Are Premier League big boys set to get richer?

Are you fed up with the monotonous tones of Alan Smith? Are you increasingly annoyed that Gary Neville has defied expectations and turned out to be a good pundit? Or do you worry Jamie Redknapp will injure himself every time he trips over his own words? Then fear not because Sky’s stint as the broadcasting powerhouse may soon be under threat.

According to Ross Hair, the head of ESPN for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Qatar-owned broadcaster al-Jazeera are considering mounting a challenge for the domestic TV coverage of the Premier League.

Hair told the Evening Standard: “We’re expecting another Premier League auction in April or May. An al-Jazeera bid is a realistic prospect.”

The current three-year deal is already worth an estimated £1.782bn and a bidding war between Rupert Murdoch’s vast empire and the financial muscle of al-Jazeera would surely see that figure sky rocket.

Rumours revolving around a potential migration to the Premier League have been escalating since al-Jazeera beat the French premium television channel Canal Plus to the Ligue 1 and Champions League rights.

However, the Qatar broadcasters first ensured the purchase of French giants PSG was completed by Qatar Investment Authority so they could build a brand around one of the biggest clubs in the nations capital, before setting their sights on the naming rights. At present they don’t possess the same influence in the UK but there are certainly similarities with the recent Abu Dhabi inspired takeover at Manchester City.

The upcoming auction may also see a surprise new candidate enter the fray with technology firm Apple said to be weighing up a bid. According to reports it perceives Premier League football as the ideal type of premium content that could draw UK users to the Apple TV service. Apple boasts a financial arm that can dig deep into the companies $70 billion cash reserves so few can write them off in their self-titled “assault on the living room”.

The ramifications for Sky losing out would be monumental, having accumulated a large portion of its subscribers through its unrivalled sports package. It will be interesting to see how they react to this impending challenge, having thrived for so many years without a worthy rival in the market.

What will this mean for the viewing audience? Are people willing to leave Sky and follow the coverage to new, uncharted waters? Perhaps one positive will see more people flock back to the pubs or even down to their local club in search of their football fix.

Last year the FA had to accept a 30% drop in the income for its two-year FA Cup and England games deal renewal with ITV but the Premier League has always been a very shrewd negotiator and this new interest should hail a lucrative new pay day for all concerned.

However, there has been growing unrest amongst the top clubs regarding their percentage from the overall income, with some even hinting that they could break away and seek their own deals in the future. Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre insists that the Premier League must do its upmost to compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“If Real Madrid, Barcelona or other big European clubs realise their international media value, where does that leave Liverpool and Man United? We’ll just share ours because we’ll all be nice to each other?”

There is certainly evidence to back his claims when you take into account Liverpool received around £18m from the overall pot last year whereas Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s engineered deals with Mediapro that saw them obtain a staggering £136m.

Ayre suggests that whilst it’s fair that the domestic TV rights are shared equally, the ‘big’ clubs should receive a greater slice of the International revenue because of the superior popularity of Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal in Asia and the Middle East.

With that in mind, does the Premier League elite deserve a bigger percentage of TV deals or will this serve only to increase the gulf in wealth with clubs outside the top 6? Would a break away turn the Premier League into a less competitive and exciting division?

Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I’ll be praying Huntelaar has forgotten to bring his club form on International duty this week.