Advanced Television

Bank: “ESL bad news for broadcasters”

April 20, 2021

The world of football was thrown into turmoil by the announcement of a European Super League, and according to an investment bank report, could be “negative” for Europe’s broadcasters.

The bank, Exane/BNPP, says the creation of the Super League – if it happens – could herald the sport’s biggest shakeup in decades and make elite teams even wealthier. The marquee names – six from England, three from Italy and three from Spain have signed up so far – would play each other midweek as an alternative to the UEFA Champions League, according to a statement on April 19th. In addition to what will be 15 permanent teams, another five will qualify each year for the Super League.

Establishing a new elite tournament in Europe would effectively end the Champions League’s decades-long reign as the world’s premier club contest, says a report from Bloomberg, and revolutionise the sport’s structure. It would also funnel billions of dollars into the game’s upper echelons, following a year in which revenue has dropped as matches take place in largely empty stadiums. The 15 founding teams would share an upfront payment of 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) but the project has been condemned by a variety of high profile politicians and sportspeople, among other opponents, the UEFA and the UK Premier League.

Exane’s view is that the Super League would be “negative” for some broadcasters. “A negative for those most exposed to pure European football broadcasting e.g. Mediaset (who has the CL for three seasons), Sky Italia (following DAZN’s Serie A win) & the UK’s BT (limited English Premier League games but lots of Champions & Europa League content), as surely a redrawing of the Super League rights would involve inflation and/or fewer eyeballs on the remaining European club competitions without the marquee teams”.

The bank asks whether the news is just a power play by the clubs involved: “This could ultimately still be the case. The core rationale for the foundation of the league in which the clubs will be sole shareholders is to concentrate a higher portion of the TV rights money and make that a secure revenue stream since they can never be excluded from the competition – turning it into a perpetuity unlike today where top clubs qualify for the Champions League on merit. The involvement of so many English teams (6 of the 12) is paramount to the success of this venture since a larger constant English presence would present a more attractive rights package. The Premier League being the pre-eminent domestic football competition in Europe and the UK the most attractive domestic rights market.”

The bank’s investigation also asks whether UEFA and FIFA, football’s two major governing bodies, instigate bans on the activity: “This is highly unlikely to transpire – FIFA already walked well away from that language on April 18th in their statement whilst the more aggressive language seems to be coming from domestic FAs who are clearly the ones who have been effectively subjugated by the clubs. Moreover, banning these teams from domestic competition could ultimately void current TV rights contracts which would be financially devastating for the domestic leagues.”

Exane adds: “A threat of player bans at the World Cup could also prove very difficult to institute given these would be arbitrated at the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), given the record of FIFA at similar bodies this is unlikely to come to pass in our view. There is also speculation in press reports of UEFA looking to sue the clubs for compensation (figures of “EUR50-60bn”) but we have received no official update, meanwhile current CL and UEL competition could be temporarily postponed for this season – UEFA ExCo is meeting today to decide.”

However, the bank asks why no German or French presence?: “Bayern Munich and PSG are the notable omissions; the former is most likely due to fear of missing out on domestic Bundesliga and partly around the 50+1 fan ownership (though Real and Barca are both fan owned and very much in). Media speculation is that Bayern are likely to join before competition kicks off (if it ever does). PSG is the more curious case – their ownership is Qatari and there is a political element with the owners potentially unwilling to risk the 2022 World Cup by siding against the larger football bodies. Ultimately, as per media reports, PSG would struggle to keep its high-profile players if they cannot compete in the most prestigious club competitions which would eventually force their hand.”

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