Even doping won't slow down the Premier League

Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the week’s football action and the stories making the headlines across the beautiful game.

This past weekend, the Premier League became the latest sport to be hit by a performance enhancing drugs scandal, as The Sunday Times published an expose suggesting Premier League footballers were among 150 sports stars implicated by Dr Mark Bonar, a former Harley Street doctor who claimed to have charged athletes for blood doping. The Sunday Times regularly drop these sporting bombshells, and many a sport have been derailed by their blood doping investigations. Some heralded this as the start of a potential smoking gun that could have been a major crisis for the Premier League. However for me, the Premier League is so strong that even a drug scandal wouldn’t slow down its march of global dominance.

Fans of sports like cycling and athletics might find this a totally bizarre argument. Those sports and others have been shot to bits by scandals threatening to completely destroy the sport from the ground up. These scandals have completely shaken public confidence in these sports. So why then do I think the Premier League is safe following the allegations that came out in the Sunday Times?

The reason has been self-evident in the reaction to the Sunday Times story itself. After it broke in the morning, a selection of articles emerged digesting the findings. While there have been a handful of opinion pieces come out since then, in general conversation has shifted almost instantly to the action on the pitch. Leicester City took themselves seven points clear, continuing their fairy-tale season. It’s been Leicester City that have driven the majority of column inches and social posts, not a Sunday Times investigation into blood doping. Almost as soon as the story was alive, it was gone.

This is why the Premier League is set up to withstand a drugs scandal. The interest in the league is so high, that every single element/team/player is now capable of driving conversation. That means that every day there is a new narrative for fans to latch on to, and there is no waiting around on yesterday’s news. You only have to look at the NBA and the NFL, two leagues who have withstood vast amounts of player disciplinary and drugs scandals from their players. Those leagues too drive conversation on a daily basis, so who cares if one player just got caught for drugs, when there is a game tomorrow and three different trade rumours to focus on?

One of the reasons cycling and athletics have been hit so hard is that they don’t have the same mass interest, so there aren’t another other elements to pick up on. When drugs scandals break in those sports there is nowhere to go, so the conversation lingers on the scandal. In today’s sports media culture we have an insatiable appetite for the next story, the next headline. The Premier League is such an unstoppable machine, that even a drugs scandal isn’t enough to stop the gears turning. Unless the whole league tests positive tomorrow, the Premier League will survive anything The Sunday Times has to throw at it.

James Fenn

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search