Why Liverpool’s Threat to Sell Their Own TV Rights is a Pipe Dream

Liverpool Football Club is trying to change the Premier League as we know it. The club is interested in breaking out and selling its own overseas TV rights instead of the current collective agreement by the Premier League where overseas TV revenue is equally split among all 20 clubs.

Liverpool’s intention is to generate more TV revenue by selling the rights themselves than splitting them equally among all 20 Premier League clubs. The model could be similar to Spain where Barcelona and Real Madrid garner TV rights revenue that is approximately 19 times larger than the smaller clubs in La Liga. If you thought the gap between the have and the have-nots was bad in the Premier League, it would be much worse if Liverpool’s wishes become true.

They are only wishes, though. Liverpool would have to get 14 of the 20 teams in the Premier League to agree to the change (the Premier League requires a two-thirds majority at its annual shareholders meeting next summer). And according to The Daily Mirror, Chelsea and Manchester United are not planning on backing Liverpool’s plan, so the chances of this deal happening are slim to none. And I don’t see the deal happening anytime soon either. Consider this: What would it take to get 14 of the 20 Premier League teams to agree to a deal like this? It’s not going to happen anytime soon unless Liverpool, or someone else, can convince the clubs lower down in the Premier League that they’ll make more money.

And right now, it’s all about Liverpool FC and no one else. Liverpool Football Club is just being greedy. They know they have a massive international following so they want to find ways to sell their own rights and generate more revenue for the club so they can better compete against Manchester United and European clubs (if and when they get back into the Champions League again).

I wonder what Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager and a devout socialist, would think of Liverpool’s intentions.

Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayre has an interesting argument. It’s this:

“Personally I think the game-changer is going out and recognising our brand globally…with the greatest of respect to our colleagues in the Premier League, but if you’re a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton….But if you’re in Kuala Lumpur there isn’t anyone subscribing to Astro, or ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it’s a very small number. Whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool and Manchester United…”

While I agree that most soccer fans overseas are interested in watching the Sky Six (Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham), what makes the Premier League interesting is how competitive the rest of the league is. Stoke can beat Liverpool. Blackburn can beat Arsenal. Stoke can draw Chelsea and Manchester United. Newcastle can draw Arsenal, et cetera. What we don’t want to see is the gap widening. We don’t want to see a league where only Barcelona and Real Madrid will win the league each season. We’re close to that already, but we don’t want to make it worse.

If Liverpool want to generate more TV revenue so they can better compete against other European heavyweights, they’d be better off forming an European Super League and getting it over and done with. Break away from the Premier League and get the Sky Six to join them in a new league that competes against the top teams in Europe each week. I’d much rather see that and give Liverpool what they want than to see them kill the Premier League as we know it.

20 thoughts on “Why Liverpool’s Threat to Sell Their Own TV Rights is a Pipe Dream”

  1. This is a bad idea. Sports leagues are so much better when revenue is split as close to equal as possible – the NFL is a perfect model. The Premier League is already top heavy as it is, widening that gap can’t lead to anything good.

    And that’s coming from a Liverpool supporter.

    1. But what truly levels the playing field in the NFL is the salary cap. That, and free agency, is what enables teams like the Detroit Lions to suddenly go from dead last to competitive in the space of a season.

      Which is fantastic. I love the NFL. But that will NEVER fly in the EPL.

      1. I would use the MLB as a reference. There is revenue sharing (albeit certain teams have their own TV deals) and there is a fairly large gap between the top and bottom in spending…..but over the last 10 years there have been 9 different champions! That’s not bad at all.

        1. Baseball also has playoffs, and regionalizes divisions. So if you are Twins, you play mostly teams from your own geographic pull. If you look at regular season winning % over the past 20 years, I’d argue that the top 5 are always from big markets. With only three rounds of playoffs as the leveler.

          Also MLB sells the rights globally and out of market. MLB clubs can only sell their tv/radio rights to their local market. Which has allowed teams like the Mets and Yankees to create their own tv networks. New York tv market is alone one of the most populated in the world.

      2. I agree – there’s no way anyone could probably ever push a salary cap through in the EPL, although it would be interesting – they just need to find a way to make the playing field as level as they can.

        1. The problem with an EPL salary cap is that would greatly hinder the development and quality of the premier league, unless other similar leagues like Serie A, La Liga, and the Bundesliga also institute salary caps. the NFL and NBA do not have strong rival leagues. They can institute a salary cap and players will not jump ship for another league. If the EPL instituted a salary cap, id venture a guess that all the top quality players would bail on the EPL and head to one of the other top leagues.

          1. It’s the Champions League that keeps the playing field uneven. Being that football is a global sport and not insular like American Football, salary caps would never work. Everyone wants to be the best in the continent.

  2. There’s no way on God’s Earth that 14 clubs are going to vote for this. It would only benefit the Sky 6 at the expense of everyone else.

    Liverpool want to go down this path then they’re going to start a massive fight with the rest of the league. The only place it’ll head towards is the break up of the EPL and the creation of a Euro Super League.

    In Spain La Liga is growing tired of the might of real Madrid and Barcelona. Where they earn up to 19 times TV revenue than the lowest clubs. La Liga is almost trying to force these two into the Super League.

    It was reported in the Daily Mirror that Man Utd and Chelsea have already come out against the idea, even though they both would benefit. This is probably because they’re quite happy with the status-quo and realise that the added financial strength of Liverpool would affect them negatively.

    To Ian Ayre ‘with the greatest respect’, if you’re trying to win teams over you should’ve started with not alienating Bolton Wanderers by saying that hardly anybody wants to watch them. Now you’ll need 14 votes from 19 clubs.

    1. And yet the LaLiga clubs voted against Valencia’s effort to even out the TV revenue bc they were scared of barca and madrid

  3. I personally don’t care about other sports. While I do believe that the NFL has a strong model, it grew organically. The EPL did the same. One cannot expect one to transition into the other.

    As for Liverpool’s desire, I think the comparison of importance was briefly mentioned by the Gaffer: Spain. What this would effectively do, if implemented would be to increase the disparity of the league as in Spain. It would effectively drive out the middle-class of clubs and it would be the big four and 16 poor sides. The funny thing is that by the time it goes into effect, Liverpool would probably not be a beneficiary as it would be Arsenal, United and Chelsea that would be the best situated to gain from this. Liverpool is currently not very powerful due to it’s loss of UCL and the squandered opportunities in marketing that Henry is trying to make up for since 1992. They would be okay, but City will still have more opportunity and be much more likely to gain from such a deal than Liverpool.

    But they would be better off than Spurs, Newcastle, Everton, Villa, West Ham and the other set of bigger club who are worse off than them in foreign markets. I would say for this group, that Liverpool’s actions should be a signal to what is essentially financial war. And for that, they should make war on Henry and the organization. Gow to best do this would be interesting, and I have ideas, but am not sure which ones are doable and which ones aren’t.

    Remember Liverpool has long acted in a way that harms the English game and would do so again in a heartbeat. The sooner that they are dealt with as a bad seed by all clubs and the FA the better. Just like no player is bigger than a club, no club is bigger than the league. Because once this is done, they will look to break the league with a pan-European solution.

    1. Sorry. I bracketed part of DoublePivit’s post for reference and it didn’t appear. So, can you please explain this line:

      “Remember Liverpool has long acted in a way that harms the English game and would do so again in a heartbeat.”

  4. This is a cry for help from the owners of Liverpool. They see Anfield as being a limited income generator and with the ongoing impasse over getting a new stadium this seems like the only long shot of them gaining immediate control of a new revenue stream.

    It’s their right to declare themselves as open to this idea. This idea smacks of greed however and if I were a Liverpool supporter I’d have to wonder what else they think is a good idea.

  5. If it happens we’re half way to the Arabic/Russo/USA super league. I really couldn’t care less anymore. If they went the whole hog and did this the rest of us would be allowed to return to some semblance of normality and sanity hopefully. The only people affected would be those that actually attend those clubs matches home and away.

    I’ll guarantee one thing, it wouldn’t affect ticket prices one iota, they’d continue on their upward curve.

  6. It’s the salary cap in the NFL that really levels the playing field, not the revenue sharing. Granted a ton of the money generated comes from massive NFL TV Deal, but like any sport, individual teams monetize of memorabilia, gate receipts, corporate sponsorship, etc.

    Teams like Dallas, Washington and Pittsburgh are in a much better position than say, Jacksonville.

    If you removed the salary cap (which only came into existence around 1994, and the NFL was far less ripe with parity prior to that), you’d still have the Haves and Have Nots.

    Whoever pointed to MLB is spot on.

    Unless you put the cap so low that teams running on shoe string budgets (Everton, for example) were the maximums salary/transfer expenditure, you’d still likely see a structure where the biggest clubs can still afford the big players.

  7. Gaffer, your point about Bill Shankly was the first thing I thought of. He created the identify of Liverpool by using a socialist / for-the-people brand of running the club.

    The Liverpool supporter in me wants the club to grab as much money as possible so we can compete with oil tycoons but it’s hard to have a good conscience with the obvious greed at work here.

    Bill Shankly would be disappointed indeed.

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