Ferguson: TV is God and we pay price


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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has accused television companies of enslaving English football and argued that Premier League clubs should be given a bigger slice of revenue from overseas sales.

Clubs like United earn about £4.3m each time their games are broadcast live, but Ferguson believes television now has too much power over the fixture list.

Speaking on the BBC's "North-West Tonight" programme, the United manager said: "When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price. Television is God at the moment... when you see the fixture lists come out, they can pick and choose whenever they want the top teams on television.

"Sometimes when you are playing on a Wednesday night in Europe and then at lunchtime the following Saturday. You ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and the answer would be: 'No chance'."

Ferguson argued that the clubs should receive more than the £17m they are awarded annually from the overseas rights. "The Premier League sell their product to over 200 countries around the world," Ferguson said. "And when you think of that, I don't think we get enough money."

Ferguson may believe that in dealing with television, you have to "shake hands with the devil". However, should you wish to play for the Red Devils, there is a similar bargain to be made.

It was put very succinctly by Michael Owen after his two goals overcame Leeds in the Carling Cup last week: "What harms your chance of a place is that we are all so good. The strikers here are fabulous."

Unlike Owen, Dimitar Berbatov did not join Manchester United to be on the bench. He cost £30m, was the Premier League's joint top scorer last season and yet was not deemed worthy of a place in the squad for the European Cup final at Wembley.

All strikers, however much their manager praises their "attitude" and "team spirit", have egos and should the Bulgarian not be in the starting line-up against Basle tonight, his will have received a significant bruise.

"I don't need to reassure him," Ferguson said of a man who was given his first Premier League start of the season in the 1-1 draw at Stoke on Saturday evening. "They understand that having a big squad gives them a better chance of winning things. They accepted that a long time ago."

Ashley Young, only a few months into his Manchester United career, said: "You have to be on your toes 24/7 here because there is always someone who wants your place."

That is a concept Berbatov understands only too completely.