The question of how to divide international television rights and just what's fair is, at the end of the day, hugely complex. It touches on dozens of other issues that effect league parity and directly mirrors a much older debate about the sharing of gate revenue. There's greed and self-preservation behind every corner, and it's all set against the backdrop of a thoroughly broken system that nobody seems especially interested in fixing in any meaningful way. So it's probably best just to say Liverpool are a bunch of greedy bastards and call it a day…
* Yesterday, Ian Ayre floated the idea of clubs negotiating their own foreign television deals, and today the fallout has begun. Unsurprisingly, the league's smaller club's are dead set against it, with Wigan's chairman angrily dubbing the idea "diabolical" and Stoke's representatives speaking of their disappointment. Also not a huge surprise is that Chelsea has come out against it, as they don't have anything like the global following of Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool that would see a reworked distribution deal significantly increase their spending power—as it is, they get more of a benefit relative to the rest of the league by being owned by Roman Abramovich, and along with Manchester City would very much like to keep that advantage if the FA and UEFA aren't going to fully enforce financial fair play.
More surprising perhaps is that Manchester United has come out against it, especially when one considers that in 2003 they were in fact the ones raising the idea of individually negotiated foreign television rights. Though of course, much like Manchester City and Chelsea, United have their own advantage over the rest of the league: Income from an 80,000 seat stadium.
Lost in all the talk of Liverpool being greedy—lost in suggestions the club is trying to give itself an "unfair" advantage by fully leveraging its global brand value—is that gate revenue too used to be shared. Moreover, a large part of why even a portion of gate revenue is no longer divided is that clubs like Manchester United felt it was unfair for them to bring in significantly more matchday revenue than their competitors without realizing the full financial benefit of that. Yet nobody ever talks of it being patently unfair for United to keep all the money they earn through ticket sales at their 80,000 seat stadium while any Liverpool talk of keeping the money they earn through overseas television deals that at present gets handed out to the league's have-nots is somehow, unquestionably, labelled a great injustice.
None of which is to say that Liverpool negotiating their own rights would be good for English football—it might not even be good for Liverpool in the long run. But Manchester United, Chelsea, and Manchester City all being able to fully leverage their particular financial advantages while the press and fans of smaller clubs turn their noses up at greedy, greedy Liverpool for trying to leverage their own relatively unique situation is nothing but hypocrisy and wilful blindness. Particularly odious are fans of these few advantaged clubs choosing to join in the public flogging of Liverpool and Ian Ayre.
Perhaps, though, any day now the press will lead the charge for Manchester United to once again donate a portion of their gate receipt to help keep Wigan and and Stoke afloat. And perhaps any day now UEFA and the English FA will show they have a backbone when it comes to dealing with the sugar daddies at Chelsea and Manchester City.
* Last week, Wayne Rooney's father and uncle were arrested over an alleged betting scam. Then the striker saw straight red with England against Montenegro and will miss the start of next summer's European Championships as a result. He's also recently talked about his experiences facing Liverpool back when he was still at Everton:
We didn’t win many at Anfield… to be honest before I used to feel sick I was so nervous, it was a horrible feeling. Anfield is always for me the toughest place to go and win a game.
That might be the nicest thing Rooney's ever said. Plus it's nice that his family's busy giving new ammunition to any boo-boys growing tired of recounting his rumoured past sexual exploits.
* Finally, we talked about Pepe Reina's new book back on Monday, but since then a handful of further excerpts have been released. Most interesting—and amusing—for readers of this site will likely be the story of how he got into a screaming match with Jamie Carragher one afternoon over whether the team should have been looking to play football from the back or simply launching the ball down the pitch. No prizes for guessing which man took which side of that argument:
He went crazy at me, screaming at me, and I was screaming back at him. We were like that for fully five minutes shouting at one another and getting our point across.
The people who sit in the seats closest to the pitch probably could not believe what they were hearing…
I [had kicked] the ball out wide to where I thought Carra should be, but he wasn’t there and it went out of play.
“You really think you’re Franz Beckenbauer and you’re always trying to play short passes when you should just empty it,” he shouted at me.
“If I know one thing it’s that you definitely aren’t Beckenbauer, but just give me a bit of support when I’ve got the ball so we can try and play instead of just kicking it down the pitch,” I responded.
Love him or hate him, it's probably a safe bet to say that Jamie Carragher is very much not Franz Beckenbauer. Though offering Reina a consistent short outlet would still be nice.
We'll be back later to start getting everybody in the mood for Manchester United, but in the meantime, just remember that when the option is between digging objectively into a deep and complex issue and just blaming the whole damn mess on Liverpool, there's really only one viable option…