The Premier League’s top clubs are set to make a fresh attempt to secure a larger share of the money generated by the sale of international TV rights, with Liverpool owner John Henry expressing frustration at the ongoing subsidising of lower-ranked teams.
Ahead of the league’s annual meeting on Thursday, Henry has claimed that the current distribution model, which sees the money evenly shared between all 20 clubs in English soccer’s top flight, is out-dated and unfair to the elite sides who attract the most foreign interest in the league.
The so-called ‘Big Six’ - which comprises Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – made a similar attempt last year to amend the existing model but were outvoted by the league’s other teams.
Approximately half of the Premier League clubs at the time accepted that 35 per cent of foreign TV revenue should be allocated based on league position, but 14 votes were needed for the changes to be ratified.
“It’s a disagreement based entirely on governance,” said Henry, speaking to the Associated Press. “Everyone in the league knows what the large clubs bring to the value of foreign rights, but the large clubs do not have the votes to change something that should have changed as media rights changed over the past 25 years.”
Henry, who also owns Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Boston Red Sox, is likely to be after a model which resembles the Premier League’s allocation of domestic revenue, which sees half split depending on a team’s finishing place and live appearances on British TV channels, with the remaining half then distributed evenly.
International revenue, however, is shared equally, and last year saw each club collect UK£40.8 million regardless of where they finished in the league.
“You cannot stick with the same media strategy forever any more than you can stick with the same football tactics forever,” added Henry.
“It’s hard to imagine this continuing much longer. In America, where we have closed leagues, you can argue for these types of arrangements, but it’s much more difficult to ask independent clubs to subsidise their competitors beyond a certain point when you have relegation and especially with the way media is rapidly changing and being consumed today.”
Also on the agenda at Thursday’s meeting will be the sale of the Premier League’s two remaining domestic rights packages, with UK newspaper The Telegraph reporting that the league is set to sell the bundles to BT and a new online player, fuelling speculation that Amazon or Facebook could be about to secure coverage of the competition for the first time.
British media reports last week claimed that clubs are now willing to accept a cut-price bid for the two packages, which failed to meet their reserve prices in an auction in February, when Sky and BT agreed to pay a combined UK£4.464 billion (US$6.194 billion) for the five main lots.
Premier League bosses had hoped that interest from tech giants would spark a bidding war for the rights, but were forced to accept a deal worth UK£640m less than the previous three-year contract. The Telegraph says the deficit will not be met by the remaining packages, with the shortfall expected to be offset by sales of overseas media rights.