QUIZ time: Who said this?
“I’ll tell you what a leading manager said to me the other day: ‘There are only two teams in the league – Manchester United and Liverpool. You can have the rest.’”
Sir Alex Ferguson? Nope. Ian Ayre? Wrong.
It was John Bond, giving a TV interview in 1983 after resigning as Manchester City manager. And that was during a season in which Watford finished second. The more things change…
Liverpool and Manchester United have been the biggest draws in English football for as long as I can remember. That’s why, whenever a TV company wins live rights to any competition involving Premier League teams, they show United and Liverpool as often as they possibly can under the terms of their contract.
United and Liverpool bring in more viewers, which means more money to be made from selling advertising and/or subscriptions. And so a TV football contract that includes the rights to show United and Liverpool games will always be more valuable as a result.
But if you want to know why TV revenue has suddenly become such a hot topic, you might want to put the blame on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Among those who know the inner workings at Anfield more than I do, the general consensus is that Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, was essentially put up to make his recent comments about the division of overseas TV revenue by the club’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group.
An interview with John W Henry and Tom Werner in the Guardian last week essentially backs that up.
Liverpool chairman Werner, who – through the Fenway group – is also a co-owner of Boston Red Sox, revealed his resentment at the division of cash in Major League Baseball. In short: MLB teams are run as franchises, with their income taxed and shared to ensure a decent level of competition.
As a result, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were able to pip the Red Sox to a play-off place – and a crack at reaching the World Series – despite generating significantly less cash. Is that unfair? It is if you believe in free-market economics. Then again, is it really in the market’s long-term interest if the same teams win every year?
(This is the problem with free-market economic theory: It seems incapable of thinking beyond its next six-figure bonus.)
Since 2000, nine different teams have won the World Series. No team has won it two years’ running in that time. Over the same period, only three teams have won the Premier League. None of them are Liverpool.
But if the Premier League’s distribution of money is not as equal as that of American baseball, it is at least better than in Spain, where Real Madrid and Barcelona negotiate their own TV deals and everyone else can go hang.
Ayre made reference to this, suggesting that Liverpool were being hamstrung in their efforts to compete with Real and Barca. As an argument, it came straight out of the same book as the one that UK-based multinational corporations should be taxed less, or they’ll take themselves overseas – and it got roughly the same level of sympathy.
La Liga is a joke competition. Yes, there may be an attraction in watching Barcelona wallop some team of no-hopers with less than a tenth of their budget once or twice. But the novelty quickly palls, and it’s hard not to be reminded of Danny Baker’s complaint about being a panellist on Shooting Stars: “We’re just stooges in a sketch.”
Ferguson’s comments on Friday about Liverpool v Manchester United being “the biggest club game in world football” came from a slightly different perspective. He has said this kind of thing before, often when there’s a Manchester derby not too far away. (There’s one next Sunday.) It’s the sort of thing that tends to wind up Manchester City fans. This may, or may not, be intentional.
Gary Lineker, though, picked up on Ferguson’s remark, repeating it so many times during his Match of the Day intro ahead of the Liverpool-Manchester United highlights this weekend that even the most literal-minded dunderhead must have realised he was taking the mickey.
In other news, another 12 Premier League teams played on Saturday. One of them went top of the league. Oh, and Neil Warnock fell out with somebody. There’s more to the Premier League that just Liverpool and Manchester United, you know.
Last on MOTD: Some team who aren’t Liverpool 1 Some other team who aren’t Manchester United 1
Commentator: Simon Brotherton
I’m always disappointed that those ‘300 Things To Do Before You Die’ type articles, written by self-satisfied types to fill out glossy magazines, never include ‘Attend a Neil Warnock press conference’.
Everyone, I believe, should get the chance to see QPR manager Warnock in front of a room full of journalists at least once in their life. There is no other manager, with the exception of Ian Holloway, who is as adept at going off on unexpected tangents.
I covered a QPR game at Leeds just before last Christmas. Rangers were easily beaten, but Warnock was more preoccupied afterwards with talking about the birth of his grandson a few hours earlier.
Sometimes, the tangent can end up being the big story, as it was the last time QPR played Blackburn, in the FA Cup in January. Blackburn defender Gael Givet accidentally broke QPR striker Jamie Mackie’s leg. Afterwards, Warnock called El-Hadji Diouf a “sewer rat” and revealed that the Blackburn striker had verbally abused Mackie as he lay stricken on the turf.
Diouf has long gone from Blackburn, and so was nowhere near Loftus Road as Mackie made his long-awaited return to action this weekend. By coincidence, it came against Blackburn.
Again, Warnock’s post-match press conference made the headlines, but this time, for different reasons.
The QPR manager accused a supporter of leaking his team news on an internet fans forum on the Friday, revealing that DJ Campbell would miss the match with a broken metatarsal.
That info must have come from somewhere. Warnock speculated if it might have come from a dressing room mole. He also went as far as to hold up a piece of paper with the fan’s e-mail address – which was then published on the club’s official website.
You would have to ask QPR what they were hoping to achieve by making the e-mail address public. But I suspect the fan in question will be changing that address this week.
“It’s disappointing that a ‘so-called’ QPR fan leaks confidential information about the team the day before a big match,” Warnock said.
“I can’t get my head around things like this. As a QPR fan, he certainly didn’t do me any favours.”
Yes, leaking team info could make a mockery of the Premier League as a competition. And there’s quite enough of that happening already.
1. Aston Villa: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
2. Fulham: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
3: Wolves: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
4. West Brom: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
5. Wigan: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 2)
6. Swansea: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
7. Blackburn: 1 (2L: 1, 3L: 1)
8. Sunderland: 1 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
8. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
10. QPR: 1 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
11. Newcastle: 1 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
12. Everton: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
13. Norwich: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 1)
14. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
14. Stoke: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
16. Bolton: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
16: Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
18. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
19. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
19. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
2L = On second last (Stoke 2 Fulham 0)
3L = On third last (Wigan 1 Bolton 3)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on MOTD. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included.)