the sport.  Since the early 1980s, player salaries have increased at a rate which although initially fairly steady, has in recent years grown dramatically (Dobson & Goddard, 2001).  As such, football is now as much about business and financial success as it is about sporting achievement.  Indeed, one only needs to briefly look at the financial processes involved in the sport to see the degree to which financial concerns are paramount.  Thus, player wages, television rights, merchandising and sponsorship all serve to personify the extent to which financial and economic factors serve to direct the most popular sport in Britain.

It is important to note that Britain is far from being unique in terms of the financial changes which have occurred in football.  Indeed, throughout continental Europe, Asia and South America the economic concerns and pressure which underlie on-field performance have grown markedly (Gerrard, 2006).  However, although general trends can indeed be highlighted, it is nevertheless the case that the impact money has had on British football is protracted and relatively unique (Gerrard, 2006).  Therefore, in terms of the academic study of sport, the investigation of this area is certainly credible and relevant.

In addition, it is very often asserted that football has not only served to alter, but indeed ruin British football.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of sporting academics to put this argument to the test.  Subjecting such widely held assumptions to the rigours of academic investigation is thus essential in order for effective and supportable conclusions to be proffered.  In particular, it is of paramount importance to note that the impact of money on British football can be viewed in both positive and negative terms.  Therefore, in the interests of ensuring a balanced and empirically founded assessment, the research undertaken will assess the issue of money in football on the basis of an impartial standpoint.  Indeed, in terms of wider social scientific investigation, Long (2007) suggests that such an initial standpoint is pivotal in order to achieve analytical precision and overall research success.


Research Aims

The above discussion highlighted the background of the subject matter which will be the central focus of the research project.  What is clear is that this area of study is very broad and thus encompasses a variety of different avenues of investigation.  Given this variety, it is essential that the research undertaken is provided with effective direction.  As such, in terms of forming an effective directional foundation on which to base the research, the stating of specific aims is essential.

As suggested above, the primary overall focus of the research is to assess and examine the impact money has had on football within the United Kingdom.  In order for this broad subject area to be focused in a specific and clear fashion, the research will centre on the top levels of the professional game.  Therefore, the Premiership will act as the central area of analysis in terms of the impact money has had on football.  This focus is beneficial in terms of analytical precision because it is in the higher echelons of football than one finds the most obvious and protracted impact of money on the game.  It is of course essential to point out that lower league football has also experienced an impact in terms of financial and economic changes, however, in the interests of ensuring that the research is formed on a precise foundation, one feels it is prudent to focus solely on the higher professional game.

In addition, the research undertaken will also assess the impact of money on the basis of two concurrent themes.  Firstly, the research will examine the impact money has had on football as commercial business.  Thus, this section of the research will focus primarily on football and as a financial and economic entity, and the degree to which the mass influx of money over recent years has altered the nature, structure and characteristics of this entity.  Secondly, the research will move beyond this business and commercial focus and direct the research process towards the practical game itself.  Thus, as concurrent process, the research will address the impact financial changes have had on football in Britain in terms of its sporting connotations.   Finally, the research will also proffer determinations as to whether the impact of money on the higher echelons of British football has been positive or negative.

Given the above, the central aims of the research will be as follows;

  1. To assess and examine the impact money has had on British football in terms of commercial and business factors.
  2. To analyse and account for the changes which have taken place in terms of football as a sport in light of the financial alterations that have occurred in recent years.
  3. To account for whether the impact of money on British football has been positive or negative.


Research Questions

Fin et al (2000) point out that in order for a research project to be founded on effective and accountable processes, it is necessary to outline clear research questions at the earliest possibility.  Given this, as an enhancement of the research aims provided above, the research project will seek to address the following questions in a comprehensive analytical fashion;

  1. What impact has increased financial and economic revenue had on higher professional football in Britain?
  2. To what degree has money impacted upon football in Britain in terms of its position as a commercial business entity?
  3. What affect has money had on the game of football in Britain in terms of sporting prowess?
  4. Has the impact of money on the higher professional British game been positive or negative?


Justification and Significance

As suggested above, the focus of the research project is hugely significant for a number of reasons.  Firstly, in terms of the study of sport, there can be no doubt that money in the modern game of football is of considerable importance.  In particular, given that football is arguably the most popular sport in Britain, then offering conclusions as to whether financial factors have served to alter the game itself is of vital importance.  Furthermore, in wider analytical terms, the study of money in football has connotations for other sports.  Although football represents the most pertinent example of how money can affect sport, other sports have undergone similar changes, albeit less protracted and obvious.  Thus, the examination of money in football has direct relevance for other sports, such as cricket, snooker, darts and rugby.

In addition, the issue of money and its impact has in recent year’s received increasing academic attention (Gerrard, 2006).  Thus, in pure academic terms, the focus, aims and objectives of the research project are both justifiable and significant for the study of sport itself.



Given the nature of the research aims and questions outlined above, it is essential that the overall research process itself is undertaken on the basis of the best traditions of analytical investigation.  Indeed, in sport and leisure studies, much academic effort has been placed on the importance of ensuring effective and accountable methodological processes.

Fin et al (2000) argue that only through the provision of a sound methodology and research method is it possible to offer conclusions which are analytically valid.  Therefore, in light of this suggestion, the research which will be undertaken next year will be based on an accountable methodology and clearly accounts for the research process in general, and specific methods in particular.

In overall terms, the methodology of the research will aim to provide a comprehensive assessment of the impact money has had on British football.  In furthering this aim, both quantitative and qualitative methods will be adopted.  In particular, given that financial and economic factors are paramount to the success of the research, there is clear need to ensure that quantitative assessment of statics is undertaken.  Punch (2005) suggests that the objectivity so inherent in quantitative research is hugely effective in comprehensively accounting for broad and general trends.  Thus, the use of quantitative processes is paramount for the success of the suggested research project.

However, many academic authorities have argued that quantitative research can be enhanced through the use of qualitative methods (Long, 2007).  Therefore, the research which will be undertaken will also utilise qualitiaive processes of a more subjective kind.  Much of this qualitative research will be derived from books, journals and articles of the subject matter.  This kind of secondary research will therefore form a considerable component of the research project.

In addition to the combined methodology outlined above, it is also essential to outline the kind of source material which will be used.  As suggested, secondary source material from the academic realm will be pivotal and thus widely used.  However, it is also important to note that internet resources like media publications are beneficial to accurately meeting the aims and objectives outlined above.  Furthermore, primary evidence derived from those within the game of football itself will also be utilised.  Thus, interviews and reports from those who work within the higher reaches of British football will be of considerable use.  Naturally, the research undertaken will take immense care to ensure that subjective assessments offered by individuals within the game are subject to the necessary tests in relation to impartiality and balanced judgment.  This of course is a difficult requirement to meet, however, the need to account for the opinions of those at the heart of the British game remains essential, even in light of potential difficulties.


Points of Discussion and Literature Review

It is essential to outline to type of discussions which will take place on the basis of the research process outlined above.  As such, the following discussion takes the form of a literature review which addresses some of the themes which will be raised.

The premier league represents the zenith of British football.  The financial and monetary sums involved in the processes and functions of top flight football are enormous.  As such, club organisation at the top level has become as much a matter of financial management as much as it has about actual football (Gerrard, 2006).  Indeed, as Dobson & Goddard (2001; p. 6) have suggested, “Player salaries have risen exponentially, [and] television contracts yield revenues on a scale unimaginable only a few years ago”.  However, it is inevitably the case that financial success is often inextricably linked to success on the field and vice versa.  Moreover, although much discussion has taken place regarding the negative impact money has had on the functions of premier league football; it is worth giving consideration to the fact that financial progression has propelled premiership football to a position of relative dominance in relation to other national leagues (Babatunde et al, 2006).  As such, in many respects the dual progressions of increased financial investment and on-field success often go hand in hand.  Moreover, it has been argued that these two phenomena actually serve to perpetuate one another (Hamil, 2001).  As success on the field increases interest and support among the wider population, so the financial investment increases.  Conversely, this rise in financial investment has a consequent impact upon the ability of English clubs to marshal ever greater financial clout on the world stage.  The self perpetuation of financial investment and on-field success is therefore obvious to see.

However, it is also essential to note that many commentators suggest that money has had a negative affect on Premiership football in Britain.  Firstly, although as a whole, Premiership revenues have increased, such development has taken place in an unbalanced way.  Firstly, the leading four clubs enjoy significantly more revenue from television receipts and also involvement at the champion’s league level (Boyle & Haynes, 2004).  The consequence of this has been the emergence of clear financial disparity between the four leading clubs and the rest of the premiership.  The consequent impact of this disparity has been that leading clubs are in position where they can buy significantly higher numbers and standard of players.  However, it is often the case that such players do not enjoy even semi regular first team places.  As such, there are obvious further connotations for player development, both in terms of British footballers and those from overseas.  However, the willingness to ensure ever increasing quality of football squads at the top level has meant that English clubs have often taken financial risks based on the prospect of future on-field success.  Excessive risk taking in terms of increasing debt levels in order to finance the acquisition of high quality players has thus often resulted in relative financial collapse (Lago et al, 2006).  In particular, the financial attractiveness of involvement in the champion’s league has on occasions led clubs to borrow money far beyond their collateral means.  A pertinent example of the boom and bust scenario which can result from such excessive financial risk taking is personified by the example of Leeds United.

In addition to excessive risk taking, top level English football has witnessed a further development since the onset of increased financial investment. Overall league based revenues have increased; however this has not halted the historical progression which has seen leading premiership clubs operating at a financial loss (Dempsey & Reilly, 1998).  In particular, this tendency to operate at a loss is particularly prevalent with regards leading clubs.   Indeed, returning to the 2007/2008 season, the four leading English clubs were operating in what Downward (2002; p. 374) terms “serviceable debt”.  However ‘serviceable’ such debt may be, the figures were substantial and are as follows; Chelsea, £711 million; Manchester United, £649 million; Arsenal, £318 million; Liverpool, £245 million (Wilson, 2009).  Functioning on the basis of loss and serviceable debt involves an obvious element of risk, particularly for leading clubs who rely on champion’s league participation and television revenues for future financial security. Moreover, it has been suggested that FIFA are considering altering financial rules so to make it impossible for clubs to operate at a loss (Babatunde et al, 2006).


Possible limitations

One possible limitation which could affect the effectiveness of the research lies in the broad nature of the subject.  The aims and objectives have attempted to address this broadness with a strong measure of focus.  However, problems may well remain in terms of accurately encapsulating a diverse and varied topic.

Furthermore, given the nature of the research to be undertaken, it is most unlikely that any kind of effective empirical investigation can take place.  This is certainly a possible limitation for the research.  Empirical investigation such as surveys etc are often utilised as a means of enhancing the research process and the conclusion proffered as a result.  Of course, it may be possible to undertaken questionnaire-type surveys of football fans and their attitudes towards money in football.  However, one feels it is prudent not to undertake empiricism of this kind.  The primary reason for this is that although effective empiricism is beneficial to social research, ineffective empirical investigation merely serves to damage the research process and the research outcomes.



Babatunde, B; Simmons, R & Szymanski, S (2006) ‘English Football’ Journal of Sports Economics vol 7, pp. 29-46.

Boyle, R & Haynes, R (2004) Football in the Media Age London: Routledge.

Bryman A (2004) Social Research Methods 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dempsey, P & Reilly, K (1998) Big Money, Beautiful Game: saving football from itself. London: Nicholas Brealey.

Dobson, S & Goddard, J.A (2001) The Economics of Football. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Downward, P (2002) ‘The Economics of Football’ Journal of Sport Economics, vol 3, pp. 374-377.

Finn M, Elliot-White M and Walton M (2000) Tourism and Leisure Research Methods. Longman: London.

Gerrard, B (2006) Football, Fans and Finance. London: Mainstream.

Gratton, C & Jones, I (2004) Research Methods for Sport Studies. London: Routledge.

Hamil, S (2001) The Changing Nature of the Football Business. London: Routledge.

Lago, U; Simmons, R & Szymanski, S (2006) ‘The Financial Crisis in European Football’ Journal of Sport Economics vol 7, pp. 3-12.

Long J (2007) Researching Leisure, Sport and Tourism: The Essential Guide. London: Sage.

Punch, K (2005) Introduction to Social Research: quantitative and qualitative approaches. London: Sage.

Wilson, B (2009) ‘Premier League Defies Downturn’ BBC News, [online], cited 31/01/10, available at; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8078533.stm.




In terms of ensuring that the research project is effective, both in terms of the research process and the eventual outcomes, it will be necessary for me to overcome some difficulties.  In particular, the terms of academic study, I feel it is essential that I ensure moderation, impartiality and balance.  The research subject I have chosen is of great interest to me and I have a number of personal assumptions on the issue.  Therefore, I do have to accept that I am going into the research process with initial assumptions which may affect my interpretation of the subject matter.  In terms of social investigation, the presence of innate assumptions is often viewed in a negative light.  As such, given that I hope the research undertaken will be objective in nature, it is vital that I ensure my own opinions, which at this point are not fully substantiated, do not affect my academic judgment.

Furthermore, another potential problem I may have was suggested in the research proposal.  Given the nature of the research topic I have chosen, there will inevitably be a plethora of materials and opinions on the subject.  Moreover, many of these opinions will not be based on academic investigation or the rigours of social scientific study.  Therefore, I feel it is paramount for me to ensure that I assess sources and materials in a way which fully examines their credibility and reliability.

In addition, I will have to overcome some personal work ethics which have caused problems in the past.  In particular, I need to make sure that the research and study undertaken in this project gradually develops over time, in order that I allow myself the adequate amount of time to complete the work effectively.  In the past I have left research too late and thus had to rush the final product.  Although I have never suffered seriously from this in terms of academic performance, I am acutely aware of the fact that this research project is larger and more complex than anything I have done before.  Given this, my personal work ethic and overall approach to the research needs to be sound from the start.

However, if I am able to overcome the problems outlined above then the potential outcomes in terms of my personal and academic development could be considerable.  In particular, given that the research process will involve assessing a large quantity of information, then I think my future employability will be dramatically enhanced.  Furthermore, in personal terms, a greater knowledge and awareness of the subject matter in question will be of great benefit to me.  Given that I have a very keen interest in football generally and specifically in the issue of money in football, the research will allow me to proffer determined and supportable conclusions on a matter which is very important to me.  Also, I will be very interested to see if the personal assumptions I have at the moment will be proved correct as a result of further research.  However, if they are proved to be incorrect then I will have to accept this.  Indeed, such acceptance in itself may be positive in terms of my development in later life.