Liverpool: let us agree our own TV rights deal


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The Independent Online

The Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has said that his club should be allowed to pursue their own international television rights deal and that they are being placed at a disadvantage to Real Madrid and Barcelona by being forced to share media income with smaller Premier League clubs.

A year to the day since Liverpool's takeover by Fenway Sports Group (FSG) ended the turmoil and dislocation of the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era, the side rejuvenated by Kenny Dalglish (right), are financially still way adrift of Manchester United and remain in pursuit of a naming rights partner, without which the new stadium critical to the club's commercial development cannot be built.

But in a first break with the Premier League's position of collective selling of the £1.4bn overseas TV rights, Ayre suggested Liverpool should be allowed to sell their international TV rights individually, rather than take the same share of the money as the 19 other Premier League clubs. At United, the Glazer family remain adamant that a break-up of collective selling would potentially create a La Liga-style two- or three-club monopoly and weaken the Premier League's appeal.

However, Ayre said: "With the greatest of respect to our colleagues in the Premier League ... if you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton, and everyone gets that. Likewise, if you're a Liverpool fan from Liverpool, you subscribe. But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to [rights holders] Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton. So is it right that the international rights are shared equally?

"Some people will say, 'Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen'. But isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel? We feel there has to be some rebalance, because we are disadvantaging ourselves against other big European clubs. If Real Madrid have the opportunity to realise their international media value potential, where does that leave Liverpool and Manchester United?"

The Premier League will resist any attempt by its bigger clubs to buck the system. Though Chelsea are among a group of teams who have discussed Ayre's position, the club support collective bargaining. It would require 14 of the league's 20 members to vote for individual bargaining.