Creative Artists Unit to Sell $1.5 Billion Europe Soccer Rights

European soccer’s ruling body signed an agreement with a newly created unit of Creative Artists Agency LLP to manage the sale of broadcasting rights to qualifying matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

UEFA said in a release yesterday that CAA Eleven will handle the sale of the rights that the soccer organization took over after promising its 53 member associations $1.5 billion, an increase on what they make through individual agreements. Nyon, Switzerland-based UEFA didn’t provide details about whether CAA Eleven has provided any financial guarantees or what rights are included.

CAA Eleven’s offer was accepted over a 1.7 billion euro ($2.2 billion) bid from Lagardere SCA’s Sportfive subsidiary, which also wanted rights to the Euro 2016 final tournament in the contract, according to one person involved in the talks who asked not to be identified because negotiations were private. IMG Sports & Entertainment also in discussions, the person said.

UEFA announced the agreement following a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee in St. Petersburg, Russia. Olivier Guiguet and Stephane Schindler, who last year left executive positions at the sports rights holder Sportfive, led the negotiations on behalf of CAA Eleven. The Daily Telegraph reported that the company has offered 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to underwrite the sale, and may be backed by 2022 World Cup host Qatar.

The 2016 European Championship is to be staged in France, and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Beth McClinton, spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based CAA, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. IMG spokesman Jim Gallagher declined to comment, and an e-mail sent to Lagardere wasn’t returned. UEFA spokesman Thomas Giordano said more information will be provided in a separate news release in the coming days.

UEFA’s plan to sell all rights centrally comes at a time when free-to-air television networks face budget cuts because of continuing difficulties in the European economy. Earlier this year the soccer body’s president Michel Platini said UEFA would meet its commitments even though analysts have suggested it may face a shortfall of as much as 400 million euros.

Cash Reserve

If UEFA fails to achieve its goal, the governing body would have to dip into its 500 million-euro cash reserve. Because of that, some of the larger national federations have criticized UEFA’s plan, saying it would result in less money going to smaller associations for developing the sport.

Instead, England’s ruling soccer body has suggested UEFA keep the sales rights for the host country broadcasts, and hand back overseas rights to federations. That would allow national associations to sell television rights directly to foreign broadcasters while UEFA retains control of the major agreements.

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