Another consultant to foreign investors into English soccer put it more bluntly: London, he said, acts as a “giant magnet to money.” Increasingly, that magnet is powerful enough to bend and shape the very landscape of the Premier League.
Ten years ago, on the eve of the 2008-9 season, six teams in English soccer’s top division came from the capital and its general vicinity. Nine, by contrast, hailed from England’s North West, representing not only the powerhouses of Manchester and Liverpool, but also towns like Blackburn, Wigan and Bolton. Soccer’s other traditional heartlands — the Midlands, around Birmingham, and Yorkshire and the North East, home of Newcastle and Sunderland — took up the remaining five spots.
A decade on, the picture has reversed. When the Premier League opens its new season Friday, it will do so with two teams from the Midlands (Leicester and West Bromwich Albion), one apiece from Yorkshire (Huddersfield), the North East (Newcastle) and Wales (Swansea City), and only six from the North West.
That leaves almost half the division filled with teams from London and nearby areas, and from England’s affluent south coast. Inexorably, it seems the power base of English soccer is shifting south.
When Gino Pozzo — scion of the family that has long owned the Italian team Udinese — was looking for an English club to buy, he considered several factors. “The profile of the…