MICK Rathbone believes the Premier League’s £3billion cash windfall has raised the stakes in the Championship next season – but has warned Blackburn Rovers their dreams of an instant return have only got tougher.
The English top flight’s next TV deal, starting in 2013, has risen to a record £3bn over three years – a 71 per cent increase – after BT bought a large slice of televised football rights.
Former Ewood defender Rathbone admits Rovers’ Premier League drop now appears even more costly than it did before and believes a long line of clubs will now be planning to ‘take a little gamble’ on reaching the ‘promised land’.
The new deal equates to at least £14m more per year for each football club, with the bottom team in the league from 2013-14 onwards likely to receive more than the £60.6m Manchester City earned this year for ending the season as champions.
Rathbone said: “The numbers you are talking about are absolutely crazy. Every time you think it can’t get bigger, it does.
“You can imagine Rovers owners, and the money men of the other relegated clubs, looking at that deal and thinking ‘what have we done’.
“The Premier League has always been where the money is but the money you are talking about here is scary.
“Any owner would be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of getting that sort of money.
“Rovers would be desperate to get back in to enjoy that sort of money but I hope they know they face a very, very difficult job.
“Rovers will of course be eyeing up that money, but so will the owners of the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff. Everyone’s eyes will have been opened a little wider by that.”
The first TV deal of the Premier League era was worth £304m over five years. Under the new deal, clubs will be guaranteed £3bn from live rights, plus £180m from the BBC for Match of the Day.
And Rathbone knows the rewards on offer to those in the Premier League will only increase the gap between them and the ‘rest of football.”
“The difficulty is the rich are getting richer and the rest have their faces pressed up against the window looking in,” said Rathbone.
“I know the Financial Fair Play is being brought in to stop clubs spending beyond their means but there are ways around that.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Championship clubs considering throwing a bit more money at trying to get into the Premier League, with the rewards bigger than ever before.”
Rathbone, who made more than 300 appearances for Rovers between 1979-87, is no stranger to the Championship having worked at Coventry and Preston at that level in the past.
He said: “I have really enjoyed my experience of the Championship. The difference between this league and the Premier League is that anyone can beat anyone on their day.
“That is where Blackburn Rovers are going to find it tough. Every single game is a real battle and the money on offer for the teams who come out on top is only going to make it tougher.
“It comes down to who performs on the day. It is very difficult to predict who will do well. The team that is the best prepared generally are the teams who do well.”
Meanwhile members of the Blackburn Rovers Action Group met with the FA yesterday to discuss their concerns over the running of the club.
Group chairman Glen Mullan, said: “It went very well again. They have taken our information and will go away and look into it all.”