Liverpool vs 'big four' in battle for TV fortune

The Anfield club have a match on their hands as they fight for a new, lucrative deal

He is a commodities trader who has mastered the intricacies of the futures market to build a vast personal fortune, so it would not be wise to bet against the intentions of Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry. But British football's response to his club's suggestion that they might pursue their own international TV rights deals reveals he is in a trade to test even his commercial powers.

The idea was dead in the water before even surfacing, yesterday, with not a single elite Premier League side supporting the view, posited by Henry's managing director Ian Ayre, that the international rights allocation to modest clubs like Bolton Wanderers is disproportionately high. The Independent revealed yesterday that the two clubs with equal or greater overseas appeal than Liverpool – Manchester United and Chelsea – will fall in line with the Premier League collective negotiating position and today it emerges that neither Arsenal nor Manchester City agree, too, that Liverpool are being put at a competitive disadvantage to Real Madrid and Barcelona, by taking the same share of £1.4bn overseas TV rights as smaller clubs. Liverpool – who need 14 of the league's 20 clubs to back them if the case is put to a vote – stand to be overwhelmed by the same 19-1 majority that Peter Kenyon encountered when he made the same case, when Chelsea chief executive eight years ago.

Ayre has possibly not pursued the case simply to establish an individual club's rights to sell rights, but rather to lay down a marker down about making some of the international TV earnings performance related, as 25 per cent of the £1.6bn domestic TV earnings are. But the backlash from those clubs who Liverpool have suggested should get less of a share was swift yesterday. Bolton declined to comment, having been singled out in Ayre's comments, though the signing of Hidetoshi Nakata and Lee Chung-yong has seen a big rise in their Far East appeal, sponsorship and merchandising. "Diabolical," the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, said of Ayre's idea. "It's the 'American Dream', this. What Liverpool are calling for would absolutely wreck the league. They are thinking 'how can we get more money?'"

Liverpool's decision to brave this storm reflects the determination of their chairman Tom Werner - whom Henry hired for his media savvy and creativity at the Boston Red Sox – to dispense with convention as Fenway Sports Group (FSG) sweat the club's assets. Henry is the more conservative of the two Americans, but he made it clear on the day he assumed control at Anfield, exactly a year ago, that since he did not "have 'Sheikh' in front of my name," he needed to drive up the club's revenues.

The TV rights strategy is a long shot, given that that equal share of international rights for the Premier League's 20 clubs has created an equitable competition – a 'narrative' as its executives like to call it – which is a major part of its attraction to the rights holders. Henry's own narrative is how to create the revenues to compete at the lucrative top end of that competition, as he did when taking baseball's Red Sox toe-to-toe with the New York Yankees.

The really difficult part is how to replicate the model adopted by Manchester United – the Yankees of the Premier League, to Henry's mind. The 'facility model', it is known as within football, and it involves building a 60,000+ stadium and using match-day incomes from it to build a future. In revenue terms United's 75,000 capacity stadium makes them become £61.1m richer than Liverpool (45,276 capacity) every year. While United have a 20-year head start on Liverpool , others clubs are in hot pursuit. Arsenal are five years down the stadium route at the Emirates, Chelsea's determination to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge from their pitch owners reflects similar ambitions and when Manchester City are satisfied they can fill a 60,000 Etihad Stadium they will gladly expand. For now, they have a £350m Etihad Campus sponsorship deal to be going on with.

Liverpool, meanwhile, seem to have been grappling with a new stadium for an eternity. Henry finds himself cursed by the dithering of his predecessors, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, whose prevarications over a Stanley Park stadium design allowed steel prices to rise, financial markets to crash and architects plans to head into mothballs. Now, as disagreements with Liverpool city council stall the notion of a redeveloped Anfield, Liverpool must sweat on whether a stadium-naming rights partner will ever emerge with the cash for a stadium to put his name to.

Don't overlook football results, incidentally, as an equally significant a factor as the value of TV contracts in the growing gulf with Barcelona. Liverpool earned £6.4m more from the Champions League than the Spaniards as recently as 2006-07 and, last season, £39m less than them as they scraped through the Europa League. Football finance analyst Andy Green observed in his andersredblog yesterday that the value Liverpool receive for domestic competitions has actually grown faster over the past five years than the equivalent in Spain, when the devaluation of the pound against the euro is factored in. This is why Henry so desires a top four spot in the Premier League. He has spent £71m on that particular futures market since last January. Saturday's lunchtime encounter with Manchester United at Anfield might tell him whether that punt has a little more promise than Ayre's, but don't bank on it.

Clubbing together: Big 4 stand firm

Manchester United Ever since the Glazer family pitched up in the Premier League as United owners in 2005 it has been an article of faith at Old Trafford that they will not buck the collective TV rights negotiating system. United are the club with most to gain from going it alone with overseas rights, but it is the owners' belief that to do so would be to seriously undermine the potential international returns.

Chelsea They have more than flirted with the idea of pursuing their own TV rights deal in the past, emerging on the wrong end of a 19-1 vote in 2005. Chelsea's adherence to the Premier League's collective bargaining position includes a feeling that the 70 per cent support required would make Ian Ayre's idea impossible to get off the ground

Arsenal The Gunners have always fallen in line behind the Premier League collective position and do so now. Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke suggested in a interview last month that he felt the league were the ones to negotiate.

Manchester City Quite what reception the club's former chief executive Garry Cook would have received for suggesting that City's take from international rights be greater than smaller clubs leaves little to the imagination. But City, whose appeal to overseas markets is some way behind United's, have no desire to break out of the collective bargaining system. The comments of the Anfield hierarchy about City's £350m Etihad sponsorship have been noted in east Manchester.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor