by Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
The English Premier League (EPL) is probably the world’s most favourite football competition with an enthusiastic and faithful following of millions around the world through its television coverage. In fact, it has been well said that sport and TV are a marriage made in heaven and enjoy a symbiotic relationship!
The EPL is also the world’s most lucrative league as the latest sale by auction of its TV rights well demonstrates.
It has just been announced that the live rights have been sold for the three seasons 2016-2019 for a record sum of £5.136 billion, an increase of 71% on the sum paid for the live rights for the previous three seasons 2013-2016!
Shares in Manchester United, quoted on the New York Stock exchange, rose by 5% on the prospect of the club’s higher revenue from this latest TV deal.
The new deal comprises 168 games, which will be shown live and shared between Sky with 126 live matches, 10 more than at present, and BT with 42 matches, 4 more than currently. This values each EPL live match at a staggering sum of £10.19 million! Sky has paid 83% more than in the previous auction; and BT 18% more. It will be interesting to see what the sale of the rights for the exploitation of other platforms, such as Internet streaming, bring into the coffers of the EPL.
These are eye-watering figures and, not surprisingly, as a reaction to them, there have been calls by football fans and supporters’ groups for some of this money to ‘trickle down’ for the benefit of the ‘beautiful game’ generally and, in particular, at the ‘grass roots’ level of football. Also, for a cap to be placed on the cost of attendance by fans at EPL games at a sum of £20 per match! Whether this will happen, in fact, remains to be seen and many football commentators have said that the TV money will be used by clubs to pay players even higher wages and agents’ and transfer fees, the January ‘transfer window’ of this year having produced signings for EPL clubs of £130 million. See GSLTR website post of 22 January 2015 on ‘Top twenty football club earners for 2013-2014 season break new world records’.
However, Richard Scudamore, the EPL Chief Executive, who was surprised at the outcome of the auction, has said that the money raised will be invested by clubs in making improvements to stadia, as well as in “youth development and good causes” and added that clubs will continue “to put on the best matches that they can.”
He added that the EPL plans to invest some £56 million in ‘grass roots’ projects, including 50 new artificial pitches.
All of this sounds very good and encouraging, but certainly ‘the proof of the pudding will be in the eating’ to use a colloquial English saying!
We will have to wait and see, therefore, with bated breath, what actually happens in reality!
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Lawyer, Academic and Author and may be contacted by