x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

TV ruling could hurt English Premier League clubs

Court's decision opens up the market and broadcasting rights may be worth less in future so not as much money to go round.

Karen Murphy turns on the television inside her pub in Portsmouth, England, after the court ruled in her favour.
Karen Murphy turns on the television inside her pub in Portsmouth, England, after the court ruled in her favour.

A ruling passed by the European Union's highest court yesterday could have a significant impact on the spending power of English Premier League clubs.

The court in Brussels decided that fans should be free to use the cheapest satellite decoder available to watch games, even if it sidesteps exclusive national broadcasting agreements.

The decision could impact on how the rights are sold in the rest of Europe and how it creates revenue for the world's richest football league.

In the long run it may mean each club receives less money from television rights - at least £35 million (Dh199.5m) per club at the moment - and therefore could threaten the Premier League's status as Europe's most dominant league.

England tops Uefa's co-efficients rankings as the highest-rated country in Europe. This is thanks largely to the financial clout of the Premier League clubs - boosted by television money - which has regularly facilitated multimillion pound transfer fees to bring top players to England.

The latest three-year domestic broadcasting-rights deal, which expires at the end of next season, raised £1.782 billion. The overseas rights for the League are worth £1.4bn.

Some countries in Europe, among them Greece, offer cheaper alternatives.

Money from television rights is divided between clubs in several ways. Each club receives an equal share of both the domestic and overseas rights. For the 2010/11 season, the combined amounts totalled more than £30m.

In addition, a facility fee worth £485,000 is paid to a club each time they play a televised match. This can happen a maximum of 24 times and a minimum of 10 times per season.

Finally, merits payments are awarded based on a club's final position in the league table. West Ham United, who finished bottom last season, earned £756,756 and 20 times that amount went to Manchester United, the top-placed club.

The secondary issue as a result of the ruling is that games which kick off at 3pm UK time on a Saturday are never broadcast in England, in part to protect attendances. However, 3pm kick offs are shown outside the UK and are available on the cheaper decoders.

Yesterday's ruling could devalue the existing television rights when they are next renegotiated for the 2013/14 season.

However, the Premier League are understood to have been preparing for the ruling, and may change the way the domestic and European rights are awarded.

Insiders insist the ruling will not necessarily mean a drop in television income from mainland Europe, which is around £130m, or less than 10 per cent of their total overseas rights deal.

The case came about after a hotel landlady who used a foreign decoder to show matches at 3pm on Saturdays, was ordered to pay almost £8,000 in fines and costs after she was taken to court by the league for using a Greek decoder.