Why Is Football Outside the Premier League Struggling?

Back in May, The Independent reported that the Bolton Wanderers had been forced to use social media to make a tragic plea for help. After weeks with no pay, they revealed that they had no food on their tables and had been made to go hungry. 


In stark contrast, another prominent story at the time revolved around Manchester City, who had recently completed the most lavishly funded project in football history with the finalisation of a domestic treble.



What these two tales shockingly illustrated was the ever-growing gap between the Premier League and its less prominent counterparts, with one going from strength to strength and the other arguably on its knees.


It led to some interesting questions: firstly, what is it that’s driving this trend, and secondly, what impact might it have on football moving forward?


For the reality is that Bolton is not the only lower league club that’s struggling to keep its head above water in an increasingly difficult financial landscape. With Blackburn Rovers posting record losses, and a number of other prominent names on the brink of bankruptcy, it seems that football outside the Premier League is teetering on the brink of oblivion.    


But what exactly is it that’s to blame? While football on the whole continues to attract a large amount of interest, with everything from the various bookmakers reviewed on to media outlets like BBC Sport using it to finance their operations and generate interest, there is a clear separation of wealth between the higher and lower tiers.   


Where this disparity stems from is a disparity in public interest as the Premier League has managed to successfully package itself as one of the top leagues in the world which has come at the expense of other leagues in England. On top of this, Mark Palios, former Football Association Chief Executive, argues that lower-league clubs are relying on an outdated business model – to their very real detriment. He explains: “If gates are your sole limit in terms of the potential of a club, then you will struggle.”


This statement is backed up by statistics from the English Football League, which show that although 2018/19 attendance figures were at their highest level in half a century, 31 of the 48 clubs in the lower leagues reported average attendance rates equal to less than half of their stadium capacities.   


If these lower leagues want to survive, the very real questions they must pose to themselves are these: how can they boost these figures, and how can they generate additional sources of income, for if they cannot get more people through their doors soon, they may no longer be able to survive.