France have already been targeted by Al Jazeera as they wrestled broadcasting rights away from Canal Plus. But now the company—who coincidently have ties with newly-owned PSG—are looking to make their mark on the Premier League. For the first time since the league’s inception 20 years ago, Sky are in danger of losing out to a bidder who are more than willing to offer a king’s ransom for the most popular football league in the world.
But while there would be many who would welcome a change in broadcaster, what will it mean for both Sky and the teams in the Premier League?
From Sky’s point of view, the loss of the Premier League would be devastating. Unlike broadcasters in North America who feed a number of highly popular sports into the market, Sky solely rely on one—the chief sport in the country and the reason for many of their subscribers. Would they simply allow Al Jazeera to walk in claim the broadcasting rights for their own? Unlikely. There can be no doubting that Sky would raise their bid to be in line with a company who are making no secret of their desire to have a strong foothold in European football.
But what are the ramifications of this? An increased bid from Sky would surely be funded through the increase of subscription fees. Included in this is the fact that not all Premier League games are broadcast in the UK due to the 3pm blackout, and Sky’s fees are already through the roof. But there is always the guarantee of games being televised on a weekly basis, and even the extended highlights are extremely popular for those looking for more of the game than what Match of the Day make available. On top of that, there’s no question that Sky’s presentation outshines ITV and even ESPN’s coverage.
But, at the same time, while some customers would certainly welcome a change from a broadcaster who many have claimed to be extremely biased in their presenting of the Premier League, there can be no certainties on the direction Al Jazeera will go with the product. How will it affect their needs? They’re a foreign-based company looking to make money through their investment and it again equates to another potential rise in subscriptions for football.
Outside of this, however, the football clubs could reap the rewards of such a change in broadcaster. With the increased bid from an ‘outsider’ comes the likelihood of increased television revenue and the wider safety net ahead of the soon-to-be-introduced Financial Fair Play. Clubs would certainly be able to move a lot more freely in a number of areas; maybe not necessarily in attracting overseas talents with the promise of increased wages, but at least with the knowledge of a much more stable club and financial security.
The problems Rangers have faced in the recent past are an indicator that big clubs can be forced down the of path of administration and that it is not always just the lower league teams affected by poor financial decisions. With a change in broadcaster, there could be more clubs filling in line with what Uefa want and, at the same time, allowing the bigger clubs to close the gap—even marginally—on the top two in Spain. At this stage it seems as though any move would significantly favour Premier League clubs’ financial security.
Philippe Auclair described the purchase of PSG and the move for French football’s television rights as a synchronised assault. Coupled with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it becomes clear what their intentions are with football.
How will the landscape of English football look if similar moves are made for the Premier League, and how will customers of the product be handled when moving away from the comfortable but often criticised Sky and into the hands of the unfamiliar?
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