Did Manchester City Buy the Premiership Title?

Manchester City won the FA Premiership in 2012, their first tier 1 championship since 1968. Four years before that would have appeared an impossibility, but the sudden purchase of the club by an organisation from Abu Dhabi, made much greater financial resources available to the club. The club went on an immediate buying spree, attracting players to the club who would never previously have been interested in a mid-ranking club like Manchester City. A gradual improvement in performance culminated with the winning of the FA Premiership with pretty much the final kick of their final game in 2012.

A lot of people think this isn't fair, and accuse them of "buying" the Premiership tile.

Was it fair?

Well the first thing to say is that it's long been the case that the different clubs in the Premiership have wildly different financial resources. Some of them are amongst the richest clubs in the world, while some of them are small local clubs that exist on a (comparitive) shoe-string. All the big clubs "buy" their championships to a large extent - they deploy their superior financial resources to buy and pay the best players in a way that none of the smaller clubs can hope to match.

And the supporters of every small club dream of a Jack Walker type figure who will pump money into their club, and give them a minute in the spotlight.

So if every championship is "bought" to some extent, can you be critical of any club for doing the same thing? Well one obvious criticism would be of clubs like Leeds United who do it by borrowing huge amounts of money, and then struggle for years afterwards to pay off their debt. And what would happen to Chelsea if Roman Abramovich ever asked for his billion pounds back?

But as it turns out, Manchester City were able to win the title with a surprisingly low level of debt. The Guardian newspaper recently published details of the debt for each club. While you could rank clubs solely on their debt, it's worth taking into account a club's turnover because big clubs are more able to handle big debts than small clubs. The following table ranks clubs based on their debt divided by their turnover, with smaller figures obviously being better. Interestingly Manchester City rank highest in this table of all the big clubs so it would actually be fairer to say that Liverpool "bought" their eigth place in the table than it would be to accuse Manchester City of buying the title.

ClubNet DebtTurnoverDebt Ratio
1Wolverhampton Wanderers -1360-21.7%
2Swansea City -565-7.7%
3Norwich City -175-1.3%
4West Bromwich Albion 0.5670.7%
5Stoke City 147119.7%
6Wigan Athletic 125322.6%
7Manchester City 5823125.1%
8Arsenal 9824540.0%
9Blackburn Rovers 255446.3%
10Tottenham Hotspur 7014448.6%
11Liverpool 8716951.5%
12Everton 468156.8%
13Sunderland 8478107.7%
14Manchester United 366320114.4%
15Newcastle United 12993138.7%
16Queens Park Rangers 8964139.1%
17Aston Villa 12280152.5%
18Bolton Wanderers 13765210.8%
19Fulham 19379244.3%
20Chelsea 878261336.4%

Which raises an intriguing question: what would happen to the 2012/2013 table if you took into account the different relative debts? Well there are many ways you could do this, but one simple mechanism would be to deduct 9 points from clubs with debts in the worst quartile, 6 points from those in the third quartile, and three points from those in the second quartile. So here it is the first ever Embrisk Financial Fair Play Adjusted Table of Premiership Clubs:

2012/2013 Embrisk Financial Fair Play Adjusted Table of Premiership Clubs
ClubGoal Diff.PointsOriginal PositionDebt Adj.New PointsPosition Change
Manchester United43891-6830
Manchester City32782-3750
Tottenham Hotspur20725-3691
West Bromwich Albion-44980490
Swansea City-44690460
West Ham United-846100460
Norwich City-1744110440
Stoke City-1142130421
Newcastle United-234116-6352
Wigan Athletic-263618-3331
Aston Villa-224115-932-3
Queens Park Rangers-302520-9160

Email questions/comments to notes at embrisk.com.

© Embrisk Ltd. 2012