Premier TV deal 'costing United millions'

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The Independent Football

Manchester United risk being left behind by the top clubs on the continent until they can cast off the shackles of their prohibitive Premiership television deal, according to a leading football analyst.

Manchester United risk being left behind by the top clubs on the continent until they can cast off the shackles of their prohibitive Premiership television deal, according to a leading football analyst.

William Davies said that the Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon's recent statement that United could not compete financially with their European rivals was not as bizarre as it might first appear.

United are officially the richest football club in the world, but Davies said: "That is a bit of a misnomer. They make big profits and therefore they are valued more highly. Clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid are not quoted companies and are reliant on groups of people prepared to stump up huge sums of money to bankroll new signings."

United's cut of the Premiership's £1bn-plus television deal will pale into insignificance when compared to the amount the likes of Real and Juventus will earn by selling their rights separately, Davies added. Until English clubs are allowed to act similarly, rather than as part of the existing all-encompassing Premiership package, they will be left lagging behind.

Davies added: "If you can imagine Manchester United being able to sell their TV rights alone for the forthcoming few seasons, their income would be significantly higher. Clubs like Real Madrid are selling their domestic rights for £50m. United will be something like £25m - £30m a season worse off. They are very aggressively trying to sell their brand name around the world. But you can't replace £30m in television rights - which is just pure profit - with £30m of shirt sales."

And although Davies predicts some improvement in United's situation in future years, he cannot yet foresee a position where the Old Trafford club will be able to follow their rivals' example in cashing in on their own exclusive rights.

Davies added: "My guess is it will not be totally exclusive for many, many years. The government will be unlikely to agree to such a thing as it would weaken the rest of the league substantially given that they would no longer be competing on a level playing field. It will take a political change, both sporting and governmental, before they can make up the shortfall."

The Brazilian midfielder Edu said yesterday he was rejoining Corinthians after his failed transfer to Arsenal fell through when immigration authorites refused to let him into Britain. "I had until the 31st (of July) to get my passport in order and we did not do it in time." said Edu. "So the contract I signed became invalid. I'm hungry, I want to get back and play."

The midfielder, who became a first-team regular with Corinthians only after former captain Freddy Rincon was sold to Santos at the start of the year, was stopped at London's Heathrow airport on 11 July when his Portuguese travel documents were found to be invalid. He flew back to Brazil immediately.

Edu could not play for Arsenal as a Brazilian because he has never played for his country and would not be granted a work permit.

The Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, said last month that he felt cheated about the failure of the £6m deal. "We were assured before he came that he had all the necessary papers and qualifications. That was obviously not the case," he said at the time. "We will be making a full inquiry but what is clear already is that any club could have been caught up in a story like this. I personally feel disgusted and we feel cheated as a club."

The women's season kicks off tomorrow with two of the top teams in the country facing each other in the inaugural FA women's charity match at Craven Cottage.

Charlton (formerly Croydon), current holders of the FA Women's Premier League title and the FA Cup, take on London rivals and Women's Premier League Cup holders Arsenal - the team who deprived them of the Treble. Sky TV will be showing the game live (3.45pm) as they did for the FA Cup final between the Belles and Croydon last season.