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03rd Feb 2017

Ian Ayre believes the Premier League’s big six are being left behind – just like he warned

You can't say he didn't see this coming.

Tony Barrett

Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s outgoing chief executive, has claimed that the declining fortunes of English clubs in Europe was made by inevitable by the Premier League’s failure to back his idea for the proceeds from international broadcasting rights to be weighted in favour of the country’s biggest clubs.

Having made an unsuccessful call for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to receive a bigger share of that revenue stream in October 2011, Ayre has reiterated his belief that those clubs which bring in the biggest global TV audiences deserve to receive more of the income generated.

The issue has long been a bone of contention in the Premier League with six of its biggest clubs, the above quartet plus Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, understood to be supportive of Ayre’s stance but with the remaining fourteen against the idea, the majority has prevailed.

Speaking five years ago, Ayre warned that English clubs would be left behind if they were not afforded the same “opportunity to truly realise their international media potential” enjoyed by Barcelona and Real Madrid, claiming that the best players would “drift away” and questioning whether the Premier League “bubble could burst” as a result.

Chelsea are the only English team to win the Champions League this decade (photo credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Speaking ahead of his departure from Liverpool at the end of this month, Ayre insisted that the performance of English clubs in Europe since then makes him even more confident that his original position is the right one regardless of his view that one of the Premier League’s greatest strengths is the equality that it promotes.

“I think the Premier League is the beacon of success for all league football,” Ayre said.

“The equalities that exist in it are right to a degree and the way it’s governed – I’m talking about the Premier League rather than English football. There’s so much that so many leagues can learn from the Premier League. There are still things to make better.

“I was supposedly very outspoken early on in my time here about whether the bigger brands in English football should share a bigger part of the spoils. I still believe that is true. At that time I also said I thought that not doing that would have some effect on the decline of English football in Europe – that’s coming to pass.

“It’s something to look at and it’s something that is still being debated within English football.

“There is so much good in the Premier League. They do so much so well. Leicester City last year is testament to that. It’s still the most competitive league in the world. The Premier League is a real beacon.”

Although Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League the following year, the form of English clubs in Europe has largely declined over the last five years, particularly in comparison to the previous decade, with La Liga becoming increasingly dominant having provided 17 finalists for the two competitions since the 2005/06 season.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

With the latest sale of international broadcasting rights, featuring games played between 2016-19, set to earn Premier League clubs £3.2 billion, the reiteration of Ayre’s proposal is unlikely to be well received by those clubs who have consistently demanded that such revenues are shared equally but it has articulated the position of the so-called Big Six who continue to seek a bigger share.

The chances of Ayre’s proposal being adopted by the Premier League appear remote as any ballot would require 14 clubs to vote in favour in order for it to be passed. Alerted to the shared interests of Liverpool, United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs recently, a spokesman for the Premier League said they remain “relaxed” about the situation due to the existence of a “strong collective.”

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