Premier League TV deal is a huge opportunity for clubs and brands
By David Alexander
When I started going to football matches in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the culture was very different to that we take for granted today.
I recall police gathering gangs of youngsters who had been causing trouble; the National Front handing out leaflets and no one batting an eyelid; and supposedly intelligent fans sitting in the expensive seats I was fortunate to sometimes frequent making monkey noises and laughing at their own supposed hilarity.
The pitches were like farmer's fields, three passes put together were seen as over-complicating the game and a foreign player meant someone who had come from Belfast or Glasgow.
These days, it is very different of course.
Families attend matches, there is wall to wall coverage and many of the top names come to England to ply their trade. Football is show business.
The news that the Premier League has secured a staggering £5 billion for the next television packages covering a mere three seasons underlines the value of the game in England and its popularity overseas.
It may not always be of the highest quality, but the competitive nature of the league and the money which attracts the big names has come at a time when stadia were modernised or rebuilt, facilities improved and the all-round fan experienced enhanced in every way.
Of course this has come at a price.
The days when I used to watch top flight games for £5 are long gone and the cost of everything associated with the matchday experience has priced many traditional fans out of attending.
Much of the money which television has brought into the game has gone on player wages, which is vital to keep the competition exciting, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger spoke about this week.
There have been criticisms, of course, that not enough money trickles down to lower league and grass roots and chief executive Richard Scudamore said in response to those accusations that the Premier league is "not a charity"
That may well be the case, but there is a huge opportunity for clubs and sponsors to make a real difference without losing any of the competitiveness that the Premier League is famous for.
The Premier League gave five per cent of its 2013-16 UK rights to grass roots and good causes which amounts to a not insignificant £168 million.
Many clubs already do a lot of work in their communities both collectively and individually - Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho helped charities this week by helping to restore a house.
Sponsors are also aware that the opportunities of doing good work through their associations with football provide them with a huge platform to promote themselves.
By maintaining and building on these initiatives football clubs and sponsors can send out a positive message about the value of our national game and its positive impact on society as a whole.
Whether it is sponsors providing larger numbers of tickets to fans who might not otherwise be able to see their favourite teams play; providing coaches and facilities in under-privileged communities; or even just creating the awareness for local charities that their collaboration with top flight clubs can provide, there are so many ways football can show it is a beautiful game off the pitch as well as on it.