Champagne corks popped when the Premier League negotiated a three-year £4.73 billion UK television rights deal with broadcasters back in February 2018.
That three-year deal saw Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon snap up the seven packages of games available to broadcast top flight football on these shores.
But after the season was suspended indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Premier League chiefs calculated they may have to repay £762 million to broadcasters if the campaign isn’t completed.
The Premier League are desperate to complete the season and avoid repaying TV money
Premier League chiefs have calculated they could owe broadcasters a total of £780 million
The Premier League may have to pay Sky £371m, BT £50m and overseas networks £341m
The figure of £762m was the sum the Premier League calculated would be owed to Sky, BT and the 37 overseas broadcasters – who spent a collective £4.42 billion (£1.47 billion per season) to buy rights – in the event of the season being voided.
While Amazon have broadcast the 20 games per season they purchased as part of their deal during the festive period – at a cost of £90 million – Sky and BT have paid for a host of fixtures that have not yet been played.
Sky have paid £1.19 billion to show games this season, while BT have splashed out an additional £325 million, a large portion of which was then paid to Premier League clubs.
Sky still have £371 million worth of matches yet to be played, and, along with BT, could reasonably demand for clubs to repay that money, or at least a portion of it, having missed out on millions of viewers and potential new subscribers.
The Premier League’s problems don’t end there. In addition to their UK TV rights deal, a further three-year £4.42 billion (£1.47 billion per season) deal was also struck with a multitude of overseas broadcasters in 38 different countries in 2018.
Three of the biggest foreign deals were struck with Supersport, who pay £168m per season to broadcast top flight football in sub-saharan Africa, Chinese broadcaster, PPTV, who part with £180m per season and NBC, who negotiated a £128m per season deal.
DAZN (Spain and Canada), beIN Sports (Middle East and North Africa), and IMG (Central and Eastern Europe), also negotiated sizable but unspecified sums to broadcast Premier League games in key territories.
Lucrative foreign TV cash is set to be paid to highest-placed clubs but not if season is annulled
Liverpool could miss out on £55 million in TV money if they don’t fulfil remaining fixtures
Further down the table, Burnley have also revealed health crisis could cost them £50 million
All of those broadcasting giants, along with scores of other smaller networks, face the same predicament as Sky and BT, having paid for content that hasn’t been delivered, and could ask for a repayment on unfulfilled fixtures in the event the season is cancelled.
OVERSEAS TV RIGHTS DEALS AT RISK
Sub-Saharan Africa: Supersport (£168m per season)
China: PPTV (£180m per season)
USA: NBC (£128m per season)
Clubs, particularly the division’s big hitters, will also be left with a dent in their finances. If the season is annulled, Liverpool would see a drop in TV income from the Premier League of around £55m from about £178m as things stand to around £123m. At the other end of the table, Norwich’s current forecast of TV income would drop from around £94m to around £79.5m.
The Premier League payments are calculated using fixed shares of domestic and foreign TV money, varying amounts of domestic and overseas ‘merit’ money for finishing position, and ‘facility fees’ for the number of times a club is shown on live TV in the UK.
A new method of allocating overseas TV money will bring significant new sums to the highest placed clubs this season, if concluded. But if annulled they won’t get this money, hence the disproportionate ‘hits’ the higher-up clubs will take.
Back in the UK, the prospect of a demand for compensation hasn’t been helped by the Premier League placing a host of reporting restrictions on broadcasters during the current suspension as they bid to protect their brand and avoid having to answer difficult questions about the current crisis.
Sportsmail revealed on Sunday that league chiefs had written to broadcasters instructing them not to ask questions about the resumption of the football season or the impact of suspension on players. Failure to comply could result in the Premier League denying them access to managers.
After negotiations between the Premier League and Sky, all clubs have agreed to provide their manager for interview every four weeks and a player every two weeks as the broadcasters are desperate for content with the sporting schedule frozen.
The Premier League have instructed broadcasters not to ask questions about end of season
Sky and BT have been warned they’ll lose access to managers if they breach new regulations
Sky are desperate for content to replace live games and fill 24-hour Sky Sports News channel
However, the access comes with considerable caveats, so all questions relating to the impact of the shutdown have been banned.
Sky’s management have been given a list of examples of questions deemed off limits, including any mention of voiding the season, whether games should be played behind closed doors, furloughing or salary cuts and even the implications for Liverpool’s attempt to win their first title in 30 years.
The Premier League’s hardline approach has been a surprising one given their long standing relationship with Sky and the potential risk of demands in compensation if there is a breakdown in that connection. If there is, it could trigger a multi-billion pound problem that they will very much want to avoid.
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