Sports Flick: the little-known start-up bidding $60m for Champions League broadcast rights

The Australian football world is abuzz following reports that a little-known western Sydney start-up headed by a 27-year-old former manager of a family building company has offered $60m over three years from 2021-22 to buy Australian rights to stream one of the most watched sporting competitions in the world. Who is this mysterious new player on the scene and how are they mixing it with the big guns?

What is Sports Flick?

Unless you are a fan of Nicaraguan football or Serbian rugby league, it is unlikely you will have heard of this little-known streaming service. Sports Flick’s website is low budget but its financial might is apparently not, having blindsided current rights holders Optus and other major streaming players with a big-money bid in a recent blind auction.

What other rights does it currently hold?

Quite a few. Sports Flick has quietly cultivated a niche offering which includes the Uefa Women’s Champions League, Liga Primera de Nicaragua and the Arabian Gulf League. Last month it won the rights to the K-League, which were also previously held by Optus. On Monday, the company also confirmed the acquisition of the Austrian Bundesliga streaming rights until 2022 and has teased further coups.

Aside from football, its content also includes Serbian rugby league, some cricket Test matches, baseball and bareknuckle fighting. The going rate for a subscription is $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year, so customers should be able to either fill their boots with both Kylian Mbappé and amateur bodybuilding, or buy pay-per-view videos.

“We are very proud of the platform of sports rights we are providing and look forward to working with more leagues and sports in the future,” Sports Flick spokesperson, Michael Turner, said. “We are approached daily by sporting organisations looking to partner with us who believe in our strategy and believe Sports Flick is the right fit for their respective competitions.”

Who is the boss?

Chief executive Dylan Azzopardi says he founded Sports Flick in 2019 when he was 25 years old. His LinkedIn profile states he is an “entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry” and a Tafe graduate.

“I was working for my dad’s building company and was so bored on the job so one day I decided to start my own digital broadcasting company into Australia,” Azzopardi told Sporting News last year.

“Once I got all of that sorted I started contacting people. I just called up the UAE League and asked if they wanted to partner with an Australian digital broadcaster. That was the door that opened and then it took off.”

Azzopardi’s LinkedIn connections are extensive and include a number of high-profile executives, including Football Australia CEO James Johnson. His 300-odd Instagram followers include John Ibrahim’s former bodyguard, Neil Cummins. Turner told Guardian Australia that Cummins is “categorically not involved with Sports Flick”.

Where is the money coming from?

That is not clear. When approached by Guardian Australia, Sports Flick declined to provide any information about the identity of any backers and said details of its rights deals are commercial in confidence.

Company records show most stakeholders in the business are based in a few western Sydney suburbs. Sports Flick’s parent company is DCA Sydney Enterprises, which is run by Azzopardi and his brother Justin, and has a Riverstone home address registered as its business address.

DCA Sydney Enterprises has four shareholders. They include the company’s chief financial officer Karla Pichardo, who is based in Green Valley and works as an accountant for Ingleburn firm Occhiuto Partners. Blacktown local Aziz Khalaf also has a stake, as does NE Group, whose Arndell Park address is that of Vella Bros Smash Repairs.

The other shareholder is Red Star Belgrade Rugby League (WA) Pty Ltd, the Australian branch of the Serbian-based rugby league team coached by former NRL coach Phil Economidis. Owned by Perth-based Colin Kleyweg, who is also Sports Flick’s commercial director, the company’s listed address is just around the corner from Azzopardi’s Riverstone home.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, DCA Sydney Enterprises also owns a company called Mera House, whose principle place of business matches the address of a Darlinghurst restaurant called Two Doors.

What is Uefa’s bidding process?

Industry sources say little is known about Uefa’s criteria, but that money appears to be the overriding factor in determining successful bidders.

The exact timeline for official confirmation on any new partnership is unknown, but an announcement could be delivered within the next few weeks.

What does it mean for football fans in Australia?

It depends which leagues(s) you follow. If the answer is many, you will have to spend. If Sports Flick is successful in securing Champions League rights from the 2021-22 season, and Optus still have the English Premier League, while Fox Sports and Kayo show the A-League along with other European leagues, multiple outlays will be necessary.