WIGAN chairman Dave Whelan has blamed Liverpool’s American owners for an attempted football television rights breakaway from the rest of the Premier League, calling it “appalling” and “greedy”.
Reds managing director Ian Ayre has indicated the club would like the freedom to strike their own potentially more lucrative overseas broadcast deals, as Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid already do.
That would mean scrapping the current collective selling model employed so successfully by the Premier League, and would require support from 13 of the top tier’s other 19 clubs – which is unlikely as Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham all oppose a breakaway.
Whelan, whose team’s top flight status would be threatened by such a move, said he abhorred the idea and pointed the finger at John Henry and Tom Werner, the American sports moguls who bought Liverpool last year.
“This is an American dream,” Whelan (inset) told City A.M. “I think it’s entirely wrong. I’m really, really against this. And I’m sure Liverpool supporters are as well – they don’t want to break from the league.
“They might get support from other big clubs but there is no way it will be passed by the Premier League. The big four teams would be absolutely useless on their own. I’m appalled. I am stone cold against it.
“I am surprised [that Liverpool have been first to break ranks], because Liverpool fans, like Everton, are so loyal. It is just greedy to take the money away from the other 16 clubs in the Premier League.”
Whelan’s comments came as Henry, whose Fenway Sports Group also own baseball’s Boston Red Sox, admitted he knew “virtually nothing” about the club or English football when he took over 12 months ago.
Overseas rights revenue is currently split equally between the division’s 20 teams, while domestic television income is partially determined performance by league position and number of matches broadcast.
Champions United yesterday indicated they would not support Liverpool’s stance, while Chelsea said they remained “supportive” of the current deal.
Tottenham, who, like Liverpool, might stand to gain in the short term from individual selling, are understood to be fully committed to collective bargaining and privately surprised by the Reds’ stance.
Premier League clubs received £18m each last season from an overseas rights deal that expires in 2013. Barca and Real pocket around £135m a year from their individually negotiated contracts.
ANALYSIS | EXPERT VIEWS
Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal – these clubs produce the audiences and revenues for the now huge overseas contracts, and as such they deserve a bigger share than they are getting. They should not be able to negotiate their overseas rights individually but they should get a fair reward for what they contribute.
The way they split domestic rights – 50 per cent goes to everyone and then success and popularity are rewarded – should be applied to overseas rights. It makes common sense and it would be fairer.
Alex Fynn, author and sports marketing expert who advised on the establishment of the Premier League
I think Liverpool are sabre-rattling, but you can’t blame them because they are between a rock and a hard place. They are losing about £1.5m-£2m every home game against clubs with big stadiums like Manchester United and Arsenal, because of their lower capacity and much lower income from corporate boxes. So the only area where a club like Liverpool can try to get more income is the overseas television rights – that’s why they’ve gone for it. Is it fair and reasonable the way it’s done at the moment? No it’s not. Is it likely to change in the short term? Not in my view. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
John Taylor, chairman of sponsorship company Sports Impact
We’re seeing a move away from a social democratic way of doing things to a much more individualistic, libertarian one. This situation has been building and we’re going to reach a point at which the tension becomes so much that one club will break – and in this case it’s Liverpool. What you will find is very soon after, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal will then, if not do it, then certainly talk about the potential for doing it. And because of the way the operating environment has changed it is now much more likely they could do this kind of thing on their own.
Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University