What’s more important: that football remains competitive, or that clubs are allowed to make the most of their success? We all know Spanish teams sell their television rights individually, and whilst the Italians have gone back to selling collectively the distribution is hugely uneven, so why don’t we change our policy? Deloitte gives figures that show that the top three Italian clubs (Inter, AC Milan and Juventus) generate around 60% of their total income from TV rights, whereas in England the figure is closer to 40%. The percentage might be slightly lower because the English clubs tend to fare better on other commercial fronts but the fact remains that those top three Italian clubs earn on average €137.3m per year from their TV rights. The average amongst Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool is €109m whilst Spurs and Man City both earn under €70m (Figures based on Deloitte’s Football Money League 2011).
If we start taking Spain’s figures into account then things start to get even more out of hand; Barcelona and Real Madrid earn between €160-180m per season. This is a staggering advantage for our continental rivals. Is it any wonder Real Madrid can afford to shell out the sums they do on players like Ronaldo when their average income beats ours by at least €50m a year?
The obvious benefit of the Premier League method is the equality and competitive nature that it promotes within the league. Club debt for some of this country’s smaller clubs is getting out of hand anyway if we were to split up the TV rights and let the likes of Wigan and Swansea sell their own rights there would be little hope for their future in the league. Clubs like Everton who are just about hanging on despite their lack of any cash flow for years would certainly take a turn for the worst should the television packages face a change in distribution. It really comes down to what we value more: a capitalistic spirit amongst our clubs or a desire for competitive, fair football. I know what I’d choose.
The Premier League is the most popular league on the planet. Why? Because it’s competitive and it’s exciting. As soon as you detract from that our league loses one of its unique selling points. In this country we have managed to create not only a high standard of teams that can compete with the worlds best but we have also created a better quality for the lower teams. In essence: the smaller teams have benefited from the international success of the larger teams; this, in turn, will benefit the larger teams as it makes the league more exciting and therefore worth more to bidders around the world.
The top teams may not earn as much as they could but they still earn enough, you won’t se anybody depicting England’s best as deprived in any way. Moreover, I personally would pay not to have a league as dull as it is in Spain, or as debt ridden as it is in Italy. Can you imagine a league where Man Utd and Man City came first and second every single season? Where glory for any other team was coming third? No thanks.
Liverpool’s chief executive Ian Ayre makes a fair point when he said that Blackburn fans buy Sky Sports to watch Blackburn and Liverpool fans by Sky Sports to watch Liverpool, there are clearly more of one set than the other so it seems unfair that both should get equal money. Nobody’s arguing with that. However is that scenario more unfair than selling TV rights individually and condemning the lesser clubs to a future of mediocrity whilst the larger, more internationally popular clubs speed away from their competitors an exponential rate as Barcelona and Real Madrid have done?
No, nobody wants that. Even Italy who used to sell their rights individually have gone back to collective selling in a attempt to fix this lack of competitiveness. However their rights are still uneven with the larger clubs earning considerably more. If anything is to be changed then perhaps the share of money that is received by the bigger clubs could increase. It does seem ridiculous that a team like Liverpool can go to Malaysia on tour and have 40,000 people watching them train and receive the same television money as West Brom. However acceptable change can only be achieved in small doses. Any more and we risk infesting our already debt ridden clubs with further financial burdens that they are unlikely to be able to survive.
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