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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson calls on clubs to be given greater influence over TV companies

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has called for Premier League clubs to be given a greater share of television revenue and demanded the influence wielded by broadcasters over the division’s fixture lists be curbed.


Though the 69 year-old knows allowing clubs to sell their television rights individually — as is the case in Spain — would benefit United, he stands by the Premier League’s policy of collective bargaining under which funds from the £1.6 billion domestic deal with Sky and the foreign rights sale, worth £1.3 billion over three years, are divided equally between all 20 member clubs.

But Ferguson is adamant the demands placed on his team and their 19 rivals by television are such that the £60 million United received from the Premier League’s domestic rights alone this season is not enough, with the Scot clear that clubs should earn more money in exchange for less interference.

“I have no great feelings for [individual rights],” he said. “[United] would love to have it but it should not happen. [The clubs] should have more control over television and how much access they can have, but in terms of the rest of the Premier League, it is fair to have all equal shares.

“At the managers’ meeting at the start of the season, they told us they now sell the Premier League product to 212 countries. That is unbelievable. Television is God now, it’s the king.

“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.

“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 no chance. You need those 72 hours to prepare, to get into a reasonable condition after a European game. But when you shake hands with the devil, you have to pay the price.”

Ferguson made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s North West Tonight, granted to mark the retirement this week of the show’s long-time host, the former Krypton Factor presenter Gordon Burns.

Ferguson, in typically searingly honest form, also touched on the “crazy prices” paid by some clubs — no doubt including Manchester City — in what he dubbed their “desperate” search for silverware.

“Financially, I only worry about my own club [rather than the health of the game as a whole],” he said. “I am pretty selfish like that.

“There are a lot of foreign people running our clubs now and they are desperate to win something, their imagination stretches and they pay silly money for players, absolutely crazy prices.

A lot of the lower league clubs have found their level now, and they have a sensible approach. It is at the top that teams are paying all the money.”

Ferguson, 70 in December, acknowledged that age has “mellowed” him, insisting that he now finds switching off after games substantially easier.

“I don’t like losing,” he said. “It is not easy for me. But when I was younger, I found dealing with people away from the game quite difficult. I switch off quite quickly now.

“What is really important, too, is post-match drinks with the visiting manager. It is terrific. You are dealing with people with the same problems as yourself, the same anxieties, the same feelings of losing. That is why it matters.”

The Scot also dismissed his infamous “hairdryer” treatment as an exaggeration — “it’s a myth; if I had thrown tea-cups as often as I am supposed to then we’d have been through a lot of crockery” — but admitted he looks for familiar traits in his players.

“I like to see myself in them,” he said. “That is somewhat obsessive, driven, not liking losing. That has become instilled in the club. I have been here so long players come in and say they had better be like that or they will not last long.”

The most recent generation that applies to, of course, is that of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones et al, a crop the United manager believes can follow in the footsteps of Fergie’s original fledglings.

“I have a nucleus of young players at the 20 to 21 mark who can be regarded in the same way as the Giggs-Scholes-Beckham era,” he said.

“That they were all in the England Under-21s together and now live close by each other just outside Manchester, so they have struck up that friendship, is a coincidence. I wish I could say it was my idea or the club’s idea, but it wasn’t.”

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