Of course Premier League wants to scrap TV rights auction

Date published: Wednesday 28th April 2021 10:55 - John Nicholson


The Premier League wants to roll over the current rights deal to cover the 2022-2025 period. Same money as before. The reason offered? Stability for clubs in uncertain times. The real reason? The value of the rights fees is falling and they fear it will be substantially lower, meaning they won’t be able to buy Joelinton for £40million or pay him £320,000 per month. And that would be terrible, wouldn’t it? That’s the sort of stability they’re after, seemingly oblivious to the fact that stability of income is exactly what the ESL was all about and they’re supposed to be against that. Sport is not supposed to be a stable income. It’s not a pension scheme; fortunes go up and down.  

After all, by getting on their knees to fellate TV in order to pay them money – even if they play in front of no-one – they have handed the keys of the business to them. TV rules.

The Premier League does not want us to realise, but the broadcasters surely do, that it is utterly helpless in these negotiations. It has no handle, no leverage to get £4.7 billion again for domestic rights. Consequently, this looks like a desperate idea to head off substantial reduction of income. It has set up a financial regime for its members that cannot possibly continue.

Liverpool losing money as well as football matches

The pandemic has written it large and in block capital letters that TV is the boss and they can ruthlessly exploit that situation. All the balls are in TV’s court, and the Premier League don’t even have a racket to play with. They’re just standing there, mouths agape, hands out, waiting for the money.

Broadcast executives must be sniggering up their sleeves at how desperate the league is for their money so that clubs don’t have to radically cut their wage bill from an average of £71,000 per week per player.

The league also has the little problem of the slimy six and their little European idea, so recently trashed. Those clubs are still, sadly, in the league and so loathed by football fans, including many of the clubs’ own fans, that they are indelibly staining the Premier League brand. It is the league dominated by those clubs, after all. You can’t see them and not see their owners in your mind’s eye, getting richer off the backs of the people and plotting still to get even wealthier. Bastards.

European Super League

The league knows the value of rights fees dropped 10% last time. They know that audience figures are not growing and are stuck at not that many, not that often. They know subscriptions are not growing for Sky and BT Sport. They know those two’s typical audiences can be as low as 250,000 or less and only occasionally break the two million mark. While both still want to broadcast football for the kudos and are prepared to amortise the debts they incur across the rest of the company by doing so, there is simply no reason to pay the same as before.

Amazon, the other player in this, have predictably told everyone that their football broadcasting is really, really popular and successful. So successful and popular that they will not release any figures that relate to the viewing of their football.

They’ve said Prime subscriptions – the reason they’re in the football game – rose substantially in the last year, but how much this is down to football is not stated, nor is the important number of how many are actually watching. Call me a cynic but if it was a big impressive number, they would be trumpeting it from the rooftops. There is no virtue in not doing so, but there’s plenty of virtue in not giving out a number when that number is of “oh, is that all?” magnitude.

Italian football rights fees just dropped by 20% and the league does not want the same thing to happen here, but to abandon an auction of rights, the Premier League still needs approval from government ministers, who have the power to block the move on competition grounds.

The minister for the department of Culture, Sport, Media, and every-f*cking-thing-else-that-makes-life-worth-living is something called Oliver Dowden. He is the custard-brained, discarded glove puppet, lying in the gutter of our existence, that has to oversee such things.

Given there’s almost certainly a very good reason why Manchester United chief Ed Woodward left Downing Street a couple of weeks ago thinking that the Prime Minister was in favour of the Super League, they’ll want to do something that makes this elitist cabal of malfeasance look like it’s on the side of the public and not actually punching us in the face while laughing.

So, it seems likely they’ll agree to the rollover, not least because they haven’t a bloody clue about anything to do with what some of their despicable brethren will still call ‘footer’. Ignorance matched with absence of integrity and an inclination to lie all the time about everything, is not a recipe for making decisions that will benefit the country. So, they’ll almost certainly agree to the Premier League’s request.

This doesn’t mean that the broadcasters have to go along with it. And I hope they don’t. The Premier League is a damaged brand featuring clubs with owners that people genuinely loathe. It has never looked worse, never smelled worse, ever looked further from the people with its grasping greedy clubs massively overpaying everyone and still wanting ever more money.

The slogan says ‘football is nothing without fans’ but in truth, in the Premier League football is nothing without TV money, cannot survive without it and is in complete abject obeisance to it.

And why would anyone want to buy something as weak and pathetic as that?

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