NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Facebook said on Monday (April 19) that it is not in discussions with a coalition of European football teams called the Super League to acquire broadcasting rights to the proposed competition, while a source familiar with the matter said Amazon was also not in discussions with the league.
The Financial Times earlier reported the Super League’s organisers have held early discussions with companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Walt Disney Co and Sky to secure deals that would raise annual revenues worth €4 billion (S$6.4 billion) a year.
In a statement on Monday, Comcast-owned Sky Sports said it has not been involved in any discussions with the league.
In December, Amazon secured exclusive rights to screen European Champions League football matches in Italy on its Prime Video platform.
In the meantime, broadcasters who have spent billions of dollars to screen Champions League football have condemned the plan by top European clubs to form the breakaway league as a threat to the future of the game that will not succeed.
News that 12 clubs including Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United have joined forces to set up a new competition risks undermining the existing media contracts that help fund the game.
Were the new league to go ahead, media groups that risk watching the value of their existing rights disappear will have to decide whether they want to battle for the new matches, potentially against rivals such as Amazon or Disney’s ESPN.
BT, which owns the right to show the Champions League midweek club competition in Britain, Spain’s Mediapro and streaming service DAZN either condemned the move, or distanced themselves from it.
“BT recognises the concerns raised by many of football’s leading voices and fans, and believes the formation of a European Super League could have a damaging effect to the long term health of football in this country,” the company said.
Spanish media company Mediapro told Reuters on Monday that broadcasters would not tear up their existing contracts and predicted the plan would fail.
Sports streaming service DAZN, owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, also poured cold water on it.
DAZN last month secured the rights to screen all Serie A Italian top-flight league matches over the next three seasons with a bid of €2.5 billion, beating pay-TV player Sky.
“Neither DAZN nor Mr Blavatnik are in any way involved or interested in entering into discussions regarding the establishment of a Super League and no conversations have taken place,” DAZN said.
Were the Super League to go ahead, it would threaten not only the viability of the Champions League but also the appeal of domestic leagues after officials warned that any clubs or players taking part in it could be banned from all other competitions.
That would weaken the attraction of domestic leagues like the Premier League in England, if their matches no longer include the likes of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.
That in turn threatens the smaller clubs that receive a share of the revenues.
Even if the players are not banned, a European Super League based around a core of permanent members risks turning domestic leagues into a second-string event with less at stake.
Analysts said Amazon or Disney’s ESPN could be in pole position to buy the rights to show the new league as they have fewer ties to the sport’s governing bodies.
“The traditional broadcasters such as Sky may be more hamstrung because it would complicate relationships with their other contracts (eg international football tournaments or domestic leagues),” media analyst Ian Whittaker said.
Sky Sports, whose subscription service turned the Premier League into the world’s richest domestic football league but which no longer screens the Champions League, said in a statement it has not been in any discussions with the Super League.
“We are completely focused on supporting our long-term partners in the UK and in Europe,” it said.
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