TV Drives Euro Superleague Plans

By Fry, Andy | Marketing, September 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

TV Drives Euro Superleague Plans


Fry, Andy, Marketing


Talks about a possible European superleague are reopening debates about how football is marketed and how and where it is televised. Andy Fry looks at some of the possible consequences

As the new soccer season got under way three weeks ago, English football's big guns were presented with proposals which promise to widen the gap between rich and poor in European soccer.

The plans concern the creation of a European superleague to replace the UEFA Champions' League. Already, English clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have been approached to gauge their interest.

Digital drive

The superleague idea has been developed by Milan-based sports marketing agency Media Partners, which is best known in soccer circles for launching digital pay-per-view football in Italy. Consequently, the whole plan is media driven, with important implications for how football will be packaged and marketed.

There are two elements to Media Partners' proposals. The first, and most important, is the establishment of a 32-team competition which would replace the current UEFA model which involves 24 clubs. The top eight teams from two leagues of 16 would progress to a knock-out stage, the winners of which would be crowned champions of Europe.

In addition, Media Partners is advocating a second competition which would, in effect, be an amalgamation of the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winner's Cup. All told, the new competitions would provide European berths for up to ten English clubs a season.

Despite the hype, Media Partners' concept is not massively different from the current UEFA set-up. It has made it clear that superleague games would be played during midweek to avoid clashes with domestic competitions.

Where the Media Partners plan does differ, however, is in the amount of revenue it claims the new league would raise - and the way the spoils would be shared.

The UEFA Champion's League generates [pounds]180m a year. Media Partners claims that its new competition would make [pounds]820m. Not only that, but it has promised that participating clubs would get a greater share of the money.

Clubbing together

Under the present system, the clubs share 55% of the money, with most of the rest of going to UEFA and its marketing partner, TEAM. Media Partners has promised that the 32 clubs involved in the new superleague would get around [pounds]18m apiece. Its own share would be 5% of total income while 5% would go toward the development of the game.

This redistribution of income is what has allowed Media Partners to drive a wedge between UEFA and the clubs, even though it insists that it would like UEFA to regulate the new competitions.

UEFA's public response to the proposals, which has been supported by most of the domestic leagues in Europe, has been to reject the plan. One UEFA vice-president, Antonio Matarrese, said: "This committee does not feel it deserves our attention. …

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