Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sky's the limit

(c) illarterate

A couple of days ago, Liverpool FC Managing Director, Ian Ayre, stated that he only felt it fair that his club should have the right to negotiate its own overseas TV deals. Whilst this is not usual fayre for a criminology blog, notions of social harm come to mind.

Ayre is concerned that his club, along with the other more powerful Premiership clubs, will struggle to compete with their illustrious Spanish counterparts if they do not receive a greater share of overseas revenue. He contends that it is not the Premier League per se that attract overseas viewers, but the more well-known teams. At present, the deal is that all 20 premiership clubs receive an equal share of the Premier League’s foreign rights TV deal.

Football finance expert, Geoff Mesher, and Wigan Athletic Chairman, Dave Whelan, have pointed to the damage it could cause to competition within the Premier League. Whelan suggested that it could lead to its demise, as very few clubs could challenge for the top honours. Spain, they say, is evidence of a league in which there are only two genuine title contenders.

Whilst it is very likely that it would kill competition within England, it is equally likely that it would have wider-ranging effects. In order to compete, these less glamorous clubs would have to find some means of increasing their revenues, such as through increased tickets prices.

Matchday ticket prices have soared by up to 1000% in the two decades since the inception of the Premier League. It has priced many traditional fans out of stadia. Many fans are local to the team that they follow, and to commit to following their team already requires a vast amount of money. If Ayre’s proposal were to go through, and the less glamorous clubs increased ticket prices, local supporters are going to be less likely to pay more money to watch games that are meaningless in terms of winning honours.

Clubs now operate competitively in the commercial and sporting market places. Although modern football clubs are more commercially minded than they used to be, they are not commercial businesses. The majority are not brands. They do not attract passing customers. They belong, and rely on, the support of their local communities. If competition is killed off on the field of play, it is equally likely to kill off financial health. Clubs may well end up going bankrupt. 

And it is in the context of competition that I am reminded of the effects that the closure of coal mines had on their local communities. If these clubs were to go to the wall, it would have a significant impact on local communities. Not just in terms of the passing of the hopes and dreams of fans, but in terms of loss of revenues and jobs for other local businesses that work in and around these clubs, and the community projects that clubs invest in. The social harm caused would be palpable.

Fortunately, this proposal is unlikely to go through the next time that foreign overseas television rights come up for discussion. But that does not mean that it will never happen.

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