THERE was a time not so long ago when just about every bit of negative news emanating from Liverpool football club was attributed to the alleged incompetence of one man: Mr Rick Parry.
From being the powerhouse of English domestic and European football, the stewardship of Parry and his predecessors under the ownership of Moores is regularly held up as the root cause of Liverpool’s strategic slippage against our major domestic and European rivals since the time Kenny was last at the helm.
Oh how we fantasised about our club having been run along the lines of Manchester United – a commercial juggernaut whose strategic nous saw it compound its growth both on and off the pitch to become the kind of superpower we ourselves had been but a decade or two before.
Oh how we wished we’d been ruthless, and marketed our wares better in foreign markets, and really squeezed the value of our club worldwide to strengthen our competitive position as a club.
Fast forward but a few years, and we find ourselves with guess what? Owners and executive decision makers at the club dedicated to the active pursuit and exploitation of whatever competitive advantage they can find. But here we are, having got what we wished for, wringing our hands over whether we really want it or not.
For example, look at Ian Ayre’s clear briefing the other day suggesting Liverpool would moot the question of independently negotiated TV deals, rather than the collective deals that currently do such a good job of equitably distributing Premier League revenues among its participants. Is it borne of flagrant disregard for the club’s cultural principles? Or is it the natural product of ambition and fiduciary duty?
And is it really anything new?
Read the forums or scan your Twitter timeline and you’ll quickly gauge the gut feeling from the more expressive of the Liverpool fans. It’s unacceptable. It’s not The Liverpool Way. It’s selfish, and Shankly would undoubtedly turn in his grave. That’s the general flavour, in amongst some informative and reasoned debate. And I’m not challenging that view. What I would challenge, however, is why things are so different now, when we’ve been tacitly agreeing to just this kind of thing for nigh on 20 years, inept commercial stewardship notwithstanding.
Whether we like it or not, Liverpool were a big part of founding the Premier League all those years ago. A new league that, in large part, was set up to collect the spoils from the game and cut adrift the clubs in the lower reaches of English Football.
Whether we like it or not, Liverpool were a founder member of the G14, the group instrumental in setting up things like the Champions League, and whose lobbying gravitas currently has UEFA sweating in their collective lederhosen. A group that, in large part, was set up to collect the spoils from the game and cut adrift the clubs in the lower reaches and divisions of European football.
So now we’re faced with an idea that might, to a great extent, cut adrift the clubs in the lower reaches of the elite group that had already cut adrift the other clubs in the yet lower reaches of the game, we’re up in arms. It’s interesting that, no?
Like it or not, we’ve been severing these kind of ties for a long time already. A year ago we were on the brink of the abyss against the backdrop of unprecedented competitive pressure. Now we have a chance of exploring our options and flexing our commercial muscles. And we’re not sure we like it.
Manchester City are funded to a level unprecedented in world football, and you can bet they’ll do whatever they can to circumvent the UEFA FFP rules to as great an extent as they can, and others will follow. Will UEFA bark or bite? Well, that’s the game of call my bluff we’re faced with in the medium term. The houses of cards that stand at the top of the game are ripe for challenge, and there’s no shortage of precedent to demonstrate the appetite for that challenge. It wasn’t so long ago that papers were reporting the threat of a G14 revolt, and we know these clubs have long been putting pressure on UEFA to cede to their interests.
So should UEFA hold some sway over what are, after all, huge commercial enterprises with enormous global commercial appeal? And while the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid receive unprecedented subsidy, are their rivals supposed to sit back and not try to exploit their competitive advantages? Wouldn’t doing so neglect the fiduciary duties of those at their helms?
It’s inexorable this. And it comes down to whether you think Liverpool should be on the bus or off it. Ian Ayre evidently thinks we should be driving it. Some feel he’s just parroting the wishes of his owners, but I think that does him an injustice – he’s ambitious and he’s driven and he loves his club. I suspect a great many of us would do the exactly the same thing if we were in his position.
I honestly believe that if those big clubs want something, it’ll eventually happen. You can only hope Liverpool retains its roots in its community during the process, no?
The G14 are spoiling for this fight on the European front and have been for a long time, including ourselves, and it long predates this announcement and the tenure of our current ownership. It originates from the days before even Rick Parry. When the PL and the CL happened, evidently we were all looking the other way, such is our surprise at what’s happening now.
Is it a case of be careful what you wish for? Is it inexorable? Should we forever lap at the shores of footballing domination in favour of values we’ve already demonstrably overlooked?
There aren’t many easy answers, are there?
Disappointed but not surprised that you feel there’s a need to defend the indefensible. Your reasoning is a bit like that of the addict; rather than use past mistakes as a reason to stop commiting them, he uses them as a justification to continue. You also seem to present this option as the only way of financial ascendency..being ‘on the bus or off it’ as you put it. False choices I would venture – there are other more palatable ways of increasing our revenue (which we are now doing) which don’t require us to prostitute our values.
If we seek our own deal, we weaken the Premier League no ifs no buts. We make it more lopsided, predictable and boring. We also, without doubt, shoot ourselves a big fat hole in the foot. Ian Ayre says people abroad follow the Premier League only for the big teams but that is not entirely correct – they also follow the Premier League because it is entertaining and competitive and unlike the Spanish League, not a case of simply shooting fish in a barrel once the top two teams play anyone outside of each other. Take that away and you can be sure that interest will diminish as will the value of the lucrative deals Ian Ayre is seeking.
The Spanish League is the perfect example of how not to do it and there can be little argument that Barcelona and Real Madrid’s insistence on individual agreements has had a crippling effect on the strength and overall competitiveness of the Spanish League. I’m not sure if everyone would agree but I have no desire to replace what we have with something similar or a glorified Scottish League, even if we do make a few quid out of it.
The justification behind the need for individual bargaining is also something of a red herring. The reason Barcelona are the incredible team that they are is not because they are far richer than us but because they have a youth system that has delivered beyond any reasonable expectation. Equally, Real Madrid, despite their huge revenues over a number of years clearly are not, to my mind superior to the top 4 teams in England. What both examples show, is that money is not the factor which is causing this actual or perceived gap in the power balance.
And most of all, quite simply, the whole idea is one based on greed, on self-interest (however misguided) above the collective. It goes against the entire ethos of Liverpool, at least the ethos that I, and I am sure many others have always associated with the club. It is a suggestion that I would have expected from the Chelseas of this world, but certainly not us and frankly I am embarassed.
Nice to see how tolerant you are of dissenting opinions.
I myself think this is a good idea, why should the big clubs subsidise the smaller clubs. It’s ok for the UK market but not for the rest of the world. Wigan can’t even fill their own stadium when they play a top team, let alone sell shirts etc abroad. Why should we help pay their and other smaller clubs bills, no wonder Dave Whelan’s against the idea!
Thanks for a great bit of perspective on it all. I have found Ian Ayre’s outburst very hard to take – mostly because he just talked about it in money terms -being the way forward, etc It’s like no one in a position of power ever talks about responsibility to the game as a whole. Or indeed to Liverpool’s Shankly roots and fans. Ayre could definitely have done a better job.
Great stuff as ever, Royhendo…
I was exposed to a Polish proverb a little while back that I’ve taken to using a lot – ‘in capitalist system, man exploits man; with socialism, the reverse is true’.
Kinda hits this thing on the head – Liverpool et al don’t have a league to be one of the big fish in without the likes of Wigan but equally no-one could really be arsed to watch Wigan unless they’re playing the likes of the Champions League contenders.
He’s a bit of a rent-a-gob but I side with Dave Whelan on this one, I think – clubs can peddle their own tat all they want to wherever they want but the TV money is something that should be left alone as it at least gives the smaller clubs the chance to build and create something stable with real legacy from the Premier League proceeds, whether they stay up or drop back down – for every Dave Whelan though, there’s a Sullivan, Gold & Brady ready to come in and lap up a stonking wage for doing sod all…
…I don’t know what the answer is but yeah, it’d be a good idea to be driving the agenda rather than merely having to react to it.
To paraphrase Neil Atkinson, Mr. Whelan from Wigan can fuck right off.
What do you expect Ayre to do. Clubs like Chelsea and MCFC will drown the league in Billions till they get the winning combination. In response UEFA and FA will do nothing at all. In this scenario what would we do…March down to Russia like we did against Hicks and Gillet…? Napoleon did that and lost the Grande Army. Where were all these Moral Police when Hicks and Gillett were dragging us in the mire. That kind of scenario…never again. We must survive. This is LFC firing the opening salvo in the war against Oligarch and Billionaire fuelled tree house football clubs. Either FA and UEFA do something or they will do the unthinkable.
completely agree with you mate but the G14 has been disbanded, other then that you hit the nail on the head, city and chelsea get shedloads of cash from there owners and when we try to exploit our potential for maximising revenues the whole media jump onto their high horses and lecture us. bunch of hypocrites imo, i was cracking up when i read the dailymail, in the summer they were telling there mostly right wing capitilist readers that a lfc training session in asia got 40000 attending, now they want equality, fuck the lot of them i say.
i think you miss the point of your own man united comparison. what they did at the start of the premier league was unique in english football terms and THAT’s why it was successful, and that’s why we really should have been doing the same – leveraging our ‘brand’ to gain a competitive advantage.
what ayre is calling for here offers us little to no competitive advantage over our immediate rivals. yes, we’ll get some more money, possibly more than any other team but united. but united will go out of sight in terms of their earning potential. even without city/chelsea and the combination of their inevitable ffp shenanigans and growing global fan base, what ayre is calling for involves entrenching us permanently as (at best) a second place team that earns a lot of money. that is the real reason shankly would be turning in his grave, in my opinion.
for the record, i am ambivalent about what ayre is suggesting – it’s a little late to be pleading for socialism in football. i just feel it’s utterly pointless other than to earn the owners a bunch of cash.
Waleed – what are you on about?
Ayre’s now clarified his comments further, making them even less objectionable. We should let him get on with it.