Manchester United and Chelsea refuse to back Liverpool breakaway plan
• Rivals clubs distance themselves from TV rights proposal
• Liverpool want overseas rights sold on club-by-club basis
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 October 2011
Manchester United and Chelsea are among several clubs who have moved to distance themselves from a proposal by Ian Ayre, Liverpool's managing director to break from the Premier League's model of collecting television rights revenue.
It is understood that Manchester United, who claim to have 333 million fans globally and have targeted overseas sponsorship revenue as a route to increase income, will oppose any moves to challenge the status quo under which the Premier League sells television rights overseas on behalf of all 20 elite clubs.
A spokesman for Chelsea said: "We are supportive of the Premier League on this and want to continue with the way they sell [TV rights] collectively."
United insiders pointed out that their chief executive, David Gill, had repeatedly underlined the support of the club's owners, the Glazer family, for the collective model. Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year, Gill said: "The collective selling of the television rights has clearly been a success and it has made things more competitive."
It is understood that Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will continue to back the existing arrangement that last season paid each club £17.9m, while the Wigan Athletic chairman, Dave Whelan, reacted with outrage.
Whelan told goal.com: "I have just read his [Ayre's] comments and I find them diabolical – I just can't believe what he has been saying. They are thinking: 'How can we get more money?' You won't get more money by killing the heart and soul of the Premier League and killing the heart and soul of football in England. We invented the game and we have still got the finest league in the whole world and some of the finest supporters in the whole world and they want to rip the whole thing up."
Peter Coates, the Stoke City chairman, was similarly hostile: "I think what we've got is a pretty good system that works well and is probably a model for European countries to follow. I don't think what Spain has done has done anything for Spanish football. As I understand it, their own clubs and supporters and everyone connected with the game in Spain is pretty depressed with what has happened there.
"Furthermore, both those clubs [Barcelona and Real Madrid] have got huge debts and that's with all the money they get. I think things are structured very well here and to change that would be very much a step in the wrong direction. I think we've got it about right and I'm disappointed that Liverpool think differently. But hopefully the majority of clubs will recognise we've got a system that works well."
The public stance of other big clubs will come as a disappointment to Liverpool, who were understood to believe that others would support them. Ayre said clubs in other countries, notably Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, have a growing financial advantage over English clubs because they secure TV deals individually.
Without the support of those who stand to benefit most the idea would be dead in the water, because none of the league's smaller clubs would vote for something that would hugely disadvantage them.
Overseas revenues could outstrip the domestic deal, currently worth £2.1bn over three years, for the first time when the Premier League launches its tender process next year.
Liverpool would need to persuade 13 of their fellow Premier League clubs of the merit of the plan in order to force through the change since any significant modification to the Premier League rulebook requires a two-thirds majority.
Ayre became the first representative of a leading Premier League club since Peter Kenyon at Manchester United in 2003 to challenge the collective sale of overseas TV rights, which brought in £1.4bn over the three years to 2012-13.
Ayre said: "Is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say: 'Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen.' But isn't it really about where the revenue is coming from, which is the broadcaster, and isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel? We know it is us. And others.
"At some point we feel there has to be some rebalance on that, because what we are actually doing is disadvantaging ourselves against other big European clubs."