According to a story in the Daily Mail today, it is possible that the Champions League, European football’s flagship club tournament, may not be shown live on terrestrial television in the UK in future.
The tender for the UK broadcast rights for the Champions League, due to be launched next week by UEFA, will detail the way the rights packages are going to be sold over the next three-year cycle from 2015.
However, there is no obligation for UEFA to sell to free-to-air channels in the UK, as the Champions League is not a TV-listed event (unlike the FA Cup Final, Olympics and Wimbledon Tennis Finals)
Sky and BT Sport are almost certain to be the highest bidders. And there is nothing to stop UEFA maximising revenue by sharing the rights packages between the Sky and BT Sport. Reports suggest that could be worth over £1billion to UEFA compared to the £400m that Sky and ITV paid for the present deal that runs until the end of next season.
Concern over this – especially within current rights holders ITV – has been raised by UEFA awarding exclusive coverage in France to subscription network beIN Sport, owned by Qatar-based TV broadcast giants Al Jazeera.
But ITV will hope that live terrestrial coverage is still regarded as crucial by UEFA and that France is a special case because of the Qatari influence. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund own Paris St-Germain and it is reported political pressure was put on France’s UEFA president Michel Platini to vote for a Qatar World Cup.