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Liverpool FC threaten overseas TV rights deal breakaway

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© Rex Features / Back Page Images

Liverpool FC has suggested that it will challenge the arrangement that sees Premier League clubs share equally the billions earned each season from overseas TV rights deals. 



Ian Ayre, Liverpool's managing director, has said that change to the established broadcast deal, worth around £3.2bn to all 20 Premier League clubs from 2010 to 2013, is a "debate that has to happen"

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The Anfield club would prefer to move to the Spanish La Liga model, which enables top teams Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to negotiate their own, extremely lucrative contracts with foreign broadcasters.



The Premier League has focused on collective selling of TV rights since its inception in 1992, involving each club getting an equal share but with bonus amounts awarded for finishing in higher positions. Any change to this system would most likely anger smaller clubs worried at the potentially widening gulf between them and the top teams.

In the last round of negotiations, the Premier League was able to more than double international revenue from TV rights, from £625m in 2007-10 to £1.4bn for 2010-13.

Action from the league is now shown in 212 countries via 98 broadcast partners, and it is widely expected that the next deal will be even bigger.

But Ayre believes that the 'big four' clubs - Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal - should be able to tap into their own popularity overseas to sell TV rights.

"Personally I think the game-changer is going out and recognising our brand globally," the Liverpool managing director told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"Maybe the path will be individual TV rights like they do in Spain. There are so many things moving in that particular area."

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He added: "What is absolutely certain is that, with the greatest of respect to our colleagues in the Premier League, but if you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton.

"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 Astro, or ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it's a very small number. Whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.

"So is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say: 'Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen'. But isn't it really about where the revenue is coming from, which is the broadcaster, and isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel?

"We know it is us. And others. At some point we definitely feel there has to be some rebalance on that, because what we are actually doing is disadvantaging ourselves against other big European clubs."

For the breakaway to go ahead, it would require 14 of the Premier League's 20 clubs to back the move. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson recently claimed that clubs should get more from overseas rights, but also said that the collective bargaining system was "fair".

It it also the case that La Liga's individual system has attracted criticism due to the ease with which Real Madrid and Barcelona can gain a financial advantage. But Ayre believes that the current situation in the Premier League risks the top clubs from losing ground on their overseas rivals.

"If Real Madrid or Barcelona or other big European clubs have the opportunity to truly realise their international media value potential, where does that leave Liverpool and Manchester United? We'll just share ours because we'll all be nice to each other?" he said.

"The whole phenomenon of the Premier League could be threatened. If they just get bigger and bigger and they generate more and more, then all the players will start drifting that way and will the Premier League bubble burst because we are sticking to this equal-sharing model? It's a real debate that has to happen."

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