Just when you thought money in football could hardly be more unfairly distributed as it is, along comes some Anfield suit with plans to make it unfairer still. At least Pete Sixsmith was able to enjoy some non-league fare and Rugby League before a new encounter with the ugly face of corporate football …
What a peaceful weekend away from the noise and commotion of the FA Premier League. I spent my Saturday afternoon watching a thrilling local derby between Shildon and Bishop Auckland, in front of a crowd of about 300, no TV cameras, a smattering of replica shirts and the ability to walk around the ground chatting to various folk while watching the game.
It ended up as a 2-2 draw, with nine-man Auckland deservedly equalising with the last kick of the match. The two sendings off were correct, although the penalty that levelled it for Shildon was a very debatable handball, given by a Sunderland-supporting referee from Blyth.
In the evening, I sat in front of my crackly cat’s whisker radio and listened to Leeds Rhinos overturn St Helens for the fourth time in five years in the Super League Grand Final.
A matter of weeks ago, a fair number of Rhinos fans were advocating tarring and feathering for the coach Brian McDermott. Since then, he has taken them to a Wembley final, which they could have won, and the ultimate accolade in the game, Super League Champions. Sometimes a coach has to be given time.
I had also enjoyed the company of M Salut at the weekend and witnessed him writing up the Johnny Crossan interview (click here for Part One.
Like Keith Scott, I regarded Johnny as a hero and I even convinced myself that my regulation hair cut of 1964 was a Johnny Crossan cut, rather than the usual knife and fork job performed by Reg Robinson in Main Street.
However, my sanguine mood was shattered this morning (Wednesday) when I picked up The Guardian and read that Liverpool FC were making noises about changing the way in which TV revenues are distributed throughout the PL.
At the moment, there is a sense of equity about the share out. In the season just ended, Manchester United received £60.4m, while Blackpool took away £39.1m, a veritable fortune for a club of their size.
That they were able to do this,(and that we made £47.4m) is due all of the TV rights being shared. Each club receives £13.8m for the domestic audience and £17.9m for the overseas rights. Arsenal get the same as Wigan, Liverpool the same as Bolton. It keeps the smaller clubs in with a chance of staying in the league if they use their resources sensibly.
What Liverpool want is basically a free for all, where the clubs that are deemed to be the most successful, will be able to sell their own TV rights. Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayre said: “Maybe the path will be individual rights like they do in Spain”.
That system works brilliantly for Barcelona and Real Madrid, but not so well for the likes of Oviedo and Real Betis. In Spain, the rich get rich and the poor get poorer; Second Level players went on strike at the start of the season as clubs had not paid wages.
Barca and Real dominate La Liga to an extent that far outweighs that of the Big Four (Five now, with the arrival of Manchester City as global players) dominate the PL; clubs like ourselves, Newcastle, Everton and Villa, traditional clubs with a strong domestic fan base can occasionally tweak the tails of the big boys.
But, if Liverpool’s suggestion is to be followed up, a greater concentration of cash will end up in the pockets of those clubs who have “support” in the Middle East and Asia. TV rights will be sold to those countries on a club by club basis and the big bids will be for Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, with the others trailing behind.
Liverpool have “supporters” in Malaysia, so they can sell their rights for considerably more than we can. Therefore, Liverpool get richer and Sunderland don’t. You can now see why Quinny and Bruce are in South Korea and why Quinny has moved into his new job in charge of international development.
For many years, the Football League had a policy of gate sharing. That went in the 80s and the PL has always advocated that home clubs keep their gate money. But there are always clubs that want more, more and even more.
Liverpool are the first club to break cover on this. For the distribution to change, 14 of the 20 need to vote in favour of it. Let’s assume that Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn are not turkeys voting for Christmas ( although with Rovers’ current owners, the poultry analogy may be too close to home), then the pressure moves on to Sunderland, Newcastle and Villa. Will they stand up for equity or will they vote for a more uneven distribution of wealth?
If it is the latter, I suspect that I will be watching an awful lot more Northern League football in the future.