Ian Ayre, the Liverpool FC Managing Director, had a lot to say this morning. About how the Fenway Sports Group saved this team and launched them back into success and somewhat title relevance in the year since they’ve taken over. He spoke about Kenny Dalglish and his importance in the club’s awakening after the final Benitez season and the failed Roy Hodgson Tenure. That’s all fine and dandy, but his words on emulating the La Liga model, where the piece of the pie regarding TV rights isn’t split equally between the teams could be disastrous for the future of the English Premier League.
The Current State – Right now, the league’s broadcast rights to outside the UK are sold in a joint package, with the latest deal from 2010 through 2013 is worth £3.2 billion, split between the 20 clubs. There is already wide gap between the (until recently) so called top four, or at least the top two or three (currently the Manchester sides and Chelsea), and if Ayre’s plan for clubs getting separate deals to share the foreign rights to Premier League matches, that gap, and the whole allure of the league might crumble and disappear.
Look at the Spanish La Liga. A two horse race if there ever was one, in a league that was the best in Europe 7-8 years ago. Since Valencia won the title in 2004, their second in three seasons, it’s been only Barcelona and Real Madrid. Look, throughout history in Spain it’s been mostly the two giants, but they’re distancing themselves more and more. The pie isn’t shared fairly inside Spain, not only regarding foreign rights, and any time the two big clubs drop points it’s regarded a sensation. It shouldn’t be that way.
Look, the perfect, or best, at least, should be the German model. A league on the rise, usually with 5-6 teams that have a shot at the title while producing fun, entertaining, attacking football. No privately owned teams – 51% (at least) of each club has to be owned by the fans, so there’s no way a rich or formerly rich owner can pile up the debt. No mega budgets, but less chance of clubs going bankrupt.
The English Premier League still has the aura of a competition where anything can happen, anywhere, and no match is a given, especially on tough away matches. Something gone from Spain, and if Ayre’s, Liverpool’s and probably the big clubs, those with a huge following in Asia that can generate huge amounts of money without need of a collective league, will be gone from the English front as well. Just ask Celtic and Rangers how much fun it is playing in the SPL.