English Premier League clubs have been warned that BT Sport’s huge new rights deal with UEFA could widen the gap between the top teams and the rest of their competitors, according to a senior figure in the European game.
The pay-television broadcaster on Saturday secured the exclusive live rights to the Champions League and Europa League for the three seasons from 2015-16 in a deal worth £897 million. BT Sport’s expenditure is more than double that of current rights-holders BSkyB and ITV and is set to see English clubs’ earnings from the Champions League increase from between £15-20 million per season. However, Umberto Gandini, organising director of AC Milan and first vice-president of the European Clubs’ Association, believes the lucrative new deal should result in a restructuring of payments to teams competing in European competition.
He told Press Association Sport: “This is great, great news for the Premier League clubs and if you add up the Premier League’s domestic and overseas broadcasting contracts, the matchday revenues and commercial revenues then the business is looking very strong. But what I see as a problem is because of the great advantage the Champions League gives you in the domestic leagues, you are hearing people say you need to enlarge participation in the Champions League. I believe the way it is structured right now is very good and the new English contract is a great example of that, but it would be wise to address the problem of (income to) the Europa League, we have to consider that. We should look at the Europa League and the possibility for clubs in that competition to have a better share of the European football bonanza as an insurance policy, especially for those clubs who do not always qualify for the Champions League but has Champions League costs.”
Despite the huge success of the Champions League model speculation has persisted over a potential breakaway competition. However, Gandini believes the BT Sport deal demonstrates the strength of the current setup. He added: “I honestly think it is a massive, outstanding competition which has had extraordinary results and at the moment, for those who are privileged to play (in it), there is no need to look at alternatives.”