A group of clubs, led by Liverpool, will argue against paying a £330m rebate to Sky and other broadcasters at a meeting to discuss the matter on Thursday, despite the Premier League’s recommendation that it should be accepted.

The finance directors of all 20 clubs were informed on Wednesday of the sum by the Premier League, whose head of broadcasting, Paul Molnar, is leading negotiations. Sky is the prime broadcaster with rights to show 128 live matches a season, followed by BT Sport with 52, and Amazon with 20.

Because of the rights terms, 50% of money is divided equally with 25% awarded for live appearances and the other 25% dependent on league finishing position. This means the top six Premier League clubs will have to pay more back – around £30m each – compared to the approximate £10.75m by the other 14. Broadcasters have suggested staggering payments of the rebate over the next two seasons to help clubs hit financially by the pandemic.

Liverpool’s chairman, Tom Werner, questioned the rebate at a previous conference with the Premier League executive and he will do so again when the meeting commences on Thursday at 11am, with growing dismay at the size of sums involved.

A rebate is being sought because of contractual obligations going unfulfilled following the suspension of football in England in mid-March. The broadcasters also argue that given the remainder of the season will be behind closed doors should it, as hoped, be played out next month, the value of the product they have paid many millions for will be devalued.

Liverpool, along with a number of other clubs – Tottenham and West Ham among them – dispute this idea. They believe fans not being able to attend games will increase the premium on live televised matches, with interest in any game shown heightened by the paucity of other live sports. The temporary lifting of the 3pm blackout on matches in the UK means the broadcasters will be able to show more live and clubs believe the value of their investment will increase.

As things stand, Sky and BT have rights to 47 remaining games – the other 45 will be shared, with Sky wanting to broadcast 32, BT Sport wanting to show eight and the remaining five being split between Amazon and the BBC.

The desire of broadcasters to leverage dressing-room and technical-area cameras will also receive pushback from the clubs, with the stance being that if agreed now it will be difficult to deny similar access when the next rights sales occur.

Despite opposition from some clubs to paying the £330m rebate, David Kogan, who was the Premier League’s chief media rights adviser from 1998 to 2015 and a key architect of its global financial success, insists the full amount will have to be met. He told the Guardian: “The clubs are going to have to pay it whatever it is and there will be a formula that will be followed. Sooner or later they’re just going to have to pay the money out. They’ll have insurance, I imagine, to do that.”

Clubs will already be more concerned, Kogan believes, over whether or not the next round of TV rights, due to be negotiated this year, will match the £9bn generated for the three-year period up until 2022 given the fallout from the current crisis. “What is the Premier League’s capacity to earn another £9bn-£10bn over a three-year period?” he said.

“First of all, there’s the UK broadcasters: why would Sky, now owned by Comcast, or BT, necessarily want to spend £5bn on these rights when there’s very little competition? Secondly, there’s 200 other overseas broadcasters. If they’ve been affected by the pandemic, which they will have been, why are they going to go on bidding 20% more they’ve been doing up until now?

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“If the Premier League isn’t going to bring in that money, where is the flexibility to find new cash? Ticket sales? Clubs are already costing their fans a fortune. Hospitality? It’s already been priced to the max. So the only way that clubs can then survive is by looking at costs. And the massive costs are agents’ fees and players, and at that point you’re affecting the product.”

New ideas may have to be considered, Kogan believes, to keep broadcasting deals on a par with what preceded the pandemic. “Saturday 3pm has been the holy grail of football rights selling for 50 years – [showing games now] might set a precedent,” he said. “Whatever the history used to be, money is a huge incentive for change and it’s not just the PL [that’s] going to lose money because of the pandemic, the FA will, too. I wouldn’t count it out at all.”

source: theguardian.com

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