UK govt gives Premier League green light to roll over TV deal

The Premier League is considering screening some behind-closed-doors matches on free-to-air television in Britain when the season restarts, the culture secretary has said.

The British government on Thursday said the English Premier League has been permitted in principle to roll over its domestic television deal for another three years due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, the rights would have been contested in an open tender, but ministers said they were “minded” to grant an exclusion order.

The agreement of all the clubs and rights holders — Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport — means the current three-year deal will be rolled over, with the new cycle running until 2025.

The existing deal — believed to be worth around £4.5 billion ($6.3 billion) — represented a drop of an estimated 10 percent on the previous contract.

The renewal means the Premier League’s current commitment of £1.5 billion to the football pyramid over the three years of the next rights cycle can be maintained, with an additional £100 million to be distributed over the next four years.

Those additional funds will go to a range of sources including lower-league clubs and women’s football.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there were three key factors in allowing the exclusion order — the importance of football clubs to their communities, 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 said some factors could lead to a change in the distribution of revenue — a fan-led review was launched by the government following the collapse of the European Super League.

Dowden and Kwarteng said they would consider “any relevant representations from interested parties before a final decision is taken”, with a deadline of May 28.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, thanked ministers for giving the green light.

“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 it was not yet possible to understand the full impact of the pandemic but the agreement was a good move.

“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.”

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