London (AFP) – The British government on Thursday said the English Premier League has been permitted to roll over its present lucrative domestic television deal with broadcasters because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A new deal would have been due to be tendered this year in the middle of the present three-year agreement.
But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said they were minded to grant an Exclusion Order.
The government’s assent and the agreement of all the clubs and present rights holders, Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport, means the current three-year deal will be rolled over into 2022-23.
The existing deal – believed to be worth between £4.5 billion ($6.3 billion, 5.2 billion euros) and £4.7bn — represented a drop of an estimated 10 per cent on the previous contract. The auction for the next set of TV deals was due to start in the coming months in a depressed market for football rights, but will now be delayed.
The EPL has committed over that period to providing funds of £100 million to the lower leagues down to the National League, women’s football and ‘good causes’.
The lower-league clubs have been especially badly affected by Covid protocols, which have prevented spectators being allowed into stadiums for a year.
Dowden and Kwarteng said there were three key factors in allowing the Exclusion Order: the importance of football clubs to their community; the “inherent value in the football pyramid”; and the Premier League’s strength as one of the country’s “soft power levers for the United Kingdom to attract investment”.
They added some factors may lead to a change in the distribution of revenue — the fan-led review being headed by former sports minister Tracey Crouch along with the EPL’s ‘Strategic Review’.
These are a response to the outrage of fans at the so-called Premier League “Big Six” signing up to the European Super League late last month. The clubs backed down within 48 hours.
Dowden and Kwarteng said they would consider “any relevant representations from interested parties before a final decision is taken”, with the deadline May 28.
Richard Masters, Premier League chief executive, thanked the government for giving the green light which will bring stability after a turbulent period.
“We are hugely appreciative of the government agreeing in principle to allow this arrangement and for their continued support for the Premier League and the English game,” Masters said in a statement.
“Covid-19 has had a significant impact on football, and renewals with our UK broadcast partners will reduce uncertainty, generate stability and promote confidence within the football pyramid.”
Masters added that while no one knows the exact financial impact of the pandemic, this development would bring some much-needed assurance.
“We know that, once concluded, this will have a positive impact on the wider industry, jobs and tax revenues,” he said.
“This will enable us to maintain and increase our existing solidarity and community financial commitments to the football pyramid for the next four years, even though we are yet to understand the full impact of the pandemic.”