TV & Champions League bidding wars

kev milesOn Saturday BT Sport announced it had secured a mega-deal for Champions League TV rights. But what does it mean for fans? FSF Chief Executive Kevin Miles (left) asks that very question...

BT Sport has gazumped Sky and ITV for the exclusive rights to live Champions League games starting in 2015/16 by waving an £897 million cheque at UEFA. The deal will also cover the Europa League. This is good news for the clubs qualifying for Europe. It might even be good news for lower league clubs whose gates can drop when big Champions League games are on terrestrial TV.

Whether the deal will be good news for fans more generally is another question. Neither of Europe’s club finals is on the Government’s list of “crown jewel” sport events which must be shown live for free. They’re not even on the “B list” which requires highlights to be shown on the free channels.

BT will be looking for a return on their hefty three-year investment and that may mean rising subscription rates, causing a pain in the already stretched wallets of fans. If European club football on the box isn’t your cup of tea, then you’re all right. But if it is then the cost of watching football – even in your front room – just went up, again. Are we to expect that Sky subscriptions will come down to reflect the lack of European football on their channels?

It will come as no surprise to hear that amongst those not consulted about this decision were the people who matter the most in professional football – the supporters. We’re told that part of the deal is that the final will be shown without charge and that each English/Welsh club in the Champions League will be shown at least once for free. That’s a good start, but it’s a lot less than we enjoy now. And what about the Europa League?

We’ll be asking these questions of BT and UEFA. And isn’t there a strong case for some of UEFA’s new windfall to be used to bring down ticket prices down for those supporters who go to the games and generate the atmosphere?

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.