Liverpool have a big market outside of England, and the club are aiming to take a bigger slice of the profits from that, demanding that debate at least take place over the TV rights for global audiences.
Go to any men’s clothing shop in Asia, and wall to wall there will be Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal shirts for sale.
Liverpool have a fair point in that with the other three big clubs, they bring a significantly large portion of the money to television rights and the Barclays Premier League as a whole with their overseas market.
People don’t watch a top-tier English game in Malaysia or Australia because they want to see Bolton play Stoke, Ian Ayre has argued; they watch to see the Reds and Steven Gerrard or Luis Suarez strutting their stuff on the big stage.
But while it is worth debating, if Liverpool were to get their way and negotiate their own rights to show games on TV, the football model in England would move closer towards Spain, where Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate the La Liga table to the point that it’s almost embarrassing for other teams to face the two giants.
While Liverpool could earn more money through their own TV rights deal, it would come at the expense of the quality of the league as a whole.
And the main issue that Liverpool seem to be missing in all this, is that part of their failure to perform on the pitch is also affecting their TV rights and earning power.
Liverpool will bring in exactly the same amount of money as Bolton in European matches this season – zero. While European income isn’t being discussed by Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s performance as a whole over the past five years will have affected their media coverage across the globe. And the Reds will benefit from United, Chelsea and Manchester City growing the Premier League brand throughout Europe while they only play games in England.
Ayre brought up a comparison with Bolton to show that Liverpool deserve more money, but in fact The Reds have earned £159 million more than Bolton in the media in the past five years.
And while Liverpool cited Manchester United as another club that is potentially suffering because of the current TV rights deal being shared out equally, United actually earned just £20 million less than Barcelona in the media over the last year. While the gap has widened between the two clubs from £11 million in 2007, the changing in the value of the pound would have contributed to that.
So when Liverpool argue that the debate needs to happen, they may be right. But the Anfield club also needs to be shown in this debate that if they concentrate more on performing well on the pitch, rather than increasing the advantage they already have over small clubs, the Reds would go a long way financially.