Saturday 24 March 2018

Premier League's 'Big Six' fail in first attempt to win larger pot of overseas TV rights revenue

The overseas rights revenue are currently shared equally among all 20 clubs. CREDIT: EMPICS
The overseas rights revenue are currently shared equally among all 20 clubs. CREDIT: EMPICS

Matt Slater

Premier League clubs have failed to agree on a plan to change the way they share income from the top flight's overseas broadcasting deals.

With a two-thirds majority needed to change the current set-up, Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore had hoped to persuade at least 14 of the 20 clubs to back the proposal in London on Wednesday.

But with the clubs firmly split into two camps, there was no need for a vote and it was decided they should discuss the matter further and try to find some common ground at their next scheduled meeting in November.

Under the current rules, the league's growing overseas broadcast revenues are shared evenly but the so-called 'Big Six' - Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham - believe they should get a bigger share because of their greater popularity abroad.

Scudamore's proposed compromise is to allocate 35 per cent of the overseas pot according to final league position, which is a similar formula to how the domestic rights are shared out.

Last season, this would have given Chelsea an extra £12.4million and reduced Sunderland's take by the same amount. But with the Premier League's overseas income rising faster than its domestic revenue, this differential would only grow.

Going into the meeting, it seemed that only Everton, Leicester and West Ham were minded to side with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and Spurs in backing the proposal, which would, in theory, leave the top 13 better off.

But Press Association Sport understands Newcastle and Watford were, at least, tempted by the idea.

Unfortunately for Scudamore, the likes of Crystal Palace, Stoke and Swansea remain strongly opposed to any attempt to weaken the principle of revenue-sharing.

While the more established clubs claim it is their global brands that are driving the rise in the Premier League's foreign TV rights, those against the change say it is the league's competitive balance which is so popular abroad and that hinges on a more egalitarian split of the income.

The league's current domestic deals bring in more than £5billion over three seasons - a figure that rose by 70 per cent in 2012 and 70 per cent in 2015. But with BT and Sky Sports unlikely to dig that deep again, most analysts are predicting a much more modest uplift in 2018 for the 2019-21 cycle.

Global rights, on the other hand, have a lot more upside, with the Chinese rights recently going for 10 times the previous amount and the deals for Brazil and the United States doubling in value.

The league has more than 80 deals with overseas broadcasters and they already bring in more than £1billion a season. That figure is only going to rise and this has focused attention on a revenue stream that was not worth arguing about when the league was set up in 1992.

Back then, the intention was for the champions to take approximately twice as much in shared revenue as the bottom team but, with the equal share of international rights (more than £39million a club last season), the ratio has shrunk to closer to 1.5:1 now.

That, coupled with the shock to the system that was Leicester's title triumph in 2016, has encouraged the richest clubs to agitate for a rethink.

Wednesday's failure to reach agreement is a defeat for them and Scudamore, who is desperate to maintain a united front with negotiations about to start with domestic and foreign broadcasters. But the fact there was no vote, and the clubs have agreed to keep talking, means this setback may only be temporary.

Another defeat in November, however, would undoubtedly revive talk of breakaway leagues and clubs selling their own rights, bringing an end to a 25-year truce that has seen the Premier League become a leading national export and the world's richest football league.

In a statement, the Premier League said: "The clubs today met and discussed the future development of the league. (They) unanimously agreed to adjourn the meeting to allow further discussion."

Online Editors

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