SBD/October 21, 2011/Media

Henry Apologizes to Bolton For Clubs' Entanglement During Overseas TV Rights Controversy

Ayre said people do not subscribe to ESPN to watch Bolton, but want to watch Liverpool
EPL club Liverpool Owner John Henry has apologized to EPL club Bolton Wanderers "for the manner in which they became entangled in the overseas television rights controversy," according to Chris Bascombe of the London TELEGRAPH. Bolton was named by Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre "as being less of an attraction to foreign TV subscribers of the Premier League than England’s biggest clubs." Ayre said, "If you’re in Kuala Lumpur there isn’t anyone subscribing to ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it’s a very small number. The large majority is subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/21). Meanwhile, EPL club Queens Park Rangers Owner Tony Fernandes labeled Liverpool "'naive' for attempting to prompt a debate about the Premier League's overseas TV rights." SKY NEWS' Ian Dovaston noted Fernandes was "unequivocal, saying anything other than the collective is 'wrong.'" He said, "I come from the school of Formula 1. Divide and rule is a way of weakening all of us and I don't think it was very far-sighted of Liverpool in terms of negotiating that. And I think there's ups and downs and no-one can claim to own fans. I think loyalties in Asia are growing very rapidly and they can change ... so I think it's a little bit naive." Fernandes continued, "The way to do it is to negotiate collectively and bring the power of the Premier League as one to TV stations. And I think TV stations want that anyway because it's easier administratively to negotiate that" (, 10/20).

CONTROLLING THE POT: La Liga club FC Barcelona VP Javier Faus indicated that the club and fellow La Liga club Real Madrid are "not prepared to cede to demands for an English-style system of sharing income from audiovisual rights as they want to protect their status as dominant powers in Spanish and global soccer." In London, Iain Rogers notes Barcelona and Real Madrid "take half the annual TV pot of around 600 million euros [US$828.5M], which helps lift their annual earnings close to 500 million and means they can afford to buy the best players and pay the highest wages." Faus said that from the '15-16 season onward, "when new TV contracts would come into force Barca and Real were prepared to share some of the extra money that was negotiated with media companies." But Faus added that they were "not prepared to see their share of the pot shrink" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/21).

NO PLANS TO ELIMINATE RELEGATION: In London, Mark Cue reports EPL CEO Richard Scudamore Thursday insisted there is "absolutely no appetite" to scrap relegation and promotion in the EPL and described such talk as "nonsensical." Scudamore said, "The whole promotion/relegation thing is the lifeblood of football in this country." League Managers Association CEO Richard Bevan on Monday claimed that "some foreign owners of top-tier clubs in England were in favour of ending relegation from the Premier League." But Scudamore said, "This idea that the foreign owners are somehow more interested in this than the UK owners is just a misconception." He added, "It's just a nonsensical starting point, it's scare-mongering of the worst order in my view." Football League Chair Greg Clarke said, "I think 75 per cent of the games would be dead after Christmas if there were no relegation pressures, and then why would people watch?" (LONDON TIMES, 10/21). Liverpool Owner John Henry "denied on Thursday that foreign owners in the English Premier League want to end the relegation and promotion system." He called the claim "complete nonsense," adding it "hasn't been discussed" (AP, 10/20).
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