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Premier League asks government for permission to continue existing TV rights deal

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EPL looking to get rid of upcoming broadcasting rights auction in favour of rolling over current contract with Sky, BT and Amazon

By Craig Humpage
Football Writer, Sporticos
Published on Friday 30 May 2021

Executives at the Premier League are in discussion with the UK government over the scrapping of it's domestic media rights auction. Under the usual format, various broadcasters fight it out for the right to show top flight matches in the UK but the EPL is keen to do away with all that, at least for now. According to sources familiar with these discussions, the league will instead opt to renew the existing £5bn deal it has with Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video.

Premier League TV rights deal delayed by "Big Six" clubs

It is believed that this move comes in response to the "big six clubs" who previously attempted to stall any decision on broadcasting rights to get room to manoeuvre their entry into the much maligned breakaway tournament, which for now at least is on the back burner. Sources revealed that it was those clubs involved in the secret coup who were most keen to review the proposals in more detail, requesting additional time to do so. It has become clear that this was simply a ploy to buy time in order to get the Super League off the ground. The news of the Florentino Perez led football revolt drew harsh criticism from across society with fans and even politicians protesting. In the end, the heat was too much for the owners of the clubs involved who quickly turned tail and ran from the project, putting paid to the idea for now.

One of the major concerns about the proposal was the damage it could have done to Premier League TV rights contracts. With the exodus of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs, the league would be able to demand far less money for content and be then competing with a goliath super league featuring all those clubs playing each other and the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona every week. Another element which enraged executives at the other 14 Premier League clubs was the effect this would have had on the Champions League. The battle for the top four and qualification for the UCL is one of the Premier League's main attractions and this would effectively be made redundant by the emergence of the Super League. All in all, the plan would have meant significantly less money for the EPL and the clubs involved. They can now breathe a sigh of relief as the project is dead, but will have to be on their toes about similar attempts in the future.

Protection against the pandemic

While the EPL will be keen to sign off some huge domestic rights deals as soon as possible in the wake of the ESL mess, they are also driven by concern over financial downturn caused by Covid-19. Richard Masters, Chief Executive of the Premier League has warned that clubs are expected to lose £2bn of revenues from this season and last due to the impact of coronavirus on stadium income and rebates paid to broadcasters for postponed fixtures. Many top clubs will face challenges ahead in terms of paying the eye-watering salaries of their elite players while dealing with a significant shortfall in funds.

Stadiums will be opening up again in some capacity next season and things should return to normalcy soon enough, but in the meantime the Premier League is hoping that a fresh rights deal can inject some much needed cash into the coffers. Assuming that clubs exercise caution in the market and at least somewhat reduce the astronomical transfer fees they are prone to paying, they should be able to weather the storm without going out of business. For those clubs lower down the pyramid in the Football League it might be a different story. Another one of the major talking points on the ESL was the impact it would have had on lower league football. Here's to hoping the Premier League funnel down a decent amount of the money from any deal to the clubs at the lower end of the scale who need it most.

Renewed agreement with Sky Sports, BT Sport & Amazon

Seemingly in an attempt to create some stability in one of the most volatile financial sectors in the world, the Premier League are keen to scrap their usual model of pitting broadcasters against each other in a bidding war for the rights to show games. This format has been extremely effective over the years in terms of inflating broadcasting deals to a level which can only be described as unsustainable. This in turn has led to more money in the pockets of elite clubs, who have then had the spending power to drive up transfer fees and wages to crazy highs. Another rights auction will only exacerbate this.

In the short term it could potentially mean more money for the league and the clubs/ However there is also a lot of concern about the possibility of an auction actually leading to a lesser deal for the league. Traditional broadcasters across Europe are getting a little more frugal when it comes to spending big on sports rights deals with research showing that more and more young people are attracted to online services and not live TV. If the EPL runs an auction, it's quite possible that Sky and BT could turn around and actually offer less than before as they try to be more cautious while emerging from the coronavirus nightmare. With that in mind, and the fact that the government is now said to be taking a closer look at the running of football finances, perhaps now is the time to take it down a notch

A renewal of the deal they currently have with Sky, BT and Amazon would mean the same revenues again. This would bring stable income to the league and the clubs, hopefully contribute to an evening out of the ludicrous inflation we've seen when it comes to player acquisition, and tie in the big broadcasters for another few years from 2022 to 2025. Sometimes it's better to secure what you already have than try to gamble for more.

In a market which usually goes nowhere but up, the Premier League could be forgiven for rolling the dice and hoping to better their £5bn contract with the three providers but with the possibility of getting a slightly worse deal than before, sources close to the situation believe they will put the rights out to tender with Sky, BT and Amazon making offers, and stick with the status quo. With top leagues in Italy and Germany seeing a marked decrease in the value of their television rights over the past year, the Premier League is expected to proceed with caution and lock in an already stellar deal.

Will the Premier League get state approval?

English football’s top flight will still need permission from ministers to scrap the current auction model but the government is expected to give the proposal close consideration. Under normal circumstances, the Conservative party might be prone to rejecting such a thing on the grounds that it eliminates competition. However, during the Super League debacle Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated that while he is first and foremost a free market capitalist, there are times when the state must take executive action in business affairs. Due to the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic, the government is likely to give these plans the green light with the intention of protecting the league and consequently the clubs, as well as those in the lower leagues

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