I’ve always rather liked Liverpool. Hardly surprising really. In 1980s Essex, as they were in most of the Home Counties, they were the natural affiliation for all 8 year old boys. Indeed, until my dad took me to Roots Hall and turned me to the mediocre side, I had ‘Shankly Gates’ bedcovers. There, I said it.
But there’s something about Liverpool that appeals to me even now, much to the amusement of other more cynical souls. I love the history, the ethos, Bill Shankly’s socialist principles, the Kop and their standing ovations for opponents who have pleased them. As they careered towards financial oblivion in 2010, I was writing columns that savaged the Premier League for allowing the ruinous Hicks & Gillett leveraged takeover. As other people revelled in their imminent demise, I was bemoaning the state of modern football and hoping aloud that someone would ride in and save them. I nailed Roy Hodgson, defended Rafa Benitez (to a certain extent), and when everyone else was sniggering about Kenny Dalglish, I was telling whoever would listen that the return of the King would stabilise and save the club from the very real risk of relegation. Until last night, I fear that many people assumed I was still a Liverpool fan. I’m not. It’s just a soft spot.
But Managing Director Ian Ayre’s desire to dump the collective foreign TV rights and strike out on his own has turned my soft spot hard. Of all the clubs in football, why does it have to be Liverpool who try to ruin it for everyone else?
Individual TV rights will serve two clubs and harm 86. Liverpool and Manchester United will clean up around the world. Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham should do ok, but no more. The rest can, to be frank, get fucked. It’s not just that Liverpool and Manchester United’s revenue will increase sharply, it’s the fact that everyone else’s revenue will drop hard. Without that £17.9m a season, the same amount handed to those who finish from 1st to 20th, clubs already struggling to keep up will no longer be able to afford to keep the players they have. The big two will break off, dominate and everyone else will reach for the controller and give the rugby a go.
The Premier League isn’t just popular because of Liverpool. It’s popular because it’s exciting and because it’s trusted. The irony, as with the 39th game scam, is that the greedy are attempting to maximise their revenue by trading in the unique selling point that makes people watch in the first place. It is as self-defeating as it is spiteful.
I may have been a little unwise when I brought this up on Twitter. I may have used indoor language and offended people. For this, I apologise. I like football a lot and I get quite emotive about it. Over the last 24 hours, a number of questions have appeared repeatedly on my timeline from angry Liverpool fans. Here are some answers.
1, Why shouldn’t Liverpool, as a larger club, have a larger slice of the pie?
When the Premier League was formed in 1992, a revenue stream to 70, now 72 clubs, was squeezed so hard it made our eyes pop, all so that you could have more pie. That domestic TV cash is carved up three ways. Firstly as part of a collective pie-off, which helps the league maintain some sense of competitive balance. Secondly, in end-of-season prize pie, which as a larger club you are better placed to win. Finally, as individual match fee pie, which as a larger club, benefits you. Then there’s the Champions League pie which, as a larger club again, benefits you, helping you to stretch further and further away from the rest of us. And that’s before we discuss individual merchandising and marketing pie. You have a very large slice of the pie already. In fact, it’s so large that you’re dripping gravy all over my carpet.
2, Oh, so it’s alright for Man City/Chelsea to financial dope their squads?
No, it’s not alright. No-one ever said it was alright. Find me a neutral fan who thinks that City’s spending is alright. Find me one in 2003 who thought Chelsea’s spending was alright. Find me one in 1994 who thought Blackburn’s spending was alright. Clubs are going to the wall for the same sums that the big boys are fining their grumpy players. We grudgingly accept it because, for the moment at least, it doesn’t break any rules. But it’s pretty fucking far from alright.
3, Oh, so it’s alright for Barcelona and Real Madrid to have individual TV rights?
NO! Who keeps telling you that it is? Find them, bring them to me! Have you watched Spanish football recently? Me neither. It’s a procession, a parade lap, a futile two-way jerk-off of cash that only Malaga, with their own spending spree, might one day hope to rival. Last season, Barcelona finished on 96 points, Real Madrid on 92 points and somewhere back in a cloud of exhaust fumes were Valencia with 71 points. Does Spain have gigantic foreign TV rights deals borne out of the fact that everyone thinks La Liga is really competitive and exciting? No, and neither will the Premier League if they follow suit.
The wilful destruction of society and community to facilitate individual financial gain is a policy that Thatcher would have been proud to call her own. This week, with her bastard spawn shamefully attempting to block debate on Hillsborough, it’s genuinely shocking to see so many Liverpool fans adopting her ‘I’m alright, Jack” stance.
I know that modern football is all about money, I know that a super league is inevitable and I know that eventually there will only be two teams, playing each other every day while 94% of the planet’s population watch on pay-per-view through holographic brain-staples. What I didn’t know is that it would be Liverpool who would lead the charge to this dystopian end game. Obviously, I have no right to speak for Shankly, but I have a hunch that he’d be appalled by this.
By Iain Macintosh
This article originally appeared in In Bed with Maradona