Following the huge opposition Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre faced when he suggested clubs should negotiate their own television deals, Manchester United may be starting to jump on board with the idea and follow the path well trodden by Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. A good idea for individual clubs rather than the league as a whole, or will the determination for club’s to take advantage of their global appeal cripple the Premier League and rock the equilibrium that has kept the ship steady for so long?
Before swift opposition from the teams regularly placed lower in the Premier League arrives, it would be wise to think over the positives of allowing club’s to negotiate their own television deals. Not just because Real Madrid and Barcelona do it, but because the top Premier League clubs can do it—and they could likely get very close or even equal what the Spanish clubs are getting. Is it in the best interest of top clubs in England to look out for those below them on the revenue ladder? Surely there is a greater market to take advantage of now than there was when the Premier League was formed.
Looking at the Deloitte’s financial report this morning, Manchester United are looking to slip further away from Barcelona and Real Madrid over the next year due to their failure to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League, and Liverpool are equally in danger of slipping out of the top ten of the Money League if they fail to qualify, at least, for next season’s Europa League. The widening gaps are of great concern and perhaps clubs should start to look out for themselves and the financial rewards their club’s name represents abroad.
Ian Ayre did make an interesting point when he put forward his idea last year: he raised the question, why would foreign fans of the league want to pay to see Bolton, when the majority of their fans live around the Bolton area. Instead, fans want to see clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United on a weekly basis, not as a package with other teams that are rotated on a regular basis. And there is nothing wrong with that. Club’s like Liverpool have a global audience and brand which maybe should dictate who is broadcast in foreign markets. Similarly, American sports such as NHL teams are televised within the region of which they’re from. Games will sometimes air nationwide, but for the most part the Chicago Blackhawks’ games will be regularly broadcast in the state of Illinois and the surrounding area, where as their games are limited nationwide and are more evenly distributed to national carriers such as Versus and NBC. Of course, America is on a much bigger scale than England, but there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing—selling to the market that will pay to watch.
It is definitely an issue that needs to be brought up again and analysed from the point of view of the clubs that will benefit. Will Premier League clubs negotiating their own deals really put such a dent into the league as a whole? Yes, there will be great disparity over the income between clubs at the top and those at the bottom of the table, and the financial trouble of La Liga is well documented; but the fundamental reasoning here is that there is a market to be taken advantage of, and Manchester United, as well as the rest of the Premier League big boys are steadily falling behind those who are active and reaping the rewards.
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