Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

The devil’s work

Posted by John Beech on September 29, 2011

For someone who has no great love of the media, Sir Alex certainly knows how to get himself in the headlines.  His latest claim is that football has sold its soul to the TV ‘devil’ (1).  Attractive though his choice of metaphor is, with the vision it generates of a BSkyB ‘evil empire’, it just doesn’t really work when his other complaints he makes are vectored in.

He complains that the broadcasters have too much power, especially with regard to their influence on fixture lists.  But isn’t that inevitable when you sell your soul to the devil?  It’s exactly that power that the ‘devil’ broadcasters have bought.  And I don’t recall that the standard ‘devil buys soul’ contract allows for renegotiation of the terms.

He complains too that the broadcasters haven’t paid enough for the rights.  That may or may not be the case, and Sir Alex is not being unreasonable in making the suggestion as it is the Premier League who ‘sold their soul’ rather than Manchester United, Sir Alex’s club.

The Premier League though do not of course distribute broadcasting rights to clubs equally, and Manchester United does rather nicely thank you compared with the weaker clubs in the league (who, to maintain competitive balance, should if anything get more than Manchester United, rather than less).

On the whole, I’m not unsympathetic to some of the points he makes, but, in his case, methinks he doth protest too much


5 Responses to “The devil’s work”

  1. Ben said

    I have little sympathy John, for the man who doth protest too much. Surely United are greatest beneficiary from all the broadcasting money that has been pumped in over the last 2 decades? Though I did, wrongly assume, think that the money was spread some what equally. Are you saying that the money is not equally distributed much like the clubs in La Liga? (who I know negotiate tv rights directly with the broadcasters)

    Football sold its soul along time a go. I am always interested to here Sir Alex’s take on things, but this is a bit rich. (no pun intended!)

    • John Beech said

      The Premier League’s explanation of how it distributes broadcasting revenues is available here, and a slightly hard to follow overiew of the major European leagues here. The PL model ensure that, to put it simply, the rich clubs get relatively richer, and the poorer clubs don’t.

      • Ben said

        Thanks for the links, the numbers are fascinating. So would you be in favour of a completely equal spread of the money, instead of a “merit payment/facility fee” system? I know thats what I would like to see.

      • John Beech said

        Yes, I would. I believe in general that the collective good of the league and the maintenance of competitive balance overide the needs of the individual clubs.

  2. […] The devil’s work […]

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