Top English Soccer Clubs Face Fight Over Media Plan

Updated on
  • Small Premier League clubs trying to block big ones’ proposal
  • At stake is more than $1 billion of overseas revenue a year

Arsenal's German midfielder Mesut Ozil leaps in an effort on goal as Southampton's English goalkeeper Fraser Forster defends during a match at the Emirates Stadium in London on Feb. 2, 2016.

Photographer: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

England’s elite soccer clubs are facing resistance from smaller rivals to their plan to grab a bigger share of the more than 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year the Premier League gets for international media rights.

The smaller teams, seeking to maintain the current revenue-sharing agreement, are set to gather ahead of an Oct. 4 Premier League meeting to devise a challenge against the six big clubs -- Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named because the deliberations aren’t public.

Teams like Manchester City and Liverpool are arguing that their popularity helps drive international revenue, so they should get a bigger slice. One option being considered by the Premier League, according to one of the people, is to share the money based on how long a team has held on to a spot on the league. Premier League Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore is backing the big clubs, one person said.

Revenue sharing is on the schedule at next week’s meeting of all 20 Premier League clubs. Overseas revenue currently amounts to about 3 billion pounds to 3.5 billion pounds over three years, with the league’s domestic deal being worth 5.1 billion pounds.

Dominant League

The collective sharing arrangements, coupled with the enormous popularity of the Premier League, mean that even the worst-performing clubs in England’s top tier generate greater broadcast revenue than some of the most successful clubs in Europe.

For example, Sunderland last year received 93.5 million pounds after finishing 20th in the league and getting relegated. This was more than Italy’s Juventus, Germany’s Bayern Munich or Monaco pocketed even after winning each of their respective leagues, according to Sporting Intelligence.

A representative for the Premier League declined to comment. For any rule change on revenue sharing to take effect, at least 14 clubs need to vote in favor, according to the league.

Streaming Option

The Premier League’s international rights are offered to individual countries regularly, depending on the territory, and have so far mainly been bought by broadcasters. But with online viewing gaining popularity, streaming-service providers may compete in coming auctions.

Last week, Manchester United Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward said he expects technology giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. to bid for the Premier League’s next domestic contract. English clubs are hoping that interest from players other than BT Group Plc and Sky Plc will drive up the price of the rights.

In the Premier League meeting next week, officials are also set to explain to the clubs the background to the next domestic-rights auction, worth 5.1 billion pounds over three years last time around.

England’s broadcast revenue, both domestic and overseas, is much larger than that of rival leagues. The Premier League had eight of the top 20 clubs in Europe in terms of total revenue, according to a recent survey by Deloitte, the financial-services firm. West Ham United and Leicester City, neither of whom are traditionally considered among the Premier League’s bigger clubs, both feature in the top 20 of Europe’s top revenue generators.

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