Liverpool’s Ayre calls for individual international TV deals at risk of competitive balance of the Premier League

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has suggested that Premier League teams should be able to negotiate individual international television rights deals and not stand by the current system that shares money received from broadcasters on a more equal basis.

Ayre’s comments come at a time when the majority of La Liga teams looking for a way to rescue the division from its currently deeply predictable state, brought on by the inequitable television deal that benefits Real Madrid and Barcelona. What is perhaps most revealing about Ayre’s contribution to the debate he calls for is his solution – not supporting the reigning in of Barcelona and Madrid, but rather allowing England’s clubs to replicate their excess.

Ayre’s proposal would eventually bring the same problem that is currently blighting Spain, the domination of the league by a small group of teams, to England, where the Premier League is already distorted by oligarchical owners and Champions League prize money. Currently, only four or five teams may be capable of winning the Premier League, but that is at least twice as many as in Spain.

Indeed, far more would be disadvantaged as there will only ever be a finite amount of international TV money available, and when a handful of clubs take a greater share and become richer, the rest will become poorer. A greater amplification of the disparity that already exists between the teams and the top of the table and the rest would follow.

A more reputable suggestion would be for Ayre to examine ways to raise the value of the Premier League as a whole to the international market, not simply pull away from the other clubs in the division as has happened in La Liga. The end result would be the erosion of one of the Premier League’s key selling points – its greater competitiveness – thus damaging the worth of the very TV deals Ayre desires to maximise.

Ayre told the Guardian that his proposal is limited to the distribution of overseas TV rights but it is not hard to see how the focus could rapidly switch to the home market once the rest of the world has been exhausted. Liverpool, unable to start work on a new stadium and having recently raised ticket prices which must always take into account the local economy, are left with only TV rights as a source of income that can be exploited further, but even that will eventually reach breaking point.

Allowing the more famous clubs to negotiate their own television deal would not only tilt the balance even more in favour of the sides that already dominate the division, but also be in direct contravention to one of Bill Shankly’s less famous but most pertinent quotes: “I believe the only way to be truly successful is…with everyone having a share of the rewards…it’s the way I see football and the way I see life” For a club so steeped in the traditions laid down by Shankly, that may be the most compelling argument yet.

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