Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that the big six Premier League clubs—Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham—will be asking for a larger portion of the international TV revenue at today's shareholder meeting. Currently, international broadcast rights are shared equally amongst all 20 clubs.
The basic idea behind the request has been floating around in EPL circles for some time and can best be summed up by former Liverpool Chief Executive Ian Ayre's remarks six years ago: "If you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to ESPN to watch Bolton."
It's obvious why the Big Six are so consistently infatuated with this idea. The Telegraph estimates that £3 billion of TV rights come from foreign countries, meaning each club gets £150 million over the life of the existing contracts. Even a small tweak of the percentage points would lead to an eight or even nine figure windfall for the Big Six. The argument on their end is that in order to compete with Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, they need more cash.
At the time, Ayre compared the EPL's equal slices to La Liga's arrangement where Barcelona and Real Madrid are allowed to negotiate their own TV rights, which put them at a tremendous financial advantage. But in 2016, the two Spanish powers agreed to pool their rights with the rest of La Liga, although not equally; Barca and Madrid get a 17 percent cut each, compared to the five percent every EPL club gets.
Regardless of the veracity of this argument, which we can debate until the sun devours us all, it's worth pointing out that in order for such a proposal to pass, 14 of the 20 clubs need to vote in favor. This will never, ever happen as written. Why in the world would eight clubs vote to give themselves less money?
Instead, there could, in theory, be some sort of a compromise where the Big Six get a larger portion of foreign rights revenues in exchange for larger parachute payments or something of the sort, which could appeal to the handful of clubs whose main goal every year is avoiding relegation. But even then, it's still extremely unlikely to pass.
Still, even bringing this up—again and again—is very shortsighted by the Big Six. The EPL's top-to-bottom competitiveness, relatively speaking, is what sets it apart from the other big European leagues and a big reason why its foreign revenues are so large to begin with. It's also why Madrid and Barcelona agreed to share a portion of their revenues, bringing them closer to the EPL's model. They saw the long-term growth prospects, especially abroad, by playing in a more competitive league.
There's a paradoxical element to the Big Six's logic: the EPL is the most popular league in the world and therefore yields massive rights deals, so they must change the fundamental financial structure of the league which may jeopardize its appeal. And for what? So a few teams can go deeper in the Champions League, which would net them even more money and only further increase the league's financial imbalance? All other arguments aside, it's downright shameful that Premier League clubs would value their performance in another tournament against foreign clubs more than the long-term stability of the domestic league.