Mark Gregory recently retired after more than a decade as Ernst & Young’s UK chief economist. Much of that time was spent working with leagues and clubs across sports – and across the world – on special projects and advising them on finances.
In 2014, for example, he worked with the Premier League measuring the competition’s economic and social contribution to the UK, and discovered that the league and its clubs supported more than 100,000 jobs in the UK.
As part of the calculation, Gregory conducted in-depth analysis into his own club, Stoke City. And after completing the work, he was invited to watch a Premier League game against West Ham in the directors’ box as a guest of Tony Scholes, the chief executive. It was on the long train journey home he realised something was seriously out of kilter in English football.
He had just seen Marko Arnautovic, whose career was rekindled at Stoke, tear them apart playing for West Ham following his demand…