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Ferguson says TV has too much power over clubs

By Rob Harris

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 26 2011 11:40 a.m. MDT

Manchester United's manager Alex Ferguson answers questions at a press conference at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday Sept. 26, 2011 the day before his team's Champion's League Group C soccer match against Basel.

Jon Super, Associated Press

LONDON — Alex Ferguson complained Monday that television companies have too much power over clubs, despite the rise in broadcast revenue over the last 20 years helping Manchester United dominate English football.

The United manager is unhappy that the Premier League fixture list is determined by the rights holders for live matches — Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB and The Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN.

"When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price," Ferguson told the BBC, which broadcasts highlights from the Premier League.

United alone received 60.4 million pounds (then $99 million) in broadcast revenue last season as it won a record 19th English title, helping the club clear 51.2 million pounds (then $83.4 million) of interest costs to meet debts.

"Television is God at the moment. It's king," Ferguson said. "It shows itself quite clearly because when you see the fixture list come out now, they can pick and choose whenever the top teams they want them on television.

"You get some ridiculous situations like playing on a Wednesday night in Europe and then 12:30 at lunchtime on Saturday. You ask any manager, 'Would you pick that himself.' Absolutely no chance."

England's topflight clubs decided to break away from the other divisions in 1992 and formed the Premier League to increase their shares of television revenue.

In the inaugural season in 1992-93, the clubs shared just 46 million pounds (then $70 million), compared with 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) now split annually from sponsors and television companies.

"When you think of that I don't think we get enough money," Ferguson said. "They need soccer."

That television revenue has turned the Premier League into the richest football league in the world and helped make United the most valuable team according to Forbes magazine. It is also the most successful English club, with 12 league titles in 19 seasons.

Boasting 333 million fans worldwide, United has capitalized on the league's global appeal to bring in a record 331.4 million pounds (then $540 million) in revenue in the fiscal year ending June 30.

"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," former Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick told the BBC.

United's appeal also owes a lot to Ferguson, who has managed the club since 1986.

The 69-year-old Scot was also quizzed on Monday about his famously fiery personality which once saw him kick a boot that struck David Beckham's face during a dressing room bust-up.

"I'm a confrontational character. I don't like people arguing back with me," Ferguson said. "I maybe have a short fuse."

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