Owners face battle for TV control

THERE’S a great temptation to quote the Wilde cliche on ‘carelessness’ after Fulham was succeeded by Everton. I’ll stick to blaming Fergie, for his inept tinkering with 10 minutes to go. You truly cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

I was pleased, though, that he omitted Rooney. Not because I was virtually the only hack on these isles to flag up and recommend the possibility, as I did here last week, but because it was the right, humane thing to do.

Incidentally, I am aware there was a so-called ‘Battle of Britain’ at Old Trafford last night, but please: Rangers have no right to be claiming to be a part of such a thing. Come back when you’ve at least reached a European Cup final. And with all due respect to Celtic, it is next Sunday that sees the true national heavyweight contest.

I have now witnessed, in a fashion, 70 of these league clashes, which makes me feel very old — yet the taste for it hasn’t diminished. There is none of the murderous intent of the 80s anymore, of course, but it is still the first pair of fixtures I look for, and that remains the case even as LFC threatens to become an increasingly mediocre middle-of-the-table outfit.

(That supposed incipient mediocrity inspired Chelsea’s loathsome boss Bruce Buck, presumably in a witless attempt to be funny, to describe the Anfield behemoth as “a small club somewhere north of the M25” at the start of the season, which actually enraged me as much as the scousers.)

They are reaching a critical point off the pitch next month and I have surprised myself by how much I care that they finally get the “right” ownership in place that will respect such a (gulp) great institution.

Manc Reds of the “let ‘em drown” tendency must realise that a) it isn’t going to happen and b) their fate and United’s are intertwined. So it should matter to them who wins control.

For whilst we and Liverpool continue to exist in a sort of strategic limbo, key continental rivals Barca and Real have now both reported tremendously impressive leaps in annual turnover to near €450m. Much of this was due to their spectacular TV revenues, the result of them being allowed to sell their own rights. Amidst much self-congratulation by the Premier League over their new overseas deal, the fact remains United and Liverpool must still sit and fume as “the half a billion homes which our coverage accesses” (Richard Scudamore) generate a mere 20-odd million euro each a year.

Again we are reminded that there’s a way forward for the Glazers to take if they want to square their financial circles: take over rights control.

Intriguingly, I am told by one of the closest observers of the recent attempted Chinese hijack of LFC that, having spoken to some of the key go-betweens, he knew that breaking the TV cartel was very much on the predator’s agenda. Presumably the same will apply to anyone who takes over LFC, and what will United’s response be to them when they eventually come sneaking round to suggest a break-out from the cabal? Don’t get me wrong: I am completely opposed to such a move. But it is going to be attempted. But they’ll have a much tougher job getting away with it if Liverpool are a power in the land, and being run by genuine football people who realise what a cartel break-up will do to the English game.

And I think we can all agree that the People’s Republic of China was never going to fit THAT bill...

And finally, given my recent predicting successes, for next week’s Euromillions numbers. They will be (Ed: line cut due to lack of space...)

* Richard Kurt

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