In Defense of Randy Lerner
In the Premier League, not everyone is upset with Martin O’Neill’s decision to leave Randy Lerner’s Aston Villa. Least of all the players, who were reportedly texting each other images of champagne bottles after hearing the news.
Lerner issued a statement saying that he and O’Neill no longer “shared a common view” on the best direction for the club. Lerner planned to hold O’Neill to a budget, not allowing him to spend money on player transfers without selling a player first.
The Premier League is similar to Major League Baseball in that there is no salary cap, but all teams share in the TV revenue under the following system:
- 25% is paid in merit payments determined by where a club finishes in the final league table;
- 50% of the domestic revenue is split equally;
- 100% of the non-domestic revenue is split equally among the clubs.
- 25% is paid in facility fees, based on how often a club is shown on TV in the U.K., with each club guaranteed a minimum of 10 facility fees.
Every team gets a large share of the money pie, with Forbes reporting that, in 2009, Middlesborough received the smallest share (£30.9 million) while Manchester United received the largest (£51.1 million).
While £21 million is certainly a lot of money, it’s not on par with the differences in revenue between a team like the Yankees and the Indians. Even smaller-market teams can be competitive; it’s just not the big-market London clubs or Manchester United.
Aston Villa does take a hit at the gate, as Villa Park holds 42,500, compared to Old Trafford (76,000) or the Emirates Stadium (60,000) for example, which helps widen the gap a bit more.
One way to shrink the revenue gap is to qualify for the lucrative Champions League. O’Neill wasn’t able to break through – the team peaked at sixth place – and without the big payday and large crowds from Champions League games, Lerner has to keep an eye on the budget. Think about how much extra revenue the Indians used to produce when they routinely made the playoffs in the late ’90s – those extra dollars help.
O’Neill’s cries of not being allowed to spend money ring hollow, as he spent more than £120million on transfer fees alone for new signings during his four years at Villa Park and recouped just £39m in sales during that period – leaving him with a net loss of almost £82m.
Lerner is the best kind of owner, as he hires people and then lets them do their jobs without constantly micro-managing them. Some fans in Cleveland don’t understand that is a good thing, thinking that because Lerner doesn’t sit behind a desk every day in Berea that he “doesn’t care.”
It certainly is well within his rights to set a budget for the team. If O’Neill couldn’t deliver under those conditions, that’s on him, not Lerner.
I certainly don’t wish ill on Aston Villa fans, but if one of Lerner’s teams has to have coaching issues days before the season starts, better it be at Villa Park than at Cleveland Browns Stadium.