UK: BBC SCORES - MANCHESTER UNITED.

UK: BBC SCORES - MANCHESTER UNITED. - It wasn't just the 40,700 fans at Old Trafford who cheered the Red Devils - as they are sometimes admiringly known - after winning their first league championship for 26 years. All BBC pensioners, past and future (th

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It wasn't just the 40,700 fans at Old Trafford who cheered the Red Devils - as they are sometimes admiringly known - after winning their first league championship for 26 years. All BBC pensioners, past and future (the latter presumably now including director-general John Birt among their number), had good reason to feel celebratory. The BBC Pension Fund has a 4.24% stake in Manchester United Football Club, one of only three quoted on the stock market.

As an investment it is pretty small beer - worth £2.4 million after the championship victory when United shares were a record 460p. But when one recalls that a year ago these shares were languishing at 200p, having never recovered from a disastrous stock-market debut, it indicates that there may be some shrewd judges of form, both financial and sporting, among those who provide for BBC employees' final pastures. City and sports pundits are speculating on telephone number sums for the shares with United in the European Cup next season.

They may, of course, prove to be over the moon or sick as parrots but there is no doubt that this shareholding dovetails neatly, and profitably, with the BBC television deal with BSkyB. This gives the two channels exclusive access, though not exclusive acclaim, to Premier League matches.

The higher up a club gets in the league, the more revenue it gains from the television companies. In United's case, it works out at some £850,000 this season, which will percolate through to the bottom line and hoist its share price further. And, of course, the better a club is doing, the more viewers will want to watch it, which brings in more television money, so the BBC gains from larger audiences and from the appreciation in its pension fund assets. Not a bad match really.

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