International TV Deals & Liverpool Gripes

By Nicholas Spiller

The issue of Premier League television rights was brought to the forefront of the media last week when Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, took it upon himself to very publicly lambast the current policy. Let us take a quick look at how the deal works.

First, we should analyze the domestic British television rights. As the deal stands until 2013, The premier league splits the British money into three portions. First, a portion is divided 20 ways equally between the teams. Then, a second portion is directly influenced by league position, so the best teams profit slightly more. Lastly, a final third is divided by the number of times a respective club is broadcasted on TV.

The highest earners last year were Champions, Manchester United, who raked in 60.4 million pounds. Last place Blackpool received 39.1 million pounds. As you can see, the gap from top to bottom is only about 1.5X.

In Spain, things are done Ian Ayre’s way. Individual teams, not the league, make international television deals by themselves. The result? Barcelona and Real Madrid make about 12X the lower teams and thus the talent is about 12 times greater, too.

In England, internationally, the television rights are collected by the EPL and then equally distributed throughout the clubs. Last year each team, from Blackpool to Manchester United, earned 17.9 million pounds (which was included in above numbers too). This is where Ian Ayre takes out his frustrations. He feels that Liverpool, who would draw much more international viewers than say, Bolton, would deserve a bigger piece of the pie.

EPL matches are shown in 212 countries throughout the world. These games have the largest viewership draws out of anything around today. Ayre is totally correct in his argument’s reasoning, but I feel it is pretty easy to understand where his comments come from: Missing out on the UEFA Champions League.

Each year, 32 clubs in Europe take part in the prestigious tournament (4 from England) and rake in around 30 million extra pounds each. Therefore teams like Manchester United actually earn around 90 million pounds for TV rights. Ayre is simply mad because Liverpool used to earn those dollars, but since Liverpool has not been involved the last few years, Liverpool is not making much money.

His argument is merely a cry of desperation. It’s the confused, hopeless banter from someone who is missing out on the big boy profits. Where was his comments three years ago when Liverpool was repeatedly challenging for the Champions League? England is a country that embraces socialism. Why would they ever change the current form of the deal which does nothing but make each match close and entertaining, unlike the Spanish league which might as well skip every match not dubbed “El Classico”?

My remarks to Ian Ayre is this: put your money where your mouth is. If you want the big bucks, earn it. Qualify for the Champions League, and stay in it. Or else, embrace Premier League mediocrity and stop your moaning.

Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: