Sir Alex Ferguson has turned his attention to the influence of television on football fixtures, with a stinging rebuke for the broadcasters helping to dictate fixtures.
The Guardian notes:
“When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price. Television is God at the moment,” said Ferguson, who agreed that broadcasters had “too much power”. “It shows itself quite clearly because when you see the fixture lists come out now, they can pick and choose whenever they want the top teams on television,” he added.
“You get some ridiculous situations when you’re playing on Wednesday night in Europe and then at lunchtime the following Saturday. You ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and there’d be absolutely no chance.”
Ferguson also said that broadcasters should pay more for the rights to live football, given the Premier League sold its product to more than 200 countries. “When you think of that I don’t think we get enough money,” he said.
The Premier League secured around £3.5bn from its most recent round of television deals, which run until the end of next season. About £2.1bn was generated from domestic rights sales, including about £1.8bn for live rights from BSkyB and ESPN, and £1.4bn from overseas broadcasters.
BSkyB refused to comment on Ferguson’s observations but sports broadcasting insiders pointed out that Ferguson’s views did not reflect the fact that each club must be shown live a minimum of 10 times and a maximum of 26, nor that other factors affected the scheduling of matches. They include policing issues and the ongoing tussle over the fixture calendar between domestic football bodies, Uefa and Fifa.
“Sir Alex’s comments always have to be taken seriously – he is a very wise and experienced football man,” Brian Barwick, a former FA chief executive and controller of sport at ITV, told the BBC.
“But on this one, I do think Manchester United have almost had a lion’s share of TV revenue over a period of time and it has helped build a fantastic stadium in Old Trafford and helped build Sir Alex’s teams with star players.”
Many will agree with Barwick’s point of view, while others will be of Ferguson’s persuasion that we’ve now become pawns in Sky’s game. While the good old days of 3pm kick offs on a Saturday, seem like a distant memory at times, it’s fair to say that some of the so-called ‘Super Sundays’ have certainly lived up to their hype and given Reds unable to attend matches an easier opportunity to watch their beloved United.